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Basic Principles of Ayurveda

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The Panchmahabhootas: (concept of five elements)

Modern scientists have detected today more than 100 elements. These are the basic elements like; hydrogen, carbon, sodium etc; which unite together to create all the beings, living or non-living of our world. Presence of any one of these relative to other elements in any material will decide its physical and chemical qualities and its function in the ecological system of ours.

According to Ayurveda everything in Universe is poised of the Panchmahabhootas – Akash (Space or ether),Vayu (Air), Teja or Agni (Fire), Jala (Water) and Prithvi (Earth). These are mixed in countless varieties of relative magnitude such that each form of matter is distinctly unique. Although each element has a range of attributes, only some get evident in particular situations. Constantly changing and interacting with each other, they craft a situation of full of life flux that keeps the world going.

In a simple language, single living cell for example the earth element predominates by giving structure to the cell. The water element is present in the cytoplasm or the liquid within the cell membrane. The fire element regulates the metabolic processes regulating the cell. The air element is the gaseous part therein. The space occupied by the cell denotes the presence of ether, the Akash.

In the case of a complex, multi-cellular organism as a human being for instance, Akash corresponds to spaces within the body (mouth, nostrils, abdomen etc.); Vayu denotes the movement (essentially muscular but nervous system also); Agni controls the functioning of enzymes (intelligence, digestive system, metabolism); Jala is in all body fluids (as plasma, saliva, digestive juices); and Prithvi manifests itself in the solid structure of the body (bones, teeth, flesh, hair et al)

The Panchmahabhootas therefore serve as the foundation of all diagnosis and treatment modalities in Ayurveda and has served as a most valuable theory for physicians to detect and treat illness of the body and mind successfully.
The relationship of Panchmahabhootas with Sense organs, it’s Properties and Actions are as follows:

Panchamahabhoota Sensory Faculty In Our Body
Space Sound All body channels, working for the movement of the nutrients and all other fluids. Vacuumed organs of the body are made of Akash
Air Touch Governs inhalation, exhalation, opening and closing of eyelids, locomotion and other motor functions.
Fire Visual (Sight) Coarse and bright, pedals temperature and luster of body color. Digestion and assimilation of food is done by it inside the body
Water Taste The adhesive force and fluid part of the body is Jal, making things supple and smooth
Earth Smell Heavy, immobile, compact and rough. Controls organs as teeth, nails, flesh, skin, tendons and muscles. Sweet taste.

If Percentile involvement of Panchmahabhootas is known, an individual can do better with the health. Sushruta tells in His great text of Ayurveda- “There are five Prakrutis according to the involvement of these five in the body.

Mental Doshas:
TriGunas or Manas Doshas are three mental states, if are in balanced state are causes of health, and in unbalanced state are causes of disease.

  • a. Sattva:Neutral balanced, positive, cool! Calm! Sweet! Disturbances can’t affect this. High spirits are core of this aspect. This is able to enlighten all the objects by its glow. Rest two may cause any deformities but purity of it’s never allows disturbances to invade. Kind as love of nature and pure as blessings of God!
  • b. Rajas: Rajas Guna is activity, factor responsible for change, works to rearrange the things and ideas, transaction from darkness to light or vice-versa. It transforms potential energies of life and nature into kinetic energies. New formations anywhere in the world are controlled by this specific factor.
  • c. Tamas:  Inertia!! Binds things to their places, hates any alteration or renovation. This is orthodox in nature. It makes things to deposit. Negative approach is a big and positive is zero here. Important for a pause, which give the relaxation to all animates.

Where Sattva is enlightened like a sunny day; Tamas is darkened as a no-moon night, Dawn and Dusk are Rajas, for a human body:

TriGunas Impinge on body
Sattva This enlightens all the subtle, gives enthusiasm, positive approach and strength to the body. Bold, brave and clean hearted person, never pain others, can face all alone.
Rajas Allows transitions, transformations and controls the balance of rest two. It is in between two so always needs help of family and friends for everything.
Tamas Sedative in nature, causes unknown and unwanted pains, Takes a person towards the dizziness of ideas, which leads to depression. If it is on higher ratio in someone, he can’t face any grief even all are with him.

Out of these three, two (Rajas and Tomas) are also known as Maha-Doshas as they can cause problems to our bodies, due to tendency of negativity (Tamas) and nature to go towards the negativity (Rajas). Sattva is pure, so no question, for appearance of a disease!

According to the involvement of the Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in the body there are 16 types of Prakruti, described well by Charka Samhita. Seven among these sixteen are Sattvika, six are Rajsika and Tamsika are only three.


Tri-Doshas

Doshas are one of the most controversial and discussed topic in Ayurveda.
Following are the misconception about Tridoshas:

  1. Doshas are spiritual or cosmos energies.
  2. Doshas are some kind of universal forces.
  3. Doshas are some kinetic or potential energies.

Orignally , Tridosha is physiological or functional classification of the human body.
Doshas are three in number:

  1. Vata: (Function of knowledge and movement)
  2. Pitta : (Function of metabolism)
  3. Kapha : (Function of support, growth, nourishment, repair and maintenance of the body)

When the three Doshas are well harmonized and function in a balanced manner, it results in good nourishment and well being of the individual. But when there is imbalance or disharmony within or between them, it will result in elemental imbalance, leading to various kinds of ailments. The Ayurvedic concept of physical health revolves round these three Doshas and its primary purpose is to help maintain them in a balanced state and thus to prevent disease. This humoral theory is not unique to the ancient Indian Medicine: The Yin and Yang theory in Chinese medicine and the Hippocratic theory of four humours in Greek medicine are also very similar.

Person is seen in Ayurveda as a unique individual made up of five primary elements. These elements are ether (space), air, fire, water and earth. Just as in nature, we too have these five elements in us. When any of these elements are imbalanced in the environment, they will in turn have an influence on us. The foods we eat and the weather are just two examples of the influence of these elements. While we are a composite of these five primary elements, certain elements are seen to have an ability to combine to create various physiological functions.
The elements combine with Ether and Air in dominance to form what is known in Ayurveda as Vata Dosha. Vata governs the principle of knowledge and movement and therefore can be seen as the function, which includes nerve impulses, circulation, respiration and elimination etc.,

The elements with Fire and Water in dominance combine to form the Pitta Dosha. The Pitta Dosha is responsible for the process of transformation or metabolism. The transformation of foods into nutrients that our bodies can assimilate is an example of a Pitta function. Pitta is also responsible for metabolism in the organ and tissue systems as well as cellular metabolism. Finally, it is predominantly the water and earth elements, which combine to form the Kapha Dosha. Kapha is responsible for growth, adding structure unit by unit. It also offers protection, for example, in form of the cerebral-spinal fluid, which protects the brain and spinal column. The mucosal lining of the stomach is another example of the function of Kapha Dosha protecting the tissues.

Biological rhythms of Doshas:

  • Vata – Aggravation at Old age, last 1/3 rd of day and night and last period of digestion of our food
  • Pitta – Aggravation at Middle age, mid of the day and night and just in the middle of our food
  • Kapha – Aggravation at Starting age, first 1/3 rd of the day and night and just in the start of the digestion of food

Other important basic principles of Ayurveda which are briefly mentioned here are:

  1. Dhatus- These are the basic tissues which maintain and nourish the body. They are seven in number namely- rasa(chyle), raktha(blood), mamsa(muscles),meda(fatty tissue), asthi(bone), majja(marrow) and sukla(reproductive tissue). Proper amount of each dhatu and their balanced function is very important for good health.
  2. Mala- These are the waste materials produced as a result of various metabolic activities in the body. They are mainly urine, feces, sweat etc. Proper elimination of the malas is equally important for good health. Accumulation of malas causes many diseases in the body.
  3. Srotas- These are different types of channels which are responsible for transportation of food, dhatus, malas and doshas. Proper functioning of srotas is necessary for transporting different materials to the site of their requirement. Blockage of srotas causes many diseases.
  4. Agni- These are different types of enzymes responsible for digestion and transforming one material to another