Ayurveda is an ancient medicine system that originated in the Indian subcontinent around 5000 years ago. The term Ayurveda is the grouping of Sanskrit terms ‘Ayus’ meaning life and ‘Veda’ meaning science. So, it is basically the ‘science of life.’ One thing that most people don’t know is that Ayurveda identifies that we have an internal body rhythm that is matched or mirrored by the phases outside of ourselves in nature. These phases are often known as the Doshas, and there are three of them. The Doshas cycle three times during the night and three times during the day. Each Dosha is the combination that contains two of the five basic elements – earth, water, fire, air, and space.
Ayurveda, unlike other medicinal systems, gives prominence to healthy living than treatment of the ailment. The idea behind Ayurveda is to personalize the healing process.
According to the practitioners of Ayurveda, our body is composed of four basic elements – Agni, Mala, Dhatu, and Dosha. Ayurveda has a vast significance of all these elements of the human body. These are also referred to as the “basic fundamentals of Ayurvedic treatment,” or in ancient Sanskrit, it is called “Mool Siddhant.”
In this article, we will explore the basic viewpoint of Ayurveda on the structure and function of the body.
The basic concepts
According to Ayurveda, man is the epitome of a greater universe. Ayurveda is based on the theory of microcosm and macrocosm. The human body is made up of Malas (excretable products), Dhatus (body matrix), Doshas (bio-humors), and Agni.
Agni is the biological fire of the body that is responsible for carrying out all kinds of digestive and metabolic activity of the body. Agni is the various enzymes present in tissue cells, liver, and elementary canal. It is present in thirteen different forms in our body and carries out the whole metabolism of the body.
Mala is the waste products generated by our body. These include mutra (urine), Sweda (sweat), and pureesh (feces). These are the waste products our body produces at regular intervals. Hence, it is crucial to maintain their proper excretion for your overall wellbeing. There are primarily two aspects of Mala – mala, and kitta. Kitta is the waste products of Dhatus, and Mala is the waste products of the body.
Dhatus are the structural entities of the body that provide support and protection to the body. There are seven tissue systems in our body, namely, Shukra, Majja, Asthi, Meda, Mamsa, Rakta, and Rasa.
- Shukra represents hormonal and other secretion of genital
- Majja represents the bone marrow
- Asthi represents the bony tissue
- Meda represents the fatty tissue
- Mamsa represents the muscular tissue
- Rakta represents the blood cells
- Rasa represents the plasma
Dhatus are responsible for providing the body with essential nutrition, and it also helps in the structure and growth of mind.
As discussed earlier, there are three key principles of Doshas, namely Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. The combination of these three Doshas, also known as Tridoshas helps in controlling and regulating the anabolic and catabolic metabolism of the body. The primary function of these Doshas is to carry the byproduct and nutrients from digested foods throughout the body. Dosha helps in building tissues. An imbalance in any of the three Doshas may lead to health complication or disease.
All the biological transformations within our body are executed through Srotases (body channels), which are the places for the action of Agni.
The Body Matrix
According to Ayurveda, life is the union of mind, body, senses, and soul. A living human being is a conglomeration of three humours – Kapha, Pitta, and Vata, seven primary tissues – Shukra, Majja, Asthi, Meda, Mamsa, Rakta, and Rasa, and the toxins of the body like sweat, urine, and feces. Therefore, the total body matrix of the human body is composed of humours, tissues, and waste products. The growth and decay of this body matrix, including all its constituents, depend on foods that are processed into wastes, tissues, and humours. Metabolism, assimilation, absorption, digestion, and ingestion of food have interplay in illness and health that are significantly influenced by the psychological mechanisms, including the biological fire (Agni).
The Pancha Mahabhutas
The matter is composed of five elements, so is the universe. These five basic elements of life, also known as the Pancha Mahabhutas, play a vital part in our health and wellbeing. These five elements or Pancha Mahabhutas include space, air, fire, water, and earth. In terms of Ayurveda, they are –
- Akasha – ethereal state of matter
- Vayu – gaseous state of matter
- Teja – fire or energy
- Ap – water or liquid
- Prithvi – earth or hardness
The presence of any matter is due to space (Dik) and time (Kala). Atma (soul) and Manas (mind) are essential to make it animate.
A living body is composed of Pancha Mahabhutas. There is a balanced concentration of the Pancha Mahabhutas or the five elements in different proportions to suit the requirements and needs of different functions and structures of the body matrix and its constituents. The development and growth of the body matrix mostly rely on its nutrition, which is the food. The food we eat indeed is composed of the Pancha Mahabhutas, which nourish or replenish the like elements of the body after the act of biological fire (Agni). The humours of the body are the physiological entities, whereas the tissues of the body are the structural ones.
The role of these entities in health and sickness
Sickness or health depends on the absence or presence of the total body matrix’s balanced state, which includes the balance between different constituents as well. Both external and internal factors can influence the natural equilibrium of the body, giving rise to illness. The loss of balance can occur by non-observance of rules of healthy living, undesirable habits, and dietary abnormalities. Incomplete actions of the mind and body, erratic applications of the sense organs, improper exercise, or seasonal anomalies can also result in loss of equilibrium.