Basic principles


The word Ayurveda is made up of two components, 'Ayush' meaning Life and 'Veda' meaning Science, hence Ayurveda is the 'Science of Life'. The origin of this ancient science dates back to Vedic period, about 5000 years ago. Ayurveda also popularly known as sub-branch of Atharvaveda.over the years Ayurveda has developed as a popular science of life.Ayurvedic medicine is a very ancient art and drugs have been used in days of antiquity as far back as history can take us. The Indian indigenous drugs have great importance and have formed an integral part of treatment, which can be traced to the remote past. It is in the Ayurveda, that definite properties of drugs and their uses have been given in some detail. Ayurveda, in fact, is the very foundation stone of the ancient medical science of India.

Ayurveda, recognized as alternative medicine now, represents the science of life and longevity originating in the Vedic traditions of India. Based on the principle of eternal life, this holistic health care system has a vast body of knowledge covering eight branches. Its major premise involves the symbiosis of mind, body and spirit. Any imbalance in this synthesis results in physical ailments. This ancient Indian medicine seeks to reestablish the harmony between the body and its habitat by creating the optimum health environment.

The entire science of ayurveda is based on the 'Five Great Elements' ( Panchmahabhuta) theory. These five elements are earth ( prithvi), water ( jal), fire ( agni or tej), air ( vayu) and ether or space ( akash). In popular tradition, the universe is understood to be made up of these elements. Ayurveda comprehends body, mind and spirit likewise and has specific methods for working on each. It divides the constitution of people into three humoral categories— Vata (ether/air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water/earth). Vata rules mental mobility. Pitta, or fire, governs digestion and assimilation on all levels from food to ideas. And kapha or water governs form and substance and is responsible for weight, cohesion and stability. Using these three types in combinations of two creates six more subtypes. A seventh subtype also exists, which is a combination of all the three categories.

According to the concept of good management, ayurveda insists that the 'fault' or dosha, the 'tissue' or dhatu and the 'impurity' or mala should be in harmony with each other, with all the components properly balanced. Any discordant note in this synthesis due to external or internal causes is a cause for concern. These are basically therapeutic measures taken either to prevent diseases or cure them. Thus ayurvedic procedures are done either to detoxify the body or as a prelude to strengthening the immune system . Panchakarma or 'five procedures', is the most sought after detoxification therapy, which paves the way for the culmination of ayurvedic treatment of healing—anti-aging ( Kaya Kalpa ).. Ex


Basic principles of Ayurveda

The basic principles of Ayurveda involve two theories, one is the Panchamahabhuta theory and the other is the Tridosha theory. According to Ayurvedic philosophy all the living and non-living matters are made up of five basic elements in various proportions, they are Prithvi (Earth), Jala (Water), Teja (Fire), Vayu (Air) and Aakash (Ether). Even the human body is made up of these elements known collectively as the Panchamahabbutas. According to Ayurveda again, all the physiological functions of the body are governed by three biologicalunits namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha each of which in turn is made up of the Mahabhutas. Physiologically these three doshas are responsible for various specific functions

According to ayurvedic philosophy an individual bundle of `spirit’, desirious of expressing itself, uses subjective consciousness or Satwa to manifest sense organs and a mind. Spirit and mind then project themselves into a physical body, created from the five ( Pancha) great ( maha) eternal elements ( bhutas) – together called the Panchamahabhutas – which arise from Tamas . The sense organs then using Rajas to project from the body into the external world to experience their objects. The body becoming the mind’s vehicle, its physical instrument for sense gratification.

The Bhutas combine into " tridoshas" or bioenergetic forces that govern and determine our health or physical condition. While the three gunas ( Rajas or activity , Tamas or inertia and Satwa , which balances the first two) or psychic forces determine our mental and spiritual health. Ayurveda is thus a holistic system of health care that teaches us to balance these energies in order to achieve optimum health and well being. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word, derived from two roots: ayur, which means life, and veda, knowledge. Knowledge arranged systematically with logic becomes science. During the due course of time, Ayurveda became the science of life. It has its root in ancient vedic literature and encompasses our entire life, the body, mind and spirit.


Theory of Panchamahabhutas

According to Ayurveda everything in life is composed of the Panchamahabhutas – Akash (Space), Vayu (Air), Jal (Water), Agni (Fire) and Prithvi (Earth) . Omnipresent, they are mixed in an infinite variety of relative proportions 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 create a situation of dynamic flux that keeps the world going.

Within a simple, single living cell for example the earth ie prithvi element predominates by giving structure to the cell. The water ie jala element is present in the cytoplasm or the liquid within the cell membrane. The fire ie agni element regulates the metabolic processes regulating the cell. While the air ie vayu element predominates the gases therein. The space ie akasa occupied by the cell denoting the last of the elements.

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); agni controls the functioning of enzymes (intelligence, digestive system, metabolism); jal 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 Panchmahabhutas therefore serve as the foundation of all diagnosis & treatment modalities in Ayurveda and has served as a most valuable theory for physicians to detect and treat.

Akasa (Space)

Expansion of consciousness is space and space is all enclosive. We need space to live, and our bodily cells contain spaces. The synaptic, cellular and visceral spaces give freedom to the tissues to perform their normal physiological functions. (A change in tissue space, however, may lead to pathological conditions.) The space in between two conjunctive nerve cells aids communication, while the space in the mind encompasses love and compassion.

Vayu (Air)

The movement of consciousness determines the direction along which change of position in space takes place. This course of action causes subtle activities and movements within space. According to the Ayurvedic perspective, this is the air principle. There is a cosmic magnetic field responsible for the movement of the earth, wind and water. Its representative in the body is the biological air, responsible for movement of afferent and efferent, sensory and motor-neuron impulses. When someone touches the skin, that tactile skin sensation is carried to the brain by the principal of movement, which is the sensory impulse. Then there is a reaction to the impulse, which is the motor response, which is carried from the brain to the periphery. This is a very important function of air. Our breathing is due to the movement of the diaphragm. Movements of the intestines and subtle cell movements are also governed by the biological principal of air. The movement of thought, desire and will are also governed by the air principal.

Teja (Fire)

Where there is movement, there is friction, which creates heat, so the third manifestation of consciousness is fire, the principal of heat. There are many different representations of fire in the body. The solar plexus is the seat of fire, and this fire principle regulates body temperature. Fire is also responsible for digestion, absorption and assimilation. It is present in the eyes, therefore we perceive light, and the luster in the eyes is a result of the fire principal. There is a fire in the brain as the gray matter, which governs understanding, comprehension and appreciation. Fire is necessary for transformation, comprehension, appreciation, recognition and total understanding. In our small universe, the sun is a burning ball of consciousness and the sun gives us light and heat. In the body, the representative of the sun is the biological fire: the solar plexus which gives us heat, digestion, and liver function.

Jala (Water)

Because of the heat of the fire, consciousness melts into water. According to chemistry, water is H2O, but according to Ayurveda water is liquefaction of consciousness. Water exists in the body in many different forms, such as: plasma, cytoplasm, serum, saliva, nasal secretion, orbital secretion and cerebrospinal fluid. Excess water, which we eliminate in the form of urine and sweat is water. Water is necessary for nutrition and to maintain the water/ electrolyte balance in the body. Without water, the cells cannot live.

Prithvi (Earth)

The next manifestation of consciousness is the earth element. Because of the heat of the fire and water, there is crystallization. According to Ayurveda, earth molecules are nothing but crystallization of consciousness. In the human body, all solid structures, hard, firm and compact tissues are derived from the earth element (e.g. bones, cartilage, nails, hair, teeth and skin). Even in a single cell, the cell membrane is earth, cellular vacuoles are space, cytoplasm is water, nucleic acid and all chemical components of the cell are fire, and movement of the cell is air. All of these five elements are present in every human cell. According to Ayurveda, man is a creation of universal consciousness. What is present in the cosmos, the macrocosm, the same thing is present in the body, the microcosm. Man is a miniature of nature.


Theory of Tridosha

Ayurveda is the science of life or science of longevity, which promises better health, prevents diseases and helps in achieving a long life. According to Ayurveda, all activities in the universe and in man are grouped into three basic functions – creation, organization and destruction. According to Ayurveda, the right balance of the three subtle energies, called Vata, Pitta and Kapha, is what maintains health. The biological air humour, Vata is responsible for all the movements in the body. The biological water humour or Kapha is responsible for strength and immunity while the biological fire humour or Pitta is responsible for digestion and metabolism. Most of the physical phenomena ascribed to the nervous system by modern physiology for example, can be identified with Vata. Just as the entire chemical process operating in the human body can be attributed to Pitta, including enzymes, hormones and the complete nutritional system. And the activities of the skeletal and the anabolic system, actually the entire physical volume of an organism, can be considered as Kapha.

Vata dosha

Ether and air combine to form the biological humour, Vata, which is responsible for controlling destruction. The different sub-types of Vata are Prana ( life energy) - its main function is respiration and control of all sense organs; Udana ( upward movement from naval-diaphragm) - it helps the process of speech and memory; Vyana -this is responsible for the circulation of blood and nutrients obtained from food to all the cells of the body; Samana (balance) - it brings all the digestive juices from the tissues into the hollow organs for digestion and metabolism and Apana (downward moving energy) - it is responsible for the action of all pelvic organs.

Pitta dosha

Pitta or Fire, the thermogenic humour, organizes body activities after transformation. The various sub-types of Pitta are Pachaka (the main site is the stomach and it helps in digestion); Ranjaka (its main site is liver and it is responsible for secondary or tissue digestion); Sadhaka (resides in the heart and brain and is responsible for the digestion of knowledge and the preservation of our cognitive memories); Alocchaka( It is in the eye and enables proper vision); and Bharahaka (in the skin and responsible for digestion and absorption of all oil massages.

Kapha dosha

Water and earth combine to form the biological humour Kapha, which is responsible for maintaining creation. The five sub-types of Kapha are Kledaka (resides in the stomach and protects the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract from the hot and irritant fluids of pitta secretions); Avalambaka (it is in the heart, lung apparatus and vertebral column and protects them from wear and tear); Bodhaka (is in the mouth and protects the mucous membrane and the tongue to give proper taste to food); Tarpaka (in the spinal chord; it protects the spinal chord and is also responsible for mental peace); and Shleshaka (in the joints; it prevents wear and tear of the joints during movements).

As long as these energies are in equilibrium, the health of the body is maintained. The purpose of Ayurveda and Panchakarma (a treatment method in Ayurveda) is to bring these forces into harmony so that they promote physical, emotional and spiritual growth in every living being.


The saptha Dhatus

The Sapta (seven) Dhatus (tissues) elements form the pillars of the body that form the means of nourishment and growth while providing support to the body as well as the mind.

Rasa (fluid) Dhatu –Derived from the digested food, it nourishes each and every tissue and cell of the body and is analogous to the plasma.

Rakta (blood) Dhatu – Regarded as the basic of life, it is analogous to the circulating blood cells. It not only nourishes the body tissues, but provides physical strength and colour to the body.

Masma Dhatu – The muscle tissue, its main function is to provide physical strength and support for the meda dhatu.

Meda (fat) Dhatu – Consists of adipose tissue providing support to ashti dhatu. It also lubricates the body.

Ashti Dhatu– Comprising of bone tissues, including cartilages, its main function is to give support to the majja dhatu and provide support to the masma dhatu.

Majja Dhatu– Denoting the yellow and red bone marrow tissue, its main function is to fill up the ashti and to oleate the body.

Shukra Dhatu– The main aim of this reproductive tissue is to help reproduction and strengthen the body.

Since the dhatus support and derive energy from each other, affecting one can influence others. For instance, interference in the manufacture of the plasma affects the quality of the blood, which in turn effects the muscle. Each tissue type has its own agni, which determines metabolic changes in the tissues. And forms by-products, which are either used in the body or excreted. Menstural periods for example are a by-product of rasa . The tissues are also governed by the three doshas , and any imbalance in them also causes imbalances in dhatus. Heavy periods therefore can also be caused by the effects of the excess of Kapha on plasma.


The Malas

Malas are the various waste products of the dhatus produced during the normal metabolical process. The three primary malas being Purisa (faeces), Mutra (urine) and Sweda (sweat). Ayurveda clearly states that only a balanced condition of doshas , dhatus and malas is arogya (good health or disease free condition) and their imbalance is the cause of ill health or disease.

Purisa is the waste left back after nutrients of digested food have been absorbed in the small intestine. While water and salt absorbed in the large intestine, the residue now converted into solid faeces, leaves the body. The consistency of the faeces depending both on gastrointestinal mobility and nature of diet.

The tridoshas must be in balance to ensure normal evacuation. Pitta and kapha help digestion and vata governs the mobility throughout the process. Any discrepancy or imbalance between these can lead to various symptoms of abdominal heaviness or pain, flatulance, constipation or diarrohea. It may also give rise to diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, low-back pain, asthama, bronchitis as well as stomach ulcers and irritable bowels.

Mutra is derived during the course of biological processes within the human body. The first stage of urine formation begins in the large intestine where fluids are absorbed into the system. The entire urinary system (kidneys, uterus, bladder and urethra) takes part in the formation and elimination of urine, regulating the fluid balance in our body and also maintaining blood pressure. Any imbalance of increased or decreased urine, may result in disorders as kidney stones urinary infections, cystitis, abdominal pain and bladder disorders.

Sweda is the third primary mala, and it occurs as a waste product during the synthesis of meda dhatu (fatty tissue). Eliminated through skin pores, it controls body temperature and helps to regulate the electrolytic balance. The channels responsible for bringing the sweat to skin surface are known as sweda vaha srotas. It is essential that normal formation and flow of sweat takes place as otherwise it may lead to skin infections, itching/burning sensation over the body, loss of fluid balance and reduced body temperature.


The Trigunas concept

Vedic philosophy classifies human temperaments into three basic qualities: satvic, rajasic and tamasic. These individual differences in psychological and moral dispositions and their reactions to socio-cultural and physical environments are described in all the classic texts of Ayurveda. Satvic qualities imply essence, reality, consciousness, purity and clarity of perception which are responsible for goodness and happiness. All movements and activities are due to rajas. It leads to the life of sensual enjoyment, pleasure and pain, effort and restlessness. Tamas is darkness, inertia, heaviness and materialistic attitudes. There is a constant interplay of these three gunas (qualities) in the individual consciousness, but the relative predominance of either satva, rajas, or tamas is responsible for individual psychological constitution.

Satvic constitutions

The people in whom satvic qualities predominate are religious,loving, compassionate and pure minded. Following truth and righteousness, they have good manners, behavior and conduct. They do not get easily upset or angry. Although they work hard mentally, they do not get mental fatigue, so they need only several hours of sleep each night. They look fresh, alert, aware, full of luster, wisdom, joy and happiness. They are creative, humble and respectful of their teachers. Worshipping God and humanity, they love all. They care for people, animals, trees, and are respectful of all life and existence. They have balanced intuition and intelligence.

Rajasic constitutions

The people in whom rajasic qualities predominate are egoistic, ambitious, aggressive, proud, competitive, and have a tendency to control others. They like power, prestige, position, and are perfectionists. They are hard working people, but are lacking in proper planning and direction. They are ungrounded, active and restless. Emotionally, they are angry, jealous, ambitious, and have few moments of joy due to success. They have a fear of failure, are subject to stress, and soon lose their mental energy. They require about eight hours of sleep. They are loving, calm and patient only as long as their self interests are served. They are good, loving, friendly and faithful only to those who are helpful to them. They are not honest to their inner consciousness. Their activities are self- centered and egotistical.

Tamasic constitutions

The people in whom tamasic qualities predominate are less intelligent. They tend towards depression, laziness, and excess sleep, even during the day. A little mental work tires them easily. They like jobs of less responsibility, and they love to eat, drink, sleep and have sex. They are greedy, possessive, attached, irritable, and do not care for others. They may harm others through their own self interest. It is difficult for them to focus their minds during meditation.

Just as the doshas are the essential components of the body, the three gunas - Satwa , Rajas and Tamas - are the three essential components or energies of the mind. Ayurveda provides a distinct description of people on the basis of their Manasa (psychological) Prakriti (constitution). Genetically determined, these psychological characteristics are dependent on the relative dominance of the three gunas.

While all individuals have mixed amounts of the three, the predominant guna determines an individual's mansa prakriti. In equilibrium, the three gunas preserve the mind (and indirectly the body), maintaining it in a healthy state. Any disturbance in this equilibrium results in various types of mental disorders.

Satwa , characterised by lightness, consciousness, pleasure and clarity, is pure, free from disease and cannot be disturbed in any way. It activates the senses and is responsible for the perception of knowledge. Rajas , the most active of the gunas, has motion and stimulation as its characteristics. All desires, wishes, ambitions and fickle-mindedness are a result of the same. While Tamas is characterised by heaviness and resistance. It produces disturbances in the process of perception and activities of the mind. Delusion, false knowledge, laziness, apathy, sleep and drowsiness are due to it.

Rajas and Tamas , as with the doshas , can be unbalanced by stress and negative desires as kama (lust), irshya (malice), moha (delusion and halucination), lobha (greed), chinta (anxiety), bhaya (fear) and krodha (anger). Each of these three properties is also comprised of sub-types and the particular sub-type to which one belongs to determine the qualities of that individual.

Satwika individuals are usually noble and spiritual in character, their nature determined as much by body type as their star constellation, having an element of kapha in their constitution.

Pitta dominated Rajasikas , intellectually oriented but vulnerable to temptations, are very human in their character and approach to life.

A dominant Vata ensures that Tamasika individuals are the most down to earth, concerned about fundamental questions of practical existence, specially when confronted by more spiritual and less physical