Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ashtang Ayurveda

Ashtang Ayurveda considers the human body to be composed of five elements - ether, air, fire, water and earth, which are collectively termed as the panchamahabhootas. From these elements originate the three bodily humors or the three doshas - Vata, pitta and kapha. These three administer all the physical and mental functions of the body and thus are necessary for good health, vitality and immunity. Each dosha is an amalgamation of any two of the five bhutas with one predominantly ruling. Since these three doshas coordinate all the physiological and psychological processes within the body and mind, they stand responsible for every physical activity, characteristic, mental capacity, physical energy, thoughts and the emotional tendency of human beings. In short, it can be said that although structurally the human body comprises five elements, its functional potentiality is determined by the three humours, with any one finding a superior place in each human body giving the person the subsequent body type. Moreover, a person is more likely to suffer from ailments related to the dosha that is present in the highest concentration.

Vata, the first of the three doshas is made up of the elements earth and air. It controls every body movement and mind activities including blood circulation, sensation, respiration, speech, hearing, touch, natural urges, excretion, formation of foetus, the sexual act, retention and feeling like fear, anxiety, grief and enthusiasm. In short, most of the physical phenomena associated with the nervous system of human beings are under the dominance of vata. Ashtang Ayurveda claims to have found out the site of existance of the three doshas. Accordingly, vata is said to exist below the naval and the lower part of the body.

People who have vata type of constitution are usually physically active and thin. Their skin and hair are dry and joints are prominent. Under stressful conditions, they tend to lose their decision-making power and become insecure, fearful and anxious. They are light sleepers and prefer warm climate. The vata people are characterised by immense creativity and enthusiasm. Their digestive system, particularly the colon is vulnerable and often give rise to problems. The renowned Ayurvedic text, the Charaka Samhita, precisely lays down the characteristics of vata dosha :dry and rough (rookshaha), light or lacking weight (laghuhu), cool (sheetoha), always moving (chalota); broad, unlimited, unbounded (vishadaha) and rough (kharaha).

There are five types of vata dosha. These are pran vata, apan vata, saman vata, vyan vata and udan vata. In pran vata, the air exists in the oral cavity, head, throat, ear, tongue, chest and heart. It helps in intake of food and water, swallowing, sneezing, spitting, respiration and other related activities. It also helps in the proper functioning of the vital elements like Pitta, Kapha, Satva, Raj, Tam and Maan. The disorders in pran vata may cause pulmonary problems, repiratory disorders, asthama, bronchitis, hoarseness, hiccough, tuberculosis and other lungs disorders. Apan vata exists in sigmoid colon, rectum, testicles, scrotum, urinary bladder, vagina, uterus, navel, loins and groins. This type of vata is concerned with the excretion of the stool, urine, semen, menstrual discharges and with child birth. Abnormalities in this vata may result in frequent urination, urinary stones, polyuria, burning urination, urinary bladder problems, heamorrhoids, prolapsus of rectum, constriction of anus fistula and semen related problems. Saman vata resides in stomach and duodenum thus helping in the digestion of food and the proper formation of rasa dhatu, stool and urine. It regulates the assimilation of the food and food contents and finally helps to supply the assimilated matter to blood stream and heart. This vata also controls sweating. The abnormality of this type of vata causes loss of appetite, indigestion, loose stool, etc. Vyan vata is scattered throughout the body. It is concerned with the transmission of the seven dhatus to the vital parts of the body. The abnormalities of this type of vata may result in complications like spasmodic effects,neuralgia, aches, inflammation, rigidity, paralysis and the like. Other disturbances include fever, diarrhoea, and hemorrhagic conditions in certain part of the body. Udan vata invests the navel, thoracic cavity, and chest. This vata controls the act of speech, act of talking, act of singing, enthusiasm and mental strength. It keeps the body strong, brightens color and the texture of skin. Disorders in udan vata create diseases of eyes, mouth, nose, ear, larynx, pharynx, and head.

Vata is stimulated by pungent, bitter and acidic food products and weakened by sweet, sour and salty tasting foods. Ashtang Ayurveda recommends sweet, sour or salty food to a person with vata personality. These people should refrain from watching too much television or from rushing around doing many things at the same time because these activities stimulate vata. Deficiency of vata in the body leads to uneasiness, langour and loss of consciousness while vata excess is responsible for thinness of the body, dark complexion, roughness of the voice, desire for heat, hard stool, insomnia, throbbing sensation, , and weakness. Apart from these, the vitiation of vata can cause swelling in the abdomen and rumbling sound in the intestines.

Thus it can be concluded that people in whom vata dosha dominates tend to show the characteristics of vata personality. Disorders in vata hamper the normal life of a person. To combat the disorders due to increase, decrease, or vitiation of vata, Ashtang Ayurveda suggests proper diet and various yogic therapies.

Divyang A. Pandya

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