Ayurveda is one of the oldest and scientific traditional systems of medicines originated in India. Ayurveda serves as an aid in understanding the origin of various disorders. It is becoming increasingly popular in the West. In order to know more about this science, it is important to have some basic knowledge about the terminologies and concepts used in Ayurveda.

Common terms and concepts used in Ayurveda

Here are some of the common terms and concepts used in Ayurveda:

  1. Tridosha: Tridosha (tri-energies) are the basic forces that are known to manifest in a human body. Tridosha are known to govern all the functions of mind and body. These Tridosha are: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
    • An Ayurvedic physician makes diagnosis of a disease affecting a patient based on Tridosha.
    • According to Ayurveda, when tridosha are in equilibrium, the body and mind are healthy and a sense of well-being exists within a person.
    • Tridosha also governs the basic human emotions such as anger, greed, fear, hatred, jealousy, compassion, empathy and love apart from governing all the physiological functions.
    • The Vata dosha is made up of the elements of the air and ether.  Vata dosha is light, cool, mobile and dry. Those with Vata nature tend to be enthusiastic, talkative, flexible, energetic, creative etc. but when out of balance, these people may become easily confused, over-excited and over-whelmed. Emotionally, they may suffer from anxiety, fear or worry.
    • The Pitta dosha is made up of fire and water elements. People with Pitta dosha tend to be highly focused, competitive, courageous, energetic etc. but when Pitta dosha is out of balance, they can become overly intense, aggressive and emotionally they may face jealousy, anger and resentment.
    • The Kapha dosha is made up of water and earth elements. People with Kapha nature are warm, slow, compassionate etc. When Kapha dosha is out of balance, they are prone to gain weight, accumulation of mucus in lungs may also takes place.
  2. Prana: Prana (life force) activates both mind as well as body.
    • It is known to control the functions of mind, including thoughts, memory, emotions etc.
    • Prana is also known to kindle the Agni (fire), therefore it controls the functions of the heart and dhatus (vital tissues that make up the organs of the body).
    • Prana is considered as the subtle form of Vata dosha according to Ayurveda. It is the factor responsible for life.
    • It maintains the harmony between the body and the mind.
    • When there is an increase of Prana in the body, it may lead to the conditions such as hyperactivity, instability in mood, outbursts, restlessness, impatience etc.
    • When there is a decrease in Prana in the body, the person may suffer from lack of mental energy, curiosity and enthusiasm, inhibited receptivity etc.
    • Restricted Prana makes the senses dull and person becomes conservative.
    • Prana is present in fire, watr, air, five sense organs and 3 gunas – Satva, Rajas and Tamas.
    • Heart, Brain, Temple region, kidneys, throat, ojas, reproductive system are the special places for Prana.
  3. Dhatus: Dhatus (tissues) are seven in number according to Ayurveda. As per Ayurveda, dhatus act as a base for the Doshas to show the action of Doshas. Dhatus and Malas form the moola (root) of the body.
    • The human body is composed of seven tissues which are: Rasa Dhatu (plasma), Rakta Dhatu (blood), Mamsa Dhatu (muscle), Meda Dhatu (fat), Asthi Dhatu (bone tissue), Majja Dhatu (Bone marrow) and Shukra Dhatu (reproductive system).
    • Each Dhatu nourishes the next Dhatu. The food taken by us forms the Rasa (essence of food), Rakta into Mamsa (muscle), Mamsa into Meda (fat), Meda into Asthi (bone), Asthi into Majja (marrow) and Majja into Shukra (reproductive system).
    • The doshas when imbalanced get lodged in the dhauts. The imbalanced doshas lead to the formation of diseases.
    • Upadhatus or secondary or subsidiary elements have also been described such as stanya (breast milk), Aartv (menstrual blood) that are formed out of Rasa.
    • Vasa (fat in the muscles) and six layers of skin are formed out of Mamsa Dhatu.
    • Kandara (tendons) and Sira (vessels) are formed out of Rakta Dhatu.
    • Snayu (ligament) are formed out of Medo Dhatu.
  4. Bhutas: According to Ayurveda, there is a resemblance between the anatomy and functioning of human body and its surrounding nature.
    • The whole nature is made up of five elements. These are: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether (Vacuum).
    • In Ayurveda, these elements are known as Panchmahabhutas. The whole human body and its composition are also made up of these 5 basic elements. As they are present in all the moving and inert objects, they are called Mahabhutas (Maha means larger and Bhutas means elements).
    • Imbalances that occur w.r.t. to one or more elements in the body would lead to the diseases pertaining to that particular element. For example, asthi or bone tissue is composed of earth element and when earth element goes out of balance, it leads to disorders related to bones.
  5. Prakruti: Ayurveda has described the unique concept of prakruti meaning constitution. In modern medical science, this concept is claimed to be useful in predicting an individual’s susceptibility to a particular disease.
    • The prakrtui or constitution of an individual exhibit attributes of the dominant dosha in physical, physiological and psychological characteristics.
    • For example, a Vata prakruti person is likely to suffer from backache, crackling joints, body aches etc. while a Pitta prakruti person is prone to hypertension, skin disorders, peptic ulcers etc. A Kapha prakruti person is prone to obesity, hypothyroidism, diabetes, atherosclerosis etc.
  6. Agni: According to Ayurveda, agni is described as the force of intelligence within each cell, tissue and every system within the body.
    • It is the gatekeeper of life as when agni is distinguished, death soon follows.
    • Besides its vast functions, the impaired agni is the root cause of all imbalances and diseases.
    • Ayurveda has described at least 40 distinct subtypes of agni in a human body. The mother of all of them is Jatharagni (digestive fire). Jatharagni is the central digestive fire that governs the digestion and assimilation of the food.
    • Agni is sharp, hot, light, penetrating, subtle and clear.
    • Poor diet, wrong lifestyle, unresolved emotions etc. can easily hinder the agni. In the same way, nurturing the qualities of agni has the potential to benefit agni throughout the body.
    • Some of the functions of agni in a human body are: digestion, absorption and assimilation, producing digestive enzymes, strength and vitality, all metabolic activities, production of ojas, tejas and prana, mental clarity and intelligence, flow of cellular communication, skin colour, glow and luster, patience, longevity etc.
  7. Ama: Ama is a Sanskrit word which means “unripe”, “uncooked” or “raw”. It is an unmetabolized waste that cannot be utilized by the body. Ama is commonly known as endotoxin.
    • When it is produced in small amounts in the body and efficiently removed, it causes no harm but when it is not regularly eliminated, then it becomes problematic.
    • In Ayurveda, it is said that Ama is the root cause of all diseases.
    • The qualities of ama are in direct opposition to those of agni.
    • When agni is compromised and when ama accumulates, these two situations are mutually reinforcing and therefore the health of an individual suffers.
    • Once it spreads to the deeper tissues, it becomes much more difficult to eliminate as it eventually leads to a loss of intelligence at cellular level, which can cause serious disorders such as autoimmune disorders.
    • In modern medicine, the cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown but Ayurveda has an answer.
  8. Malas: In Ayurveda, malas is a term used for the excreta of the body which are expelled from the body on regular basis such as urine, feces and sweat.
    • If these are eliminated regularly, they contribute towards good health by keeping the body clean and healthy.
    • But accumulation of excreta leads to manifestation of many disorders.
    • In Ayurvedic treatises, the doshas, tissues and mala are being used interchangeably depending on the type of their functions.
    • Doshas are also considered as tissues and excreta depending on their contribution towards the well-being of the body or disease.
    • When doshas get vitiated, they start contaminating the elements of the body, mainly the tissues. As a result, tissues become auto-immune and start attacking own tissues and they contaminate excreta as well. Therefore, doshas also act like excreta.
    • Just like excreta of the body must be eliminated on regular basis, doshas which damage the body become excreta like too which need to be expelled out of the body in order to restore health and prevent further damage.

Thus, Ayurvedic system of medicine does not merely focus on physical body but it focuses on subtle aspects as well.


This article is not a substitute to the standard Medical Diagnosis or personalized Ayurvedic Treatment! It is intended only for Information!

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