Ayurveda & the Concept of Health
In Ayurveda, the concept of health or Swasthya is fundamental to the understanding of any disease or abnormality. The word ‘disease’ is a conjunction of two words - ‘dis’ meaning ‘deprived of’ and ‘ease’ meaning ‘comfort’. Thus, disease is another way of expressing an absence of comfort in our day to day life. Hence, it is essential to understand the importance of health and comfort.[i]
According to Ayurveda, a state of health exists when the following factors are in balance:1,[ii]
- The bodily humors or tridoshas (vata, pitta, kapha)
- The digestive fire (agni)
- The Dhatus or the bodily elemental tissues are working in a state of equilibrium
- The three waste products or malas (urine, faeces and sweat) are produced at normal levels and
- The five senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste & smell) and their corresponding organs are functioning normally
- The body, mind and consciousness are harmoniously working as one.
Together, this balance can bring the Sharir (body), Manas (mind) and Atma (soul) at harmony with each other.2
Ayurveda also emphasises that Prakriti or constitution, which is unique to every individual, is also responsible for the health and disease patterns in different people. Human mind has trigunas meaning the three psychological personality attributes – the sattva, a pure state of mind; rajas, a mind with passion, desire & attachment and tamas, the inert, ignorant mind – which interact with the biological tridoshas and finally develop the mind and body constitution of an individual. This interaction is important while assessing an individual’s health and considering a treatment, diet and regimen for the same.2 Till one remains in his/her natural state or Prakriti, he/she remain healthy. A state of disease or Vikriti occurs when an individual comes in contact with the causative factor or Hetu, of the disease.[iii]
Thus, health is order and disease is disorder. Within the body there constantly exists interaction between order and disorder. At the same time, the body’s internal environment constantly interacts with the external surroundings. Disease may also occur when these two are no longer in balance.1 Ayurveda provides extensive teaching and knowledge to treat as well as prevent disease and disorder, and thereby enable the body to restore health and order.1
[i] Lad V. Ayurveda: The science of self-healing: A practical guide. Lotus press; 1984.
[ii] Ayurveda – The Science of Life. CCRAS. New Delhi. 2012.
[iii] Dr S Gupta. Ayurveda- Brief History and Philosophy. [Cited 2016 September 15]. Available at: http://iaf-ngo.org/pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%20Ayurveda-brief%20history%20and%20philosophy.pdf