“Health” is a very multi-faceted concept in Ayurveda. A person whose annual blood work is excellent with no red flags whatsoever, may not be considered healthy, per Ayurveda. So, what is perfect health in Ayurveda?
Sama dosha, sama agnischa, sama dhatu, malakriya |
Prasanna atma, indriya manaha, swastha ithiabhiyathe || Sushruta Samhita
A person whose doshas are balanced, whose digestive fire is balanced, whose bodily tissues are proportionate and balanced, whose excretory functions are working correctly, who has a pleasant soul and contented disposition, whose sense organs work perfectly and whose mind is calm and centered is considered to be truly healthy.
Let’s look at each one in detail:
1. Doshas in balance: Everyone is born with a certain mind-body constitution (prakriti). This prakriti comprises a balance of the three doshas – vata, pitta and kapha. For this person, in this lifetime, the proportion of these 3 doshas needs to be maintained in order to avert disease. If the person is pitta-kapha, the pitta and kapha in them is more than the vata in them, but they do have some vata dosha also in them. If this equilibrium changes due to diet or lifestyle factors, it is the start of disease.
2. Digestive fire in balance: In Ayurveda, it is strongly believed that maintaining a good digestion is a vital key to good health and that an imbalanced digestive fire (agni) is at the root of many a disease. So, what is a balanced agni? An agni that is not too strong (teekshna agni), not too dull (manda agni) and not variable (vishama agni) is considered a balanced agni (sama agni).
3. Tissues in balance: In Ayurveda, our bodies are viewed as comprising of the following tissues – plasma (rasa), blood (rakta), muscles (mamsa), fat (medha), bone (asthi), bone marrow (majja), reproductive tissue (shukra). All these tissues should be proportionate in the person depending on his body constitution. For example, the amount of fat (medhas) that a healthy kapha dominant person can carry on their body is probably more than the amount a healthy vata dominant person can. But that doesn’t make the kapha person (with slightly more fat) or the vata (with slightly less fat) person unhealthy. In other words, for the person’s body type, the amount and quality of all the tissues should be balanced.
4. Excretory functions working correctly: In Ayurveda, it is considered vital that the three wastes (malas) be expelled from the body in a timely and regular manner – sweat, urine and feces. If these are suppressed voluntarily or involuntarily, it is considered unhealthy and detrimental to health.
5. Pleasant Soul and Contented Disposition: There is a lot of emphasis placed on the spirit (soul or atma) in Ayurveda. A person who is at peace with himself, is content with his lot in life and has a pleasant disposition is valued deeply as a healthy person.
6. Sharp Sense Organs: The sense organs are the organs of knowledge in Ayurveda. It is with the eyes, ears, nose, skin and tongue that we can perceive vision, sound, smell, touch and taste respectively.
7. Calm and Centered Mind: Only with a calm mind can we take the vibrations received through our sense organs and perceive them correctly. If the mind is all over the place, we will perceive things in an incorrect manner. A centered, focused mind is needed to ensure mental peace and good health, in general.
It is amazing how detailed, thorough and specific the definition of health is in Ayurveda! This makes sense since Ayurveda’s goal is not just to cure the unhealthy person from disease, but also to maintain good health and prevent illness in a healthy person.