What is Ayurveda? Here’s a beginner’s lesson from an expert

Ayurveda is a broad term encompassing preventive, curative and promotive cures for good health, but few of us understand its basics. Here’s a primer.
Practice simple yoga asanas regularly to boost immunity. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Madhumitha Krishnan Updated: 4 Oct 2021, 17:27 pm IST
  • 104

The term Ayurveda is derived from Ayu which indicates life or longetivity and Veda which means the knowledge or science. Hence, Ayurveda can be defined as the knowledge that enables a physician to observe, classify, analyze the dynamic causes and effects (Karya Karana) in biological processes, and to the extent feasible modulate health and disease. The primary aim of this science is ‘Swasthasya swasthya rakshanam’ that is protection and promotion of health of a healthy person.

Keep your overall health in check by following basic Ayurveda principles. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

If a person would like to assess if they were healthy or not, who would they compare themselves to? Is there a single person who is considered to be perfectly healthy? The definition of health would throw light on this.

The World Health Organization defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well- being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.

These are the different components based upon which health is defined:
  • Physical wellness is the ability to maintain a quality of life that allows you to get the most out of your daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress.
  • Mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
  • Social health can be defined as our ability to interact and form meaningful relationships with others. It also relates to how comfortably we can adapt in social situations. Social relationships have an impact on our mental health, physical health and mortality risk
  • Spiritual well-being is a state where an individual is able to deal with day-to-day life in a manner which leads to the realization of one’s full potential; meaning and purpose of life; and happiness from within.

These guidelines are a starting point, but one may still not have the perfect person to compare these aspects to.

Your mental health is also as important as physical health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
What is the definition of health in Ayurveda?

Samadosha Samagnishcha Samadhatu Malakriyaha| Prasanna Atmendriya Manaha Svastha Iti Abhidiyate||”

This a very beautiful shloka that explains the definition of health in Ayurveda. The factors based on which the person is said to be healthy are the equilibrium of the Doshas (3 key physiological factors), Agni (Metabolic health), Dhatu (Tissue health), Malas (Excretory function), as well as a happy state of Atma, Indriya (Sense organs) and Manas (Mind).

Breaking down the definition of health in Ayurveda:

Now when we have to say that the Doshas (3 key physiological factors), Agni (Metabolic health), Dhatu (Tissue health), Malas (Excretory function) are in balance, we would require a base framework to compare to.

in ayurveda, The base framework in a person is defined as the Prakruti of the person

When a person carries out their normal activities such as physical exertion, sleep, the food they eat, the Vaikruta functional activities of the body are altered.  Let us take an example for better understanding. Let us say there is a person X who has a Prakruti of Vata-Pitta. This would indicate that the person has specific characteristics, such as probably being lean and tall. The Agni of the said person would probably be good. Bowels are regular and towards the loose side. This person is capable of handling a moderate amount of exercise. And he or she is mentally probably

Have stress and anxiety taken over your life? 4 ways in which Ayurveda can help

.Based on the diet of the person, activities as well as sleep the functional aspects in the body would be altered, if the person were to skip a meal that would affect there Agni, resulting in an increase of Pitta Dosha causing burning sensation, or if this person were to carry out too much activity, then Vata Dosha would be greatly increased. Or if this person stays up all night, then the Vata Dosha would be increased. This could result in constipation in the person who usually has a very easy bowel movement.  It could affect the digestive capability which is usually very good in the person. Now the Vaikruta functional activities are not in accordance to the base Prakruta framework. The person would therefore no longer be considered healthy.

This is a comparison with one’s self, so your own body decides if you are healthy or not based on your activities. Hence, health is defined by the individual itself.

Select Topics of your interest and let us customize your feed.


Also Read: A primer to Panchakarma: All you need to know about this holistic Ayurveda therapy

Exercise is a must. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
What is healthy according to Ayurveda?

To remain healthy, the aim of the person should be to indulge in food and activities that would help maintain the equilibrium of the Vaikruta functionalities of the body in accordance to the Prakruta framework. This would mean a person only needs to observe and understand themselves. Once they are aware of what is healthy for them, automatically all other aspects fall into place.

  • 104
About the Author

Dr. Madhumitha Krishnan is a Consultant Ayurveda Paediatrician based in Bengaluru. She is a visiting consultant in multiple clinics in Bengaluru and Hyderabad and has a special interest in handling cases of special children. ...Read More

Next Story