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Basic Concepts of Ayurveda

Ayurveda - An Ancient Medicine System

This post introduces you to the basic principles of Ayurveda, which can help you understand this alternative technique of healing.  
This post described the basic principles of Ayurveda

Numerous scholars and thinkers believe Ayurveda to be the oldest healing science in the world. The whole concept of Ayurveda is based on a holistic approach to health. It aims to help people live long, healthy, and well-balanced lives. 

The term Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘ayus’ that means life or lifespan, and ‘veda’, meaning knowledge or science, thus the term implies ‘The science of life’. This science has been practised in India for more than 5,000 years and has recently gained popularity in Western culture. 

The basic principle of Ayurveda is to maintain a perfect harmony between body, mind and spirit which in turn helps prevent illness, treat serious conditions, thus contributing to a long and healthy life. Ayurvedic medicine aims to promote good health, rather than fight disease, however, in case of major health issues, some treatments may be recommended. 

Ayurveda, or Ayurvedic medicine, was documented in the sacred historical texts known as the Vedas many centuries ago, it has evolved over the years and is now integrated with other traditional practices, including yoga.

Ayurvedic Concepts and Principles

Ayurveda does not follow the same routine for every individual. According to this science, every individual has a specific constitution, or prakruti, that determines his or her physical, physiological and mental character. It also makes him vulnerable to certain diseases.

Ayurveda further states that every person is made up of five basic elements or the Pancha Mahabhuta- which include; earth, air, water, fire and space (ether), which reside in every person in such a way that they determine his physical and mental traits. The Pachamahabhuta theory has been explained in further detail below.

Panchamahabhuta Theory in Ayurveda

Ayurveda takes into account the holistic approach to naturally occurring herbs. The concept of Panchmahabhuta (Five elements) forms the basic foundation of Ayurveda that helps to understand to the normal functioning of the human body, (physiology), the occurrence of a disease (pathology) and the action of herbal medicines on the body (pharmacokinetics). Panchamahabhuta comprises of 5 Natural Elements (in Sanskrit, Pancha – five; Mahabhuta - elements), namely:
1. Air (Vayu) 
2. Water (Jal) 
3. Earth (Prithvi) 
4. Space (Akash) 
5. Fire (Agni)

Basic Concepts of Ayurveda
Natural Elements 

These five elements combine together to create a balance in nature. They are present in the living and non-living matter. Depending on the predominance of one of these elements, every component is classified as Parthiva, Apya, Taijasa, Vayaviya and Akashiya (earth, water, fire, air and space respectively). Every element contains one of the elements as a primary component, and all other elements in certain amounts, thus, the permutation and combination of these elements determine the properties of any component.


  1. Akash Mahabhuta: It is similar to Space. Everything exists in space, and space separates matter. All body pores and body organs contain space.
  2. Vayu Mahabhuta: Air or vayu is dynamic and mobile in nature. Every movement in nature and the human body is due to vayu. In the body, vayu is symbolized in the form of oxygen, present in the blood, which is required for the sustenance of the body. This element has no shape or form but is the source of many disorders, as the Vata dosha.
  3. Agni Mahabhuta: This element converts the solids into liquids, and liquids into gases, i.e., it changes the state of any form of matter. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can be converted from one form to another. In nature, Fire gets rid of all old and dry matter, thus paving the way for a new life. This Agni provides the energy required for all activities in our body. We derive energy from the food we eat. In the body, fire helps to convert food to fuel, which can be utilized by our cells and helps energize the muscles in the body. Pitta dosha is mainly associated with Agni Mahabhuta. All the activities in the body are performed smoothly as long as this Agni is in balance. Ayurvedic therapeutics focus on rectification and maintenance of biological Agni.
  4. Jal Mahabhuta: Another element of Ayurveda that deals with a liquid state is represented by water. Water is the prerequisite for the survival of living creatures, including humans. About 70% of the human body is made up of water, the very important liquid that is required for its smooth functioning. In addition to water, fluids including our blood and lymph move between our cells and vessels, carrying away wastes, thereby providing us with the required energy. The body temperature is also regulated.
  5. Prithvi Mahabhuta: Earth represents the solid state of matter of the planet. It symbolizes stability, permanence and rigidity. In our body, the parts such as bones, teeth, cells and tissue indicate earth element. Earth is regarded as a stable substance. Talking about human beings, stability is the prerequisite for leading a healthy life, which is focused by Ayurveda. 

Basic Concepts of Ayurveda

These five elements are the basic building blocks of matter. They are present in the human body in a unique proportion, either individually or in combination. Sometimes, in a diseased state, only one or more than one of these elements get elevated than their normal levels, creating a disturbance in the body. 

A single living cell has a unique combination of these five elements- 
  1. The earth element defines the structure of the cell. The solid structure of the body (bones, teeth, flesh, hair etc.) denotes the earth element.
  2. The water element is responsible for the presence of the cytoplasm within the cell membrane. All body fluids (i.e., plasma, saliva, digestive juices) denote the water element.
  3. The fire element carries out all forms of metabolic activities in the cell, including digestion. The functioning of enzymes (intelligence, digestive system, metabolism) denotes the fire element
  4. All respiratory activities, like breathing and the gaseous exchange, are symbolized by the air element. 
  5. The space within the body (mouth, nostrils, abdomen etc.) occupied by the cell symbolizes the space or ether element in the body. This element is responsible for carrying out all functions that provide nutrition to the body and eliminate the toxic waste from the body, movements, etc. 

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