The 7 Dhatus or Tissues
Within the classical Ayurvedic system there is the concept that each tissue has a direct or indirect relationship with all that exists within the body. Our entire make-up relies on the ability to nourish or be nourished by the next system in a holistic manner.
Its easy to come out of balance within our life time, although this usually doesn’t become completely apparent until we start to reach our decline or have an illness which calls us to its attention.
In the Ayurvedic view there are two prevailing energies of our life – What we are born with and what we create.
What we are born as is called Prakruti. This pure state is a stable makeup of the 5 elements manifesting themselves as a mix of Vata (Air-Space) Pitta (Fire-Water) and Kapha (Earth – Water). Staying in harmony throughout our lives is defined by the ability to keep these three Dosha’s in balance, when these energies go out of balance it’s called ‘Vikruti‘ and is the cause of all illness or disharmony.
Our body requires nourishment by eating wholesome foods and seeking to become influenced by wholesome values and a virtuous community. Our minds are a characteristic of Air of which when out of balance affects our ability to make decisions and leads to Worry,Fear, Nervousness and Frustration. If we are unable to make the right choices or identify with our true intentions we move further from our true nature and fall into delusion. I have mentioned this first and foremost as a sound mind leads to a sound body.
Three preliminary ways to create a pure mind are:
- Eating Sattvic (Wholesome and Organic Foods) and Corresponding Herbs. For example – Brahmi and Saffron.
- Choosing to spend time with people who inspire you and are supportive of your stage of growth or have a certain moral code that leads to Evolution, Peace and Harmony.
- Starting a practice that will help the mind ie Meditation, Pranayama and Yoga. Please see Ashtanga Yoga which has seven steps to nourish our true state of being and isn’t at all Dogmatic.
OUR PHYSICAL BODIES
True peace comes from being embodied or an ability to be here and now in this moment and too feel strong in our bodies. The Ayurvedic understanding of how to strengthen our bodies starts with our ability to assimilate our diet into energy that can be used to sustain and nourish each of our 7 Tissues or Dhatu’s. This role is taken on by our digestive fire or Agni. A strong constitution is the product of good digestion, absorption and nutrition. If we have fire in the belly our ability to nourish our body is amplified and we are full of life and creativity. Agni is related to our excretory systems also, if we have a strong Agni our ability to transfer food into energy is better we have less toxins or Ama left over as a by product of bad digestion. Ama has the texture of hot honey and blocks our channels (Strota’s) that connect our physical systems together and stops our bodies ability to renew itself which leads to ill health.
Characteristics of good Agni are:
- Strong bones, Clear white eyes, Clear skin and Smooth pinkish nails
- Good will power, Decision making skills, Vigour and Strength
- Someone who is grounded, Well spoken, Patient and Calm
Characteristics of bad Agni are:
- Dullness, Loss of clarity, Lack of enthusiasm
- White coating on tongue, Smelly stools and sweat, Sour taste in one’s mouth
- Fear, Anxiety, Insomnia and Loss of Sexual drive
Quick ways of increasing Agni are:
- Fasting while drinking Ginger tea for 24 hrs possibly more depending of the state of disrupted Agni.
- Lower your intake of Fatty oils,Sugars, Carbs, Wheat, Heavy foods (Things of Kaphic Nature) or by not eating late at night will also help. By being aware of one’s Dosha one can also aid in the digestion process by adding specific spices to our meals ie Pippali, Turmeric, Ginger.
- Via a process of Panchakarma
Being conscious of our waste material (Mala) is useful also as a disruption of these is an indication of ill health.
The 3 Malas (Wastes)
There are 3 principal Malas (waste materials) from our system which include:
Purisha (faeces) (Scanty, Hot or overly dry is a sign of imbalance)
Mutra (urine) (Dark color or over smelly)
Sveda (sweat) (An inability to sweat, excess sweat or overly pungent)
The Seven Dhatu’s
Each one of our tissues is referred to as a Dhatu or a ‘by product’ of one. Each time we eat the food is transferred via our Agni into the building blocks of the Seven Dhatu’s. Each Dhatu has a nourishing characteristic and excretory characteristic or Mala. Below is a chart that shows them in there totality and there role in the body.
The 7 Layers of Dhatus (Tissues)
There are 7 layers of tissue (Dhatu) which are as follows – Rasa (plasma), Rakta (blood), Mamsa (muscle and connective tissue), Meda (fat), Asthi (bone), Majja (nerve) and Shukra (reproductive).
Rasa (our plasma) is the first layer of tissue which is fed by our central digestive fire. From here the tissues are fed from the Agni (digestive fire) of a preceding layer of tissue. For example Rasa is fed daily from the central digestive fire, this undergoes a process of transformation and the product of this feeds the next layer of tissue Rakta (our blood), the Dhatu-Agni (tissue digestive fire) of Rakta feeds Mamsa. Each stage takes 5 days which means that it takes 35 days to feed our Shukra (reproductive tissue) from the initial point of food consumption.
In addition to feeding the next layer of tissue, secondary tissues (Upadhatus) are formed through this process as is Kittapaka (waste). The nature of the Dhatu-Agni (tissue digestive fire) will determine the development of the tissue, the quality of the secondary tissue and the nature of the waste. Over or under development of each layer of Dhatu will influence the development of the preceding layers of tissues, both may block nutrition. There are indicators that we can use to gauge the state of health of our tissues.
The table below summarises this.
Rasa: Water Breast milk and menstrual flow Kapha plegm Well hydrated, soft and unctuous skin, uniform colour complexion, deep rooted hairs, skin has a beautiful texture and lustre
Rakta: Fire Blood vessels and fascia Pitta bile Red complexion, energetic, happy, cheerful, delicate, intolerant of hot sunlight and with glowing rosy-pink lips, cheeks, tongue, conjunctiva, nails, ears and genitalia
Mamsa: Earth, water, fire, air Ligaments and skin Ear wax and other cavity secretions eg crust in nose Muscular build, stability, endurance, strong neck, well toned and defined muscles of the face, cheeks, chest, abdomen, arms and legs
Meda: Water, earth Lymphatic vessels and tendons Sweat Optimal fatty tissue present under the skin, shiny hair and nails, oily faces, soft and smooth complexion, oily skin, melodious voice, appropriate sweating, well lubricated joints, optimum body bulk, compassionate
Asthi: Earth, Air Teeth Nails and hair Strong bones and teeth, plenty of healthy hair, strong nails, tall, robust, good stamina, hardworking, strong and sturdy looking
Majja: Water, Earth Hair Tears and eye secretions Strong nervous system, soft and unctuous complexion, big, bright and attractive eyes, intelligent, soft organs, round joints and prolonged memory
Shukra: Essence Ojas Waste material from the genitals Good sex drive and endurance, gentle, loving appearance, attractive, cheerful, well developed buttocks, romantic
THE 16 SROTAS (CHANNELS)
In Ayurveda our being is composed of Srotas (channels) which are both physical and non-physical. These channels transport the dosha’s, nutrition, waste, thought and energy. Toxic build (Ama) blocks our Srotas and leads to disease. There are 4 reasons for malfunction of the Srotas – too much flow, too little flow, blockage, misdirected flow.
There are 16 principal Srotas which include the following:
Pranavaha Srota – respiratory
Annavaha Srota – food
Ambuvaha Srota – water
Rasavaha Srota – lymph
Raktavaha Srota – blood
Mamsavaha – muscular
Medovaha – adipose
Asthivaha – skeletal
Majjavaha – nerves
Sukravaha – reproductive
Manovaha – the mind
Purishavaha – excretory
Mutravaha – urinary
Svedavaha – skin and sweat
Stanyavaha – lactation
Artavaha – menstruation
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