Ayurveda's Definition of Health

Holistic Medicine, Health and Ayurveda

Sama dosah samagnis ca sama dhatu mala kriyah prasannamendriya manah vastha ityabhidhiyate. Sushruta Samhita 15.38

One who is established in self,  who has balanced doshas, balanced agni, properly formed dhatus, proper elimination of malas, well functioning bodily processes and whose mind, soul and senses are happy is called a healthy person.

This quote from the Sushruta Samhita, one of the classical Ayurvedic texts summarizes the Ayurvedic model of health. The definition is both philosophical and functional in its understanding of the individual constitution.

Health is viewed from a philosophical context as someone who is established in the self. The sanskrit word for health is Svastha.   Sva means (self) and Stha is (situated, located, grounded or anchored). Therefore, when we are Svastha we are anchored and connected to our healthy happy self.   Each person is seen through the lens, of a physical self, (body, mind, emotions) which is always changing and an inner self or spirit that never changes.  Health is an integration and connection of the two.  In a modern context health is positive self-esteem and spiritual self-awareness.  Or to put it another way, when we are happy, we are healthy.

On a physical level, health is a positive functioning of the three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha according to a person’s constitution. It includes a balance of the seven tissues or dhatus and the three waste products or malas.  Good quality Agni or digestive fire is seen as the centerpiece of health. When agni functions properly, the doshas, tissues and waste products are optimal and health prevails. When the body is functioning properly, it reflects an inner sense of wellbeing.  The mind and emotions reflect a state of calmness and equanimity. 

Ayurveda provides the tools necessary to both restore and maintain health, so that disease can no longer find a foothold within the body. It’s both a way of healing and a way of life that takes into account the whole person in the context of their life. Every aspect of a person’s life is considered, as it’s our daily habits over a long period of time that become our lifestyle.

This holistic science states, that everything we come into contact with, is digested by the mind body. That includes, the food we eat and how we nourish ourselves.   The information we take in and process mentally and intellectually. What we think, what we learn, the images and media we are exposed to. The quality of our relationships with our self, others, and our environment. The kind of space we live in and how we keep our space. These aspects contribute to our overall health and happiness.

Treatment is prescriptive, addressing all aspects of the individual. This is accomplished through close attention to balance in one’s life. Balance is the natural order, imbalance is disorder. Health is order, disease is disorder.   Cultivating an awareness of Ayurveda and its principles is very empowering, as it allows us to take charge of our own health and healing.   As we gain an understanding of how to create balance according to our own individual constitution, we are able to make healthful choices and to understand the repercussions when we do not. This responsibility gives us a great power, the power to co-create abundant vitality and well-being at every level. When we are healthy we are free to pursue our highest goals.