Glossary of Ayurvedic Terms

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

abhyanga.

Full body Ayurvedic oil massage; self-massage is an important component of an Ayurvedic daily routine, but trained professionals also give abhyanga treatments—either as a stand-alone therapy or as part of a deeper cleanse, such as panchakarma.

 

agni.

The third of five elements recognized in Ayurveda: the fire element; the principle of transformation; the digestive fire, which is responsible for digestion, absorption and assimilation; that which transforms food into tissues, energy, and consciousness.

 

ahara.

Diet or food (as in ahara chikitsa—food-based therapy).

 

ahara rasa.

The end result of digested food, yielded within about twelve hours of eating; this “food juice” is the asthayi (raw, unprocessed) form of rasa dhatu (the plasma and lymph) and the nutritive precursor of all seven dhatus (bodily tissues).

 

ajna chakra.

The sixth of seven chakras, which is located at the third eye and is responsible for balancing the higher self with the lower self; this chakra is also associated with intuition—our ability to trust our deepest inner knowing—and is symbolized by a two-petaled lotus flower, the color indigo, the bija mantra (seed syllable) “Aum,” and it is often linked to the pineal gland.

 

alochaka pitta.

One of the five subtypes of pitta; that aspect of pitta that resides primarily in the eyes and governs visual perception; functionally, it is responsible for the luster, color, and translucence of the eye, the maintenance of an appropriate eye temperature, as well as the perception of color and light.

 

ama.

Raw, undigested; a toxic, disease-causing substance that can accumulate in the body when foods, herbs, emotions or experiences are not fully processed, digested, or assimilated.

 

ambu.

Water; bodily fluids such as rasa dhatu (plasma and lymph), rakta dhatu (blood), and fluid secretions; one of the four factors affecting fertility, conception, and prakriti —considered an important component of reproductive health; in Ayurveda, ambu vaha srotas is the bodily channel for receiving water and regulating bodily fluids.

 

ambu vaha srotas.

The bodily channel responsible for receiving water and regulating bodily fluids such as cerebrospinal fluid, saliva, and secretions of the nose, gastric mucous membranes, and the pancreas; functions of this channel include lubrication, energy, electrolyte balance, and the maintenance of body temperature; ambu vaha srotas is rooted in the pancreas, soft palate and choroid plexus, its pathway is the GI mucous membrane, and its openings are the kidneys, the sweat glands, and the tongue; this channel is closely tied to the liquid, watery tissue of rasa dhatu (plasma and lymph), and to mutra vaha srotas (the urinary channel).

 

amla.

The sour taste, which is predominated by the earth and fire elements, and is balancing to vata, but aggravating to pitta and kapha.

 

anabolic.

A constructive type of substance or metabolic process; in biology, a category of metabolic processes that synthesizes more complex molecules from simpler ones, builds up organs and tissues, produces growth and differentiation among cells, and that requires energy in order to occur. This term generally corresponds to the Sanskrit word, brmhana.

 

anahata chakra.

The fourth of seven chakras, which is located at the heart center and is connected to our capacity for unconditional love; this chakra is said to house our purest self and is also linked to immunity; it is symbolized by a twelve-petaled lotus flower, the color green, the bija mantra (seed syllable) “yam,” and it is often associated with the thymus gland.

 

anna maya kosha.

The first of five bodily sheaths, or coverings of the self; because this kosha is made of flesh and is directly nourished by our food, it is also known as the “food body” or the “sheath made of food.” The anna maya kosha is the grossest, most physical of all the koshas.

 

anupan.

A substance that serves as a medium for taking herbs and other medicines; many anupans are valued for their ability to carry herbs and formulas deeper into specific tissues; common Ayurvedic anupans include water, ghee, honey, milk, and aloe vera juice or gel.

 

apana vayu.

One of the five subtypes of vata; that aspect of vata that resides primarily in the colon and the pelvic cavity and governs downward moving energy in the body; functionally, it is responsible for urination, flatulence, defecation, ovulation, the movement of sperm, conception, and it is activated in the mother’s body during birth; apana vayu also absorbs minerals and nourishes the bones through the mucous membrane of the colon.

 

apatarpana.

A deconstructive type of substance, process, or treatment therapy (also known as langhana) that is reducing and lightening—catabolic in nature; the process of fasting; the opposite of santarpana.

 

artava dhatu.

The female reproductive tissue, including the ovaries, ova, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, and vagina; along with shukra (the male reproductive tissue), the deepest dhatu (human tissue) in the Ayurvedic tradition, and the last one to receive nourishment through cellular nutrition; responsible for procreation and emotional release; associated with the production of ojas.

 

asana.

A Sanskrit word literally meaning “seat;” a physical yoga posture; the third limb of yoga described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which define asana as a state of stability, strength, and ease in the body.

 

asthayi.

Raw, unprocessed, immature, unstable; refers to a particular stage in tissue formation when nutrients and food precursors have been selected by the tissues, but have not yet been assimilated into mature tissue.

 

asthi dhatu.

The fifth of seven dhatus (human tissues) in the Ayurvedic tradition; the bone tissue; responsible for providing structure to the body, supporting movement, and protecting the vital organs; also associated with cartilage, teeth, hair, and nails.

 

avalambaka kapha.

One of the five subtypes of kapha; that aspect of kapha that resides primarily in the lungs, respiratory tract, heart, and spine; it governs the delivery of prana to every cell, tissue, and organ, maintains the tone and permeability of the alveoli, protects the heart muscle, and tends to the tone of the muscular portion of the bronchi.

 

Ayurveda.

A five thousand year old system of healing with origins in the Vedic culture of ancient India. The Sanskrit word Ayurveda is derived from the root words ayuh, meaning “life” or “longevity,” and veda, meaning “science” or “sacred knowledge.” Ayurveda therefore translates as, "the sacred knowledge of life.”

 

Ayurvedic.

Of or pertaining to the Vedic tradition of Ayurveda; see Ayurveda.

 

basti.

A therapeutic enema using herbal tea or oil (best practiced under the guidance of a qualified practitioner); an important means of eliminating excess vata from the body via the colon; one of the five cleansing actions involved in panchakarma.

 

bhastrika pranayama.

A yogic breathing practice also known as the “bellows breath,” which consists of a deep and active inhalation and a forceful exhalation that causes a slightly exaggerated expansion and contraction of the abdomen—much like a bellows; this breath is heating, kindles the digestive fire, increases circulation, and refreshes the deep tissues.

 

bhrajaka pitta.

One of the five subtypes of pitta; that aspect of pitta that resides primarily in the skin; it governs the complexion, color, and temperature of the skin as well as the tactile sense of touch, pain, and temperature perceived through the skin.

 

bhramari pranayama.

A very calming yogic breathing practice, also known as “humming bee breath,” that soothes the nervous system and helps to connect us with our truest inner nature; this practice consists of inhaling into the belly and exhaling while making a humming sound at the back of the throat—like the gentle humming of a bee.

 

bhuta agnis.

Five specific physiological manifestations of agni (one for each element: earth, water, fire, air, and ether) that are housed in the liver; responsible for transforming ingested food into biologically useful substances.

 

bija.

Seed; can refer to a plant seed or to the reproductive tissue—specifically male sperm and female ovum; one of the four factors affecting fertility, conception, and prakriti—considered an important component of reproductive health.

 

bija mantra.

A seed sound, often associated with the seed syllables that correspond to each of the seven chakras; a sound that supports profound insight (beyond the capacity of the intellect) and helps us to align with—and better understand—certain truths associated with particular frequencies or vibrations.

 

bodhaka kapha.

One of the five subtypes of kapha; that aspect of kapha that resides primarily in the mouth; it governs the sense of taste and the immune capacity within the tonsils; functionally, it is responsible for speech, swallowing, salivary secretions, regulating oral bacteria, initiating the first stages of digestion, as well as maintaining an appropriate oral temperature.

 

brmhana.

A constructive type of substance, process, or treatment therapy (also known as santarpana) that is tonifying, building, and nourishing—anabolic in nature; the opposite of langhana.

 

catabolic.

A deconstructive type of substance or metabolic process; in biology, a category of metabolic processes the breaks down more complex molecules into simpler ones, releasing energy in the process. This term generally corresponds to the Sanskrit word, langhana.

 

chakra.

A Sanskrit word for “wheel” or “turning,” but that, in the yogic context, is better translated as “vortex” or “whirlpool”; one of seven primary energetic vortices (or nerve plexus centers) that form part of the subtle, energetic body; the seven primary chakras are found near the spinal cord, where a number of subtle energy channels known as nadis meet and intersect; each chakra is aligned with a particular color, bija mantra (seed syllable), a precise number of lotus petals, and is associated with specific qualities and energies.

 

channels.

Physical or energetic pathways that carry substances or energies from one place to another in the body. “Channel” is a somewhat inadequate translation for the Sanskrit term srotas (singular; srotamsi is the plural form); the grossest, most physical Ayurvedic srotamsi largely correspond with the systems of Western medicine: the circulatory system, the urinary system, the digestive system, etc.; see also srotas.

 

chikitsa.

Any type of Ayurvedic treatment or therapy intended to correct or manage an imbalance or a specific disease (e.g., ahara chikitsa—food-based treatment; shodhana chikitsa—cleansing therapies; rasayana chikitsa—rejuvenation therapy).

 

chyavanprash.

A traditional Ayurvedic herbal jam made primarily of amalaki, but containing a number of other complementary ingredients; chyavanprash is frequently used as a rejuvenative and is particularly balancing for pitta.

 

dashamula.

Literally meaning “ten roots,” this traditional Ayurvedic formula is highly revered for its ability to remove excess vata from the system; it is named for the traditional ingredients in this grounding formula (many of which are roots), and it very effectively directs vata in the body downward.

 

dhatu.

One of seven tissues identified in the human body: rasa dhatu (plasma), rakta dhatu (blood), mamsa dhatu (muscle), meda dhatu (fat), asthi dhatu (bone), majja dhatu (nervous tissue), and shukra dhatu (male reproductive tissue) or artava dhatu (female reproductive tissue).

 

dinacharya.

A daily routine; an important part of an Ayurvedic lifestyle that helps to align our bodies with the daily rhythms of nature; the traditional dinacharya includes a wide variety of daily self-care practices including a rich personal hygiene routine, exercise, spiritual practice, meals, and sleep.

 

dosha.

One of three functional energies in nature: vata, pitta, and kapha. In the body, it is the unique ratio of these three humors that determines an individual’s prakriti (constitution). When the doshas are present in appropriate quantities, they support the health and integrity of the body; when they are out of balance, they can cause illness and disease.

 

ghee.

Clarified butter (made by gently heating unsalted butter until the milk solids can be removed); a highly revered substance in Ayurveda that is used in cooking and for therapeutic purposes; also considered an important anupan, capable of carrying herbs deeper into specific tissues.

 

guna.

A quality or characteristic; most commonly referring to one of twenty primary gunas used in Ayurveda to describe different substances, and to predict their effects on the body.

 

hingvastak.

A traditional Ayurvedic formula designed to pacify vata in the digestive tract.

 

ida nadi.

One of the three most important nadis in the subtle body (along with pingala nadi and sushumna nadi); all three are responsible for carrying the flow of prana and awakening higher states of consciousness. Ida nadi is the lunar, feminine channel associated with the left side of the body; it is situated to the left of the spinal cord, travels from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, and is associated with the left nostril.

 

jathara agni.

One specific physiological manifestation of agni that is responsible for overseeing the digestion and absorption of food; the central digestive fire that nourishes all forms of agni throughout the body.

 

kapalabhati pranayama.

An active yogic breathing practice, also known as “skull shining breath,” which consists of a rapid succession of forceful exhalations and passive inhalations. This practice is cleansing, invigorating, and balancing to vata, pitta, and kapha; it purifies the pranic channels (srotamsi) without creating heat.

 

kapha.

One of the three doshas (functional energies in nature); kapha is predominated by the earth and water elements and governs structure and cohesiveness; it is heavy, slow, cool, oily, smooth, dense, soft, stable, gross, and cloudy.

 

kashaya.

The astringent taste, which is predominated by the air and earth elements, and is balancing to pitta and kapha, but aggravating to vata.

 

katu.

The pungent taste, which is predominated by the fire and air elements, and is balancing to kapha, but aggravating to vata and pitta.

 

khavaigunya.

A weak or defective space in the body typically caused by past injury, illness, trauma, or familial genetic patterns; khavaigunyas are especially vulnerable to frequent or chronic imbalance because they tend to attract ama and excesses in the doshas.

 

kledaka kapha.

One of the five subtypes of kapha; that aspect of kapha that resides primarily in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract; it is liquid, soft, oily, slimy, and it maintains the gastric mucous membrane, provides the liquid medium in which digestion occurs (in the stomach), hydrates the cells and tissues, and is absorbed via the stomach wall to nourish rasa dhatu and kapha everywhere in the body.

 

kosha.

One of five sheaths, or coverings of the self—both gross and subtle—that together comprise the physical and energetic aspects of who we are.

 

kshetra.

Field; womb; one of the four factors affecting fertility, conception, and prakriti —considered an important component of reproductive health.

 

langhana.

A deconstructive type of substance, process, or treatment therapy (also known as apatarpana) that is reducing and lightening—catabolic in nature; the process of fasting; the opposite of brmhana; langhana is one type of shodhana chikitsa—a cleansing therapy.

 

lavana.

The salty taste, which is predominated by the water and fire elements, and is balancing to vata, but aggravating to pitta and kapha.

 

lekhana.

Scraping action; a food, herb, or treatment therapy that “scrapes” or removes accumulated fat and toxins from the body; lekhana is one type of shodhana chikitsa—a cleansing therapy.

 

madhura.

The sweet taste, which is predominated by the earth and water elements, and is balancing to vata and pitta, but aggravating to kapha.

 

maha guna.

“Great quality;” usually referring to one of three universal attributes—or qualities of consciousness—from which all phenomena arise: sattva, rajas, and tamas. All three of these qualities together are generally referred to as the “maha gunas.”

 

majja dhatu.

The sixth of seven dhatus (human tissues) in the Ayurvedic tradition; includes all nervous tissue, connective tissue, and bone marrow; responsible for filling spaces in the body, and for communication and sensation; also associated with the endocrine system and with hormones.

 

mamsa dhatu.

The third of seven dhatus (human tissues) in the Ayurvedic tradition; includes all muscle tissue in the body; responsible for form, movement, support, protection, and plastering (cohesiveness); also gives strength, courage, and confidence.

 

manas prakriti.

The mental constitution; each individual’s unique proportion of sattva, rajas, and tamas in the mind; manas prakriti is established at conception, but can change over time, reflecting our capacity to develop more (or less) evolved states of consciousness over the course of our lives.

 

mano vaha srotas.

The bodily channel associated with the mind and responsible for mental functions such as thinking, feeling, inquiry, discernment, communication, and memory; this channel is rooted in the heart and the ten great vessels (ten subtle energetic pathways also rooted in the heart), includes the entire body, and opens to the five sense organs (the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin).

 

marga.

The pathway, or passage through the body, for any given Ayurvedic srotas (channel system).

 

marma.

An energy point on the surface of the body that is connected to the deeper, subtle pathways (nadis) of the body; each individual marma point is associated with specific organs, channels, energies, or emotions and can be useful as both a diagnostic and therapeutic tool; the plural of marma is marmani.

 

marmani.

The plural of marma; a set of energy points on the surface of the body that are connected to the deeper, subtle pathways (nadis) of the body; the marmani are each associated with specific organs, channels, energies, or emotions—making them useful as both diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

 

meda dhatu.

The fourth of seven dhatus (human tissues) in the Ayurvedic tradition; includes all adipose tissue in the body; responsible for lubrication, insulation, protection, and energy storage; also gives shape and beauty to the body, and sweetness to the voice.

 

mukha.

The mouth, opening, or entrance into, any given Ayurvedic srotas (channel system), and sometimes, the point at which one srotas becomes another; the mukha is therapeutically significant because it is often used as an access point for treating the srotas as a whole.

 

mula.

The root, or point of origination, for any given Ayurvedic srotas (channel system); the mula often reveals more subtle and developmental connections that can impact the overall health of the srotas.

 

mutra vaha srotas.

The bodily channel responsible for urine; mutra vaha srotas is rooted in (and governed by) the kidneys, its pathway includes the ureters, bladder, and urethra, and it opens to the exterior of the body at the external urethral orifice.

 

nadi.

A Sanskrit word with many meanings, including “river,” “channel,” and “passageway;” Ayurveda acknowledges thousands of nadis—both gross and subtle—that carry various substances and energies from one place to another throughout the body and the energetic field. Nadi also refers to the pulse, one of the most important tools for clinical assessment in Ayurveda.

 

nadi shodhana pranayama.

A yogic breathing practice also known as “alternate nostril breathing,” but that literally means “channel cleansing;” this practice consists of inhaling and exhaling in a particular pattern, through alternate nostrils. Nadi shodhana pranayama is balancing to the left and right hemispheres of the brain, deeply calming to the nervous system, and revitalizing to the mind.

 

nasya.

A therapeutic practice of applying plain or herbalized oil (or medicinal herbs) to the nasal passages; an important means of eliminating excess vata, pitta and kapha from the head, neck, throat and the senses via the nasal passages; one of the five cleansing actions involved in panchakarma.

 

neti.

A therapeutic practice of cleansing the nasal passages with saline water (also known as jala-neti); an important means of eliminating excess dust, pollen, mucus, and other blockages from the nasal passages; a neti pot is the vessel used to pour the saline solution into one nostril so that it can flow out through the other nostril.

 

ojas.

The positive subtle essence of kapha, which gives the body strength, vigor, vitality, and immunity; the end product of perfect digestion. Ojas shares a subtle functional integrity with tejas and prana.

 

pachaka pitta.

One of the five subtypes of pitta; that aspect of pitta that resides primarily in the small intestine and stomach; functionally, it governs the breakdown of ingested food, making the nutrients available for use in the body.

 

pachana.

A substance that neutralizes toxins and ama in the body; a treatment (also known as pachana chikitsa) that “cooks” or neutralizes toxins in the body, helping to eliminate ama; one of the practices included in shamana chikitsa (palliative therapy), which is often employed when the more intense approach of shodhana chikitsa (cleansing therapy) is contra-indicated.

 

panchakarma.

A Sanskrit term literally meaning “five actions;” a deep Ayurvedic cleanse focused on returning excess vata, pitta, kapha, and ama to the digestive tract in order to be eliminated from the body; panchakarma refers to the five traditional Ayurvedic cleansing actions that are used to eliminate these disturbances from the digestive tract: vamana (therapeutic vomiting), virechana (therapeutic purgation), basti (therapeutic enema), rakta moksha (therapeutic blood letting), and nasya (therapeutic administration of herbs and oils to the nasal passages).

 

pingala nadi.

One of the three most important nadis in the subtle body (along with ida nadi and sushumna nadi); all three are responsible for carrying the flow of prana and awakening higher states of consciousness; pingala nadi is the solar, masculine channel associated with the right side of the body; it is situated to the right of the spinal cord, travels from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, and is associated with the right nostril.

 

pitta.

One of the three doshas (functional energies in nature); pitta is predominated by the fire and water elements, and it governs transformation; it is light, sharp (or penetrating), hot, oily, liquid, and spreading.

 

poshaka kapha.

The physical precursor of kapha dosha that nourishes kapha throughout the body; a natural waste product that forms as rasa dhatu matures.

 

poshaka pitta.

The physical precursor of pitta dosha that nourishes pitta throughout the body; a natural waste product that forms as rakta dhatu matures; bile.

 

prabhava.

An unpredictable action of a particular substance on the body—one that cannot otherwise be explained by logic; part of the broader impact of each ingested substance on the body, which also includes its rasa (taste), virya (temperature), and vipaka (post-digestive effect).

 

prakriti.

Constitution; the unique ratio of vata, pitta and kapha established at conception and resulting in a personally unique set of physical, emotional, and mental tendencies, strengths, and vulnerabilities.

 

Prakriti.

Primordial matter; the cosmic womb; according to Sankhya philosophy, the Cosmic Mother, the divine feminine energy behind creation—the feminine potential from which all form emerges.

 

prana.

The vital life force that enters the body primarily through the breath, but that can also come from food and water; the flow of cellular intelligence, perception, and communication that is the positive subtle essence of vata; prana shares a subtle functional integrity with ojas and tejas.

 

prana maya kosha.

The second of five bodily sheaths, or coverings of the self; because this kosha is made of prana (the vital life force that is connected to the breath), it is also known as the “breath body,” or the “sheath made of breath;” this kosha pervades the entire anna maya kosha (food body) and extends slightly beyond the flesh.

 

prana vaha srotas.

The bodily channel responsible for receiving and circulating prana (the vital life-force); functions include respiration, thinking, emotional feeling, and communication with the higher self; this channel is rooted in the heart and the digestive tract, includes the entire respiratory tract and the lungs, and opens to the exterior of the body at the nose.

 

prana vayu.

One of the five subtypes of vata; that aspect of vata that resides primarily in the head and that governs the descent of prana and consciousness into the body; functionally, it is responsible for inhalation, higher cerebral function, and the movement of the mind: thoughts, emotions, sensations, and the flow of perception.

 

pranayama.

The fourth limb of yoga, as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras; yogic breathing practices that work directly with the vital life energy of prana and that are intended to increase awareness and to prepare the mind and body for meditation. Each individual pranayama has specific indications, contra-indications, and benefits.

 

rajas.

One of the three maha gunas, universal attributes (or qualities of consciousness) that give rise to all phenomena in nature; rajas is the principle that ignites energy, movement, passion, and the ability to act.

 

rajasic.

A substance, experience, or mental state infused with the qualities of rajas: kinetic energy, movement, passion, and action.

 

rakta dhatu.

The second of seven dhatus (human tissues) in the Ayurvedic tradition; roughly equated with blood, but more specifically with the oxygen-carrying portion of the blood: the red blood cells, which Ayurveda distinguishes from rasa dhatu (the plasma, lymph and white blood cells); rakta dhatu is responsible for the maintenance of life, oxygenation, and the transportation of nutrients.

 

rakta moksha.

A therapeutic practice of blood letting or blood cleansing; an important means of purifying and eliminating excess pitta from the blood; one of the five cleansing actions involved in panchakarma.

 

rakta vaha srotas.

The bodily channel responsible for oxygenation and for the circulation of red blood cells throughout the body; this channel is rooted in the liver and the spleen, also includes the red blood cells, the heart, the bone marrow, and the arteries, and opens to the arteriole venous junction.

 

ranjaka pitta.

One of the five subtypes of pitta; that aspect of pitta that resides primarily in the liver, spleen, and stomach, and gives color to all of the tissues of the body; functionally, it is responsible for the formation of red blood cells in the bone marrow, bile in the liver, and white blood cells in the spleen.

 

rasa.

A Sanskrit word with many meanings, including “taste,” “flavor,” “essence,” “experience,” “juice,” “sap,” and “plasma.” Ayurveda identifies six primary tastes: madhura (sweet), amla (sour), lavana (salty), katu (pungent), tikta (bitter), and kashaya (astringent). As taste, rasa is our first experience of an ingested substance; other common uses of this word include ahara rasa (food juice or chyle) and rasa dhatu (plasma and lymph).

 

rasa dhatu.

The first of the seven dhatus (human tissues) in the Ayurvedic tradition; includes the plasma, the lymph, and the white blood cells; because it is the first dhatu to receive nourishment from ingested food, rasa dhatu is responsible for delivering nutrition and energy to every cell and tissue in the body.

 

rasa vaha srotas.

The bodily channel responsible for cellular nutrition and for the circulation of lymph and plasma throughout the body; rasa vaha srotas is also associated with immunity, faith, and with regulating both blood volume and blood pressure; this channel is rooted in the heart and the ten great vessels (ten subtle energetic pathways also rooted in the heart), includes the venous and lymphatic systems, and opens to the arteriole venous junction.

 

rasayana.

A substance that nourishes and tones the entire body; the Ayurvedic practice of rejuvenation therapy (also known as rasayana chikitsa)—a specific process of offering deep nourishment to the cells, tissues, and organs of the body in support of their healing, renewal, and regeneration; this practice is indicated in a number of different situations (e.g., after a deep cleanse like panchakarma) and is believed to enhance immunity, stamina, and longevity.

 

rejuvenation.

The therapeutic process of offering deep nourishment to the cells, tissues, and organs of the body in support of their healing, renewal, and regeneration; this therapy is indicated in a number of different situations (e.g., after a deep cleanse like panchakarma) and is believed to enhance immunity, stamina, and longevity.

 

rejuvenative.

A substance or experience that nourishes and tones specific tissues, or in some cases, the entire body.

 

rtu.

Time; season; one of the four factors affecting fertility, conception, and prakriti —and considered an important component of reproductive health; rtu can also refer to internal cycles such as ovulation and menstruation, as well as to the timing of conception, gestation, and birth.

 

rtucharya.

A seasonal routine; similar to the concept of dinacharya, but also accounting for the cycle of the seasons; rtucharya encourages us to adapt our personal routines to align more closely with the rhythms of the natural world, introducing practices and qualities that naturally promote balance all year long.

 

sadhaka pitta.

One of the five subtypes of pitta; that aspect of pitta that resides primarily in the brain and the heart; functionally, it governs conscious thinking, knowledge, understanding, appreciation, and the emotions; sadhaka pitta transforms sensations into feelings and emotions, metabolizes and processes them, and regulates neurotransmitters throughout the body; this subtype of pitta is also responsible for the ego (the sense of self and “I am”).

 

sahasrara chakra.

The seventh of seven chakras, which is located at the crown of the head and serves as the connection point to higher spiritual consciousness; associated with divine consciousness, expansive awareness, and states of bliss; it is symbolized by a one thousand-petaled lotus flower, the color purple, the bija mantra (seed syllable) “Ah,” and it is often linked to the pineal gland (as is the sixth chakra, ajna chakra).

 

samadhi.

A highly evolved state of consciousness invoking profound joy, spiritual bliss, and ecstasy; a state of mind characterized by expansiveness, and choiceless, passive awareness; a state of being in which the body, mind, and consciousness are superbly balanced as one’s individual awareness merges with the ultimate presence—into pure existence.

 

samana vayu.

One of the five subtypes of vata; that aspect of vata that resides primarily in the small intestine and navel and that governs digestion, absorption, and assimilation in the body; functionally, it is responsible for the movement of the small intestine, peristalsis, as well as the secretion of digestive juices, liver enzymes, and bile; it also plays a key role in creating hunger.

 

santarpana.

A constructive type of substance, process, or treatment therapy (also known as brmhana) that is tonifying, building, and nourishing—anabolic in nature; the opposite of apatarpana.

 

satsang.

A Sanskrit word with several meanings such as “true company,” “company in pursuit of the highest truth,” or “spiritual discourse;” satsang typically refers to a group of like-minded individuals who gather in support of one another’s spiritual development; the gathering may involve reading or listening to spiritual teachings, reflecting on their meaning, and meditating—or practicing other means of integrating the teachings into one’s daily experience.

 

sattva.

One of the three maha gunas—universal attributes (or qualities of consciousness) that give rise to all phenomena in nature; sattva is the principle that gives rise to equilibrium, clarity, light, intelligence, compassion, insight, and wisdom.

 

sattvic.

A substance, experience, or mental state infused with the qualities of sattva: light, clarity, intelligence, compassion, and wisdom.

 

shamana chikitsa.

Ayurvedic palliative therapies that gently pacify the doshas in support of a return to balance. These therapies are often employed when the more intense approach of shodhana chikitsa (cleansing therapy) is contraindicated.

 

sheetali pranayama.

A yogic breathing practice also known as the “cooling breath,” which consists of drawing the breath in through a curled tongue (as if breathing through a straw) and exhaling through the nose. This breath is cooling, deeply pacifying to pitta, and helps to reduce excess heat and inflammation throughout the body.

 

sheetkari pranayama.

Another yogic breathing practice known as the “cooling breath”—an effective substitute for sheetali pranayama for those who cannot roll their tongues; this breath consists of drawing the breath in along the sides of the tongue (and through the corners of the mouth) and exhaling through the nose. Like sheetali pranayama, this breath is cooling, deeply pacifying to pitta, and helps to reduce excess heat and inflammation throughout the body.

 

shleshaka kapha.

One of five sub-types of kapha found in all of the joints; a fatty substance that lubricates and cushions the joints, protects the bones from deterioration, and allows for freedom of movement.

 

shodhana chikitsa.

Ayurvedic cleansing therapies aimed at removing excess dosha, ama, and other toxins from the body. The five cleansing therapies for which panchakarma is named are examples of shodhana chikitsa, but there are others, such as fasting (langhana) and scraping fat (lekhana).

 

shukra dhatu.

The male reproductive tissue; along with artava dhatu (the female reproductive tissue), the deepest dhatu (human tissue) in the Ayurvedic tradition, and the last one to receive nourishment through cellular nutrition; responsible for procreation and emotional release; associated with the production of ojas.

 

sitopaladi.

A traditional Ayurvedic formula that promotes immunity and fosters overall health and wellbeing; sitopala literally means “rock candy,” an important ingredient in this formula that soothes pitta and calms vata; the suffix adi means “etcetera” and refers to the fact that this formula is a mix of several different complementary ingredients.

 

sneha.

A Sanskrit word meaning both “oil,” and “love”—which is noteworthy, given the regularity with which Ayurveda uses oil as a therapeutic substance; the connection between the two meanings is particularly significant to the practice of abhyanga, which involves the therapeutic application of oil (and love) to the entire body.

 

snehana.

The therapeutic practice of applying oil to the body—both internally and externally; an important part of the Ayurvedic cleanse known as panchakarma. Snehana softens the tissues, lubricates the srotamsi (channels of the body), and supports the release of deep-seated doshas, ama (toxins), and unresolved emotions from the tissues.

 

soma.

Lunar energy; cosmic plasma; the subtlest form of matter; the subtle essence of ojas, which feeds the cells, RNA/DNA molecules, and eventually becomes consciousness; in the body, soma is related to the pineal gland, serotonin, and feelings of bliss. In the Vedic texts, soma refers both to a mysterious sacred plant, and to a drink made from the juice of that plant; the drink is said to be an elixir of life, giving immortality to anyone who drinks it.

 

srotas.

A physical or energetic pathway or channel that carries substances or energy from one place to another in the body; one of the innumerable physiological and energetic systems in the body. The plural of srotas is srotamsi. The grossest Ayurvedic srotamsi largely correspond with the systems of Western medicine: the circulatory system, the urinary system, the digestive system, etc.

 

srotamsi.

The plural of srotas; a set of physical or energetic pathways that carry substances or energy from one place to another in the body; the grossest Ayurvedic srotamsi largely correspond with the systems of Western medicine: the circulatory system, the urinary system, the digestive system, etc.

 

subtle body.

The energetic aspects of self that permeate and inform the physical body, but that also extend beyond the physical form; see also, kosha.

 

sushumna nadi.

One of the three most important nadis in the subtle body (along with ida nadi and pingala nadi), which are responsible for carrying the flow of prana and for awakening higher states of consciousness; sushumna nadi is the central channel associated with the balance and integration between masculine and feminine forces; it travels from the base of the spine to the crown of the head through the center of the spinal cord, intersecting each of the seven chakras, and opening to sahasrara chakra; sushumna nadi is associated with breathing through both the left and the right nostrils simultaneously.

 

svastha.

Health, as defined by Ayurveda: a state of being situated in one’s Self and experiencing bliss throughout the mind, soul, and senses, while sustaining perfect equilibrium among three doshas (functional energies of vata, pitta, and kapha), the seven dhatus (bodily tissues), the pathways of elimination, and agni (the metabolic fire).

 

svedhana.

The therapeutic practice of gently sweating, usually after applying oil to the body; an important component of the Ayurvedic cleanse known as panchakarma; svedhana helps to loosen ama (toxins), excess doshas, and unresolved emotions from the deep tissues of the body and encourages them to move toward the digestive tract, where they can be easily eliminated.

 

talisadi.

A traditional Ayurvedic formula that promotes immunity, healthy respiration, and overall wellness; talisadi contains all of the ingredients in sitopaladi plus a few more that intensify its heat, increase its capacity to kindle agni (the digestive fire), and encourage it to burn ama (toxins). This formula is balancing to all three doshas in moderation but, in excess, may aggravate pitta.

 

tamas.

One of the three maha gunas (universal attributes or qualities of consciousness) that give rise to all phenomena in nature; tamas is the principle responsible for inertia, darkness, heaviness, slowness, sleep, and decay; tamas also gives rise to the five elements and their subtle attributes, the five tanmatras (objects of perception): sound, touch, form, taste, and smell.

 

tamasic.

A substance, experience, or mental state infused with the qualities of tamas: inertia, darkness, heaviness, slowness, sleepiness, and decay.

 

tanmatras.

The five objects of perception: smell, taste, form, touch, and sound; the most subtle energetic form of each of the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether).

 

tejas.

Solar energy; the positive subtle essence of agni and of pitta that governs intelligence, discernment, enthusiasm, and all types of digestion and transformation; tejas shares a subtle functional integrity with ojas and prana.

 

ten great vessels.

A set of ten nadis (subtle energetic pathways) described in the Vedic texts that are rooted in the heart, and that travel to the ten gates of the body (the two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, genital organ, anus, and the crown of the head); the ten great vessels are intimately connected to mano vaha srotas (the channel of the mind) and rasa vaha srotas (the channel of the plasma and lymph)—both of which are also rooted in the heart; of the ten vessels, three are said to be the most important: ida nadi, pingala nadi, and sushumna nadi, which open to the left nostril, the right nostril, and the crown of the head, respectively.

 

tikta.

The bitter taste, which is predominated by the air and ether elements and is balancing to pitta and kapha, but aggravating to vata.

 

tridoshic.

Pacifying or balancing for all three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha.

 

trikatu.

A traditional Ayurvedic formula composed of three pungent herbs—pippali, ginger, and black pepper; an effective rejuvenative for kapha; traditionally used to kindle agni (the digestive fire), burn excess fat and ama (toxins), while supporting healthy metabolism, clear respiratory channels, and the lungs.

 

triphala.

A traditional Ayurvedic formula composed of the powders of three dried fruits: amalaki, bibhitaki, and haritaki; triphala is revered for its unique ability to gently cleanse and detoxify the digestive tract, support regularity, and simultaneously offer deep nourishment to the tissues.

 

udana vayu.

One of the five subtypes of vata; that aspect of vata that resides primarily between the diaphragm and throat and governs upward movement in the body; functionally, it is responsible for speech, expression, exhalation, and the movement of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles; udana vayu is also related to memory, creativity, and the maintenance of normal skin color and complexion.

 

udvartana.

The practice of massaging the skin with dry powders; frequently recommended following abhyanga or snehana because it is so helpful in removing excess oil from the skin; this practice reduces kapha, increases circulation, bolsters the health of the skin, helps to liquefy fat, and lends strength, stability, and cohesiveness to the tissues of the body.

 

ujjayi pranayama.

A yogic breathing practice also known as “breath of victory,” which consists of inhaling and exhaling through a slight constriction at the back of the throat so that the breath becomes mildly audible; this practice is slightly heating, deeply tranquilizing, pacifying to all three doshas, and is generally appropriate for anyone, and commonly encouraged throughout the practice of yoga asana.

 

vajikarana.

One of the eight branches of Ayurvedic medicine, this one dealing with all types of sexual dysfunction; vajikarana chikitsa (therapy) is aimed at improving the overall functioning of the reproductive channels in both men and women; the root of the word vajikarana is “vaji,” meaning “stallion;” these therapies are intended to bestow upon their recipients the virility of a horse.

 

vamana.

The practice of therapeutic vomiting (best practiced under the guidance of a qualified practitioner); an important means of eliminating excess kapha from the stomach and lungs; one of the five cleansing actions involved in panchakarma.

 

vata.

One of the three doshas (functional energies in nature); vata is predominated by the ether and air elements and governs movement and communication; it is light, cold, dry, rough, mobile, subtle, and clear.

 

vayu.

The second of five elements recognized in Ayurveda: the air element; wind; the principle of movement; an alternate name for vata.

 

Vedic.

Of or pertaining to the Vedic period in ancient India, from approximately 1750–500 BCE; the time during which the Vedas were composed, including the oldest ancient texts of Ayurveda and Yoga.

 

vikriti.

An individual’s current state of health; the specific ratio of vata, pitta, and kapha that currently exists within one’s body—as opposed to the natural ratio of the three doshas represented by one’s prakriti (constitution).

 

vipaka.

The post-digestive effect of an ingested substance, experienced in the final stages of digestion—after the rasa (taste), and virya (heating or cooling energy of a substance) have been experienced; this stage of digestion affects the excreta and nourishes individual cells.

 

virechana.

The practice of therapeutic purgation of the digestive tract (best practiced under the guidance of a qualified practitioner); an important means of eliminating excess doshas (especially pitta) from digestive tract and, in particular, from the small intestine; one of the five cleansing actions involved in panchakarma.

 

virya.

The heating or cooling nature of an ingested substance, experienced after rasa (taste), but before vipaka (the post-digestive effect); while there is a broad spectrum of variance between hot and cold, most substances can be described as being either heating or cooling in nature.

 

vyana vayu.

One of the five subtypes of vata; that aspect of vata that resides primarily in the heart and circulatory system and that governs circular movement in the body (as in circulation); functionally, it is responsible for maintaining cardiac activity, circulation of the blood and lymph, cellular nutrition and oxygenation, as well as movement in the joints and skeletal muscles.

 

yoga.

A Sanskrit word that literally means “to yoke” or “to bind” together—“to unite;” the practice of yoga is a collection of physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines intended to transform and liberate the mind-body organism. In the West, the word yoga usually refers to the third limb of yoga, as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: the practice of asanas (physical postures).

 

yogic.

Of or belonging to the Vedic tradition of yoga.

References

1 Bachman, Nicolai. The Language of Ayurveda. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing, 2006.

2 Lad, Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998.

3 Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda Volume I: Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda. Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press, 2002.

4 Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda, Volume II: A Complete Guide to Clinical Assessment. Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press, 2006.

5 Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda Volume III: General Principles of Management and Treatment. Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press, 2012.

6 Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. London: Churchill Livingston, 2006.

7 Rai, Ram Kumar, trans. Shiva Svarodaya. Varanasi: Prachya Prakashan, 1997. Shiva Svarodaya: 36.

8 Welch, Claudia. The Secrets of the Mind: The Ten Channels Revealed. Big Shakti, 2005. PDF eBook.