Humans are viviparous beings; unlike birds or frogs who lay eggs, we carry our offspring within the womb until they are fully matured. As such, there is an intimate connection—emotionally, mentally, and physically—to our offspring. What that also means is that the process of fertility, before and after conception, is strongly dependent on the health of the mother. Her ability to deliver nutrients through plasma (rasa dhatu) can profoundly impact her fertility. Just as in gardening, without moisture and rich nutrients, the soil cannot nourish a seed into fruition no matter how strong the seed is. This is the importance of ambu, one of four essential ingredients to fertility along with rtu (timing), kshetra (field), and bij (seed). For more details and a full exploration of Ayurvedic fertility, read our Preparing for Pregnancy guide.
Rasa and the Embryo
The Ayurvedic classical texts place specific emphasis on rasa in the formation and growth of the embryo. Charaka, author of Charaka Samhita, explains the role of rasa in the development of the embryo as “manifestation and growth (in height) of the body, continuity of the strength, satisfaction, plumpness, and enthusiasm.”1 Rasa has parallel actions on the uterine lining. The uterine lining must be rich with healthy tissue and nutrients brought by an extensive network of capillaries. This lining is where the fertilized egg implants and then grows roots to draw all necessary nutrients for its transformation into a fully developed baby. Rasa irrigates the lining with as much water and nutrients as it can provide. A dry and thin lining due to depleted rasa reserves cannot hold onto a newly fertilized egg, nor can it sustain all the demands of a growing embryo.
Far too often, women are challenged with rasa depletion (rasa dhatu kshay). The demands of today’s society with back-to-back schedules, long work hours with equally hectic social lives, and stress in every corner of life, including relationships, exhaust and dry out rasa. To further the effect, it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide the body with proper nutrition from wholesome, non-genetically modified, pesticide and chemical free foods.
The Role of Vata in Rasa Depletion
The primary dosha that is responsible for depletion is vata. Vata embodies the qualities of dry, cold, mobile, rough, and light, all of which are quite opposite to those of rasa, which is oily, fluid, soft, heavy, and warm.2 In this way, an excessively vata diet and lifestyle (i.e. dry and rough foods, constant activity, little sleep, frequent travel) can easily wear out rasa. Be highly vigilant of vata emotions (i.e. fear, anxiety, lack of faith), which have surprisingly great effects on rasa as well.
Aside from vata affecting rasa directly through its qualities, the cold quality of vata also has the unique capability to cause constriction and make tissue tense (think of your body when it shivers in very cold weather). Thus, vata can also block healthy rasa flow to and from the uterus by constricting and causing spasms in channels like arteries and the cervical canal.
Recognizing Rasa Depletion
By recognizing rasa depletion, you have the capacity to be proactive and bring healthiness to your client’s rasa and support her fertility. Use the following signs and symptoms in the body to identify weak rasa.3
- Dry, rough skin or chapped lips
- Irregular heart beat or palpitations
- Lower blood pressure, lightheadedness
- Hypersensitivity to noise
- Sunken eyes
- Excessive thirst
- Concentrated (identified by urine dark in color) and infrequent urination
- Weight loss
- Sense of emptiness in the heart
- Ringing in the ears
Use the menstrual cycle as a window to rasa as it manifests in the uterus and female reproductive system (artava dhatu). The menstrual flow is also telling of what doshas are present and imbalanced within the system. The following signs are indicators of high vata and poor rasa flow in the pelvis.4 For more information, read the Ayurvedic Approach to a Healthy Cycle guide.
- Spotting on the first day of the menstrual cycle
- Thin and scanty menstrual flow
- Dry menstrual flow (no mucous)
- Menstrual flow that is dark in color
- Anxiety, nervousness, fear accompanying the menstrual cycle
- Sharp or spasmodic pain in the lower abdomen or lower back especially just before or on the first day of the menstrual cycle
The rasa tissue layer’s primary function as described in the classics is prinana (to be a vehicle for nutrition)5, and its importance is the exact same for fertility. Building the foundation of a healthy pregnancy can be as simple as appreciating and working with this one vital tissue layer. The next article in this two-part series will explore ways in which you can nurture and bring health to rasa through diet, lifestyle, and herbs.
1 Sharma R, Dash B. Caraka Samhita: Volume II. (Varanasi, India: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 2013), 377
2 Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda: Volume I. (Albuquerque, New Mexico: The Ayurvedic Press, 2002), 108
3 Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda: Volume II. (Albuquerque, New Mexico: The Ayurvedic Press, 2006), 243
4 Tewari P. Ayurvediya Prasutitantra Evam Striroga Part II: Striroga (Gynecology). (Varanasi, India: Chaukhambha Orientalia, 2007)
5 Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda: Volume I. (Albuquerque, New Mexico: The Ayurvedic Press, 2002), 108