Rakta Dhatu: Ayurveda’s Tissue Layer of the Blood
In Ayurveda, there are seven tissue layers known as the dhatus, which together create our entire physical structure. These seven tissues work interdependently with one another to create an intelligent and interconnected system of overall health.
Understanding the seven dhatus, and how to care for each one, can be a powerful tool on the Ayurvedic journey. We recently explored the first tissue layer, rasa dhatu, and we will now move on to look closely at rakta dhatu, the layer of the blood.
Be sure to follow along in the coming months as we continue to explore each layer one by one. We will talk more about our strength and flexibility next as we move on to mamsa dhatu, the muscle tissues.
Rakta Dhatu: The Blood Stream
“Rakta” translates to “reddening,” “colored,” or “impassioned.” Rakta dhatu is our vital blood serum, which consists of protein and red blood cells. It is the fuel that governs our blood flow, carrying oxygen and liquid nutrients to the tissues, glands, and organs, helping them stay healthy and functioning well.
This flow of blood is responsible for our very existence, including the maintenance of our body systems and how we get oxygen to the brain so we can think and take action in our lives.
At the center of this vital stream of life lies the heart, pumping blood through a network of blood vessels that make up our cardiovascular system.
The cardiovascular system is dependent on the lymphatic system to provide it with platelet cells and the water volume it needs to keep flowing, as well as the immune functions necessary to keep the blood clean and ensure it has a viscosity that supports a stable heart rate.
Our bodies are so well designed that the lymphatic river meets the blood stream at the subclavian vein, which resides at the heart chakra. When we feel an energetic shift, our breath changes, as does the rhythm of our heartbeat.
These signals provide the body with an understanding of what is being experienced at any given moment. In response, our blood flow changes too, effecting our energy levels and inevitably our blood pressure.
This explains how feelings of occasional fatigue and low blood pressure—as well as stress levels and high blood pressure—go hand in hand.
If our blood flow is imbalanced over a long period, we accumulate toxins, called ama, and begin to pump those excess toxins through the blood vessels, veins, and arteries.
For example, if we eat too many solid fats per meal without enough vegetable fiber to break them down, those fats do not get digested completely and the excess fat proteins will enter the bloodstream. Over time, this can eventually clog the arteries.
This example helps to explain the importance of a balanced daily routine that includes proper breathing, a balanced diet, and regular exercise.
Keeping the Blood Stream Pulsing
When the blood is flowing healthy and strong, it supplies us with a sense of vigor, energy, and strength. These gifts go beyond the health of the physical body, gracing us with charisma, enthusiasm, and passion for life.
There are several practical ways to nourish the flow of rakta dhatu. The following tips are great for all doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha.
- Exercise: Incorporate daily yoga or any other exercise of choice to get your body moving and your blood flowing.
- Breathe: Practice pranayama, such as Nadi Shodhana, which helps to nourish and oxygenate the blood cells.
- Get Your Minerals: A mineral-rich diet is essential for healthy blood. Incorporate things like seaweed, leafy greens, and Chyavanprash.
In addition, here are tips for recognizing the signs of imbalanced doshas in rakta dhatu and how to support a balanced and healthy flow.
Vata in Rakta Dhatu
Cold hands and feet, lightheadedness, occasional numbness, loss of natural color in the skin, occasional fatigue, feelings of fear and anxiousness.
Exercise: Yoga in a heated room or kundalini yoga.
Herbs: Tulsi, pippali, licorice, sitopoladi.
Spices: Basil, ginger, asafoetida, cinnamon.
Nutrition: Amaranth, red lentils, kidney beans, tahini, dulse, bone broth.
Vegetables: Arugula, radish, leeks, turnips, beets, carrots.
Pitta in Rakta Dhatu
Tendency to overexert, excess sweating, redness of natural skin color, occasional breakouts, sensitive gums, feelings of anger and resentment.
Exercise: Yin yoga or gentle yoga, stretching before exercise.
Herbs: Shatavari, rose, yogaraj guggulu, triphala.
Spices: Cardamon, coriander, curry leaf, methi leaf, dill, mint, cilantro.
Nutrition: Mung beans, rice, quinoa, kelp seaweed, pumpkin seed.
Vegetables: Kale, collards, bok choy, cucumber, cauliflower.
Kapha in Rakta Dhatu
Shallow or labored breathing, poor circulation, lack of luster in natural skin color, stagnation, feelings of depression and grief.
Exercise: Vinyasa yoga or dance.
Herbs: Brahmi, bilva, tulsi, pippali.
Spices: Asafoetida, cumin, ginger, thyme, rosemary.
Nutrition: Red quinoa, garbanzo beans, brown rice, white fish, kombu.
Vegetables: Raw salads, spinach, kale, cucumber, fennel root.