Ayurveda, one of the disciplines of Vedic sciences has been stamped as a pseudoscience just because today’s science doesn’t understand the logic behind it. But with this blog, the dynamics will change for ever. This blog will explain about the most important fundamental of Ayurveda by using simple principles of blood flow and electricity. Here we go…
So, Ayurveda postulated that there are three forces called as Dosh in Sanskrit or hindi language, on which the living body operates. These are Vaat, Pitt and Kaph and together they define the metabolism of all the living beings.
TO VISUALIZE THE CONCEPT WATCH THIS VIDEO…..
Now, on an elementary level, Ayurvedic texts have explained pitta as a force which is a combination of fire and water element representing hot liquids as all the chemicals flowing in the body. Vata is considered to be a combo of wind and space element representing force that facilitates movement in the body just the way wind moves wherever it gets space and kapha is considered as a combo of earth and water element which gives us bulk and shape because whatever shape our body has is due to earth and water only. In this blog, we will understand these forces using simple principles of blood circulation and electricity flowing in our nervous system.
***This post is an extract from the book THE ROOT CAUSE- Ayurveda, Astrology and beyond for a blissful life”. To pick up a copy of the book, please click the link/s mentioned at the end of this post ⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓
UNDERSTANDING VPK FROM BLOOD FLOW PERSPECTIVE
So, everyone knows in today’s world that it is blood which carries nutrition including food and oxygen to different parts of the body. And therefore ultimately it is the amount of blood reaching a particular part of the body which defines that part in terms of its strength and shape and structure.
Now, Vata represents paucity of blood and Vata goes where nothing goes (that is why Vata represents air and space). In other words, where blood (means nutrition) doesn’t go, Vata goes. This means that higher the Vata at a particular point, lesser would be the blood passing through that point. Thus, a person with relatively higher Vata will have more obstructed/zig zag/wrinkled and/or thinner blood vessels leading to either sluggishly moving blood due to obstructions or less blood volume due to narrow vessels (even if fast moving). Now have a look at figure one below. If you compare figure 1.1 with figure 1.2 A below, you will find that blood vessel in figure 1.2 A is narrower leading to lesser supply of blood. So, those people with thinner blood vessels are called as Vata people. Even those having obstructed blood vessels as shown in figure 1.2 B are also Vata people because here the blood flow is obstructed due to wrinkled vessels. Even the reverse could be true that due to less supply of blood, the vessels become wrinkled. In either case it is high Vata. Conversely, those with wider and unobstructed vessels leading to good supply of blood/nutrition (figure 1.1) are called as Kapha people because they are able to store more of tissues due to good supply of nutrition. That is why even the different tissues that we all are made up of are also sometimes referred to as Kapha which comprise of earth (meaning different elements of earth) and water. On the other hand, Pitta represents heat. Thus, higher the Pitta, more the heat, faster would be the circulation of blood represented by broader arrow (figure 1.3). Reverse could also be said that since blood circulation is relatively faster in Pitta people, they produce more heat.
FIGURE ONE (blood circulations system)
**** Please note that slight exaggeration has been depicted in the figure to explain the concept. For example, no blood vessels are absolutely straight and there are bound to be slight wrinkles/wavyness in all blood vessels even in Kapha people. Same ways, figure 1.2 B and C show extreme case of high Vata due to less blood supply as seen on the skin of old people which leads to wrinkles because of less supply of blood reaching the skin.
SOME VARIATIONS OF VATA
Important to note that in figure 1.2 A, while blood volume is less vis-a-vis figure 1.1, even the space of the blood vessels is also narrow which is therefore keeping the blood vessels fully stretched/firm due to fullness by equal amount of blood present. However in figure 1.2 b, lesser volume of blood (because of lesser supply/availability of blood) vis-a-vis the space of blood vessels is creating gap in the blood vessel, leading to creation of wrinkles and pocket of space/blood which could result in poor communication in between different parts of the body. Thus, while in both the cases of figure 1.2, Vata is higher than figure 1.1.,figure 1.2 A is where Vata is uniformly spread due to good circulation and amount of blood whereas in 1.2 b it is wavy/wrinkled. Lastly remember that both types of Vata have their own significance (pros and cons) and we should not arrive at any rigid conclusion of putting different types of blood flows in good or bad unless we understand them at deeper level.
Now a living body keeps accumulating plaque (made up of toxic waste) with time and age thereby narrowing the blood vessels (reasons of plaque accumulation, we shall discuss later). Figure 1.2 C represents that state when less of blood is flowing through the vessels due to reduced force of blood (i.e. Pitta) leading to accumulation of Kapha (tissues) and plaque in a haywire manner. Whereas in figure 1.2 D, the plaque and tissues are there however they are deposited in a uniform manner due to good force of blood. In either case Vata is high because Vata means paucity of blood which is there in both the cases. In first one (i.e. 1.2C) paucity of blood is because of obstructed/reduced flow of blood (or poor supply of blood) and in second case (i.e. 1.2 D), it is because of reduced volume of blood vessels (even if uniformly reduced) leading to overall reduced blood supply, though in this case the movement of blood is faster vis-a-vis 1.2C. (remember to visualize the difference between quick movement of blood and more volume of blood supplied).
Here is another example to visualize VPK. Consider our body like a balloon with air in it representing blood. Now visualize two balloons- one big and one small. The bigger balloon would need more air to remain properly inflated and if so, it will have a well stretched surface. This balloon (body) represents Kapha (figure 1.1). On the other hand, if we properly inflate a smaller balloon to keep its membrane stretched, it would need much lesser air which will represent case 1.2A. Thus such a person would be skinny but still be well inflated and healthy. However, if we reduce air from any of these balloons, they will start shrinking and shrivel like figure 1.2B/1.2C which is sometimes termed as “old Vata” in Ayurvedic language. This also means that Vata is bound to go old not in just Vata people but kapha and Pitta people too. Don’t we see even fat people developing wrinkles? This is because the rigid frame of the body which is defined by bones will remain same even if Vata goes old due to deflation. Yes! the bones will become weak due to high Vata but they will not lose their structure.
Metabolism from blood flow perspective
Thus we can conclude easily that since blood flow is inadequate/sluggish in high Vata people, their need for food is relatively higher than others (which is what we understand as metabolism). On the other hand, in Kapha people because of smooth flow of blood, their nutrient uptake is very good and therefore their food intake due to less energy demand is also lesser. Whereas in Pitta people, the blood circulation is fastest and therefore the nutrient exchange in between cells and blood is relatively less effective vis-a-vis Kapha people. However due to fast circulation, the blood reaches the same point again much more quickly than other constitutions. And that’s why the processing of the food (and everything) is quicker in them vis-a-vis Kapha counterparts. Now, visualize a person who is high on Vata as well as Pitta i.e. high VP person where vessels are narrow (may or may not be obstructed) along with fast moving blood which keeps generating heat and burning itself and tissues around. Hence, at any point of time, the exchange of nutrients will be lesser due to less and quickly moving away blood. And that’s why those who are high on Vata as well Pitta are the most difficult to manage constitution however such constitutions can be checked by eating right food and such a lifestyle which keeps synthesizing blood and tissues. How different foods/lifestyle work on our doshas can be understood from this blog⇒ https://therootcause.blog/2018/05/05/weight-loss-gain-vibrant-health-ayurvedic-food-pyramids-can-get-you-there-because-one-size-doesnt-fit-all/. Overall, the size and shape of vessels decides the metabolism of different people. It is this metabolism that is called as Agni in Ayurveda.
Vata can also be defined as volume of blood vessels divided by volume of blood in the body. Lesser the volume of blood (minus plaque) vis-a-vis blood vessels, higher would be the Vata. It’s like blood moving in a relatively more open space (instead of fully occupied space as seen in Kapha people) leading to its haywire (zig zag) movement which is referred to as snake type movement and is used to detect the level of Vata while checking the pulse. This phenomenon happens when enough blood stops reaching a place (or in the entire body) either because of insufficient diet which makes blood and/or excess of heat burning the blood faster than it can synthesize in the body with food. And when less blood reaches, it leads to emptiness of blood vessels thereby creating wrinkles as shown in figure 1.2B above. It is because of this emptiness in vessels that blood in Vata people having vessels like 1.2 B and C, keeps changing route and so does their focus. That’s the reason that such Vata people have fluctuating likes/dislikes/urges. Even their memory is also not very good because varying blood flow towards their mind keeps doing/undoing information. Whereas if blood is moving in uniform space (like pipe) in a smooth and steady fashion, then it will have equal impact in all body parts (as depicted in figure 1.1, 1.2A, 1.2 D, 1.3). We shall read the detailed characteristics of VPK people in coming pages and also discuss that how this emptiness (Vata) can be undone.
Now before we move ahead to discuss other aspects of VPK (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) in detail, we must also understand VPK from the angle of electricity, as this will help us to have more clarity on these three forces especially metabolism which will come handy in subsequent pages. So let’s begin…
UNDERSTANDING VPK FROM ELECTRICITY PERSPECTIVE
Our nervous system is a continuous network of electrical cables spread all across the body to conduct electricity, thereby, helping the signals to reach from the brain and spine to various parts of the body, from the body parts to the brain/spine, and also from one part of body to another. Now, consider our body like an oven, with nervous system supplying current to the body for generating power/energy (our basic requirement) in different parts of the body basis the constitution of nerves. Depending upon the amount of electricity generating foods that we consume, e.g. spices and chilies, etc. (Ayurveda calls this electricity as Pitta, the force that moves into the electrical cable/ nervous system); these nerves also in turn conduct that much amount of electricity (Pitta). Like an electrical cable, these nerves also have an insulation (called as myelin sheath) around them made out of saturated/unsaturated fatty acids, cholesterol and proteins, which avoids current crossing from one cable to another. Now, almost everyone knows that the phenomenon of current crossing from one cable to another due to poor insulation is called as short circuit, which is the reason for most of the electrical fires. On similar lines, absence of such insulation or poor insulation in the nerves would mean that electrical current (Pitta) at those affected areas would flow very quickly to adjacent nerves as compared to those parts which are well insulated and thus burn it with sudden energy and heat as seen in short circuits leading to burning of blood and other tissues there. It is this extent of burning that determines the metabolism of the specific part of the body and overall metabolism in that person.
Now since it is blood which supplies fats, proteins and other nutrients to nerves, less blood supply (or supply of less proteins and fats in the blood) to a specific part (or whole) of the body would mean thin insulation of the nerves leading to likelihood of more short circuits and good supply would mean good insulation and less short circuits. In other words, shape and size of blood vessels and the speed of blood moving through the system have corresponding effect on the amount/speed/direction of electricity (Pitta) flowing in the nerves of the nervous system. Accordingly this corresponding effect can be seen in the figure captured below showing morphology of nervous system of different constitutions.
FIGURE ONE (nervous system)
(Please note that slight exaggeration has been depicted in the figure to explain the concept)
By now, you would have compared shape of blood vessels and nervous system of both the figures and sub figures and would have realized that sub figure-1.1 of both the figures have similar morphology. Same goes for other sub figures. So, let us briefly discuss them one by one. Let us pick up figure 1.1 from both the figures (One) representing blood circulation and nervous system of a kapha person. Here blood vessels are wider and therefore nerves are well insulated (due to sufficient food reaching them and keeping their insulation intact) and do not short circuit (or do less) with each other, leading to less burning of blood and tissues which in turn would mean that they need lesser food. On the other hand, reference figure 1.2 (of both figure one), Vata people have thinner blood vessels and thus thin insulation of the nerves too. In such a case, even a bit of high current (Pitta) would burn this insulation and create fire due to short circuit with the next nerve (as we can it in figure 1.2 b) leading to more burning of tissues meaning they would need more food to replenish their high energy demand. On the other hand, Pitta people (refer figure 1.3) are those in whom Pitta (the current) is relatively higher in the nervous system, leading to more heat and faster flow of blood. Conversely, we can say that since blood is moving fast in Pitta people, it leads to increased heat/Pitta in them.
METABOLISM (AGNI) from Electricity Perspective
So while we understood metabolism from blood flow viewpoint in the earlier section, from electricity perspective or nervous system perspective, while Vata is the existence of channels (in between different nerves) through which Pitta moves, metabolism is the product of Vata and Pitta and is called as Agni in Ayurveda. This is because Vata creates chances of short circuit, however unless there is Pitta (current) flowing through channels (Vata), it won’t create short circuit.
In nutshell, Metabolism/Agni = Vata (Voltage) X Pitta (current)
This also means that those high on both V and P are very high on metabolism and have to maintain their health with a lot of caution and care.
***** Here is another very important example to visualize this aspect of Agni. Visualize a pipe or a channel connected with another channel, which is further connected to two channels on left side but six channels on the right.
Now when the water will be pushed through the main channel, more of it will gush towards the area with higher number of channels as compared to those with lesser channels (this is because more channels means less resistance to movement). Thus, the force of water at any point of space in the channel is going to depend upon two factors. One – the amount of water fed into the main channel and another – the number of channels present at the point in discussion for allowing the water to gush towards a particular point. Exactly the same phenomenon takes place in case of Pitta passing through Vata (channels). If Vata or say channels are higher towards a particular place in the body, more Pitta rushes there, creating high Agni vis-a-vis other place. In other words Pitta rushes towards high Vata areas raising the metabolism of that area. This phenomenon is called as Vata pushing Pitta. Thus our aim should always be to keep Vata controlled and consistent in the entire body else if it goes high at one place, it will flare up Pitta there leading to high metabolism (burning of tissues) which may be felt as burning (if in nerves) or pain (if in muscles and other tissues). In other words, we should keep the flow of blood sufficient and balanced/consistent in the entire body to avoid imbalanced Vata as it is the availability of blood that decides the level of Vata and Pitta at a particular point. (Those who understand basic principles of electricity would know that current moves to the area of least resistance and this is what this example explains).From electricity perspective, when the insulation of electric cable gets burnt (either because of excess current or because of weak insulation), then it will lead to short circuit as current now will move to adjacent cable instead of travelling straight to the equipment (as shown in figure 1.2 b and c of nervous system).
While a person may be predominately Vata or Pitta or Kapha (meaning having different level of metabolism vis-a-vis others), even within his/her body, the Agni would differ from one place to another. As per Ayurveda, there are thirteen types of Agni in the body. Since stomach is the first organ where the food gets digested, its Agni is the most important or say master of all Agni and is referred to as JatharAgni (Jathar means stomach). However this statement is not to undermine the Agni of the rest of the body parts. To give you an example, even brain requires right amount of Agni to think and work properly. High Kapha (meaning very low Vata) will make it sluggish, high Vata will make it too quick and dry and high Pitta will make it overheated. Thus, suboptimal combination of Vata, Pitta and Kapha (VPK) will create brain diseases (we shall see it more clearly in the coming pages). If Agni of the brain is extinguished, the person is brain dead and is like a vegetable even if rest of the Agnis of the body are working fine. Overall, if optimal Agni (in sync with each other) is maintained in all parts of the body, then no disease can ever touch you mentally as well as physically. The modern medical term called Homeostasis is in fact the same meaning as having right Agni at any place.
We are a Tripod of Doshas
Thus it must be clear that all three forces of VPK are essential for existence of life. Vata, which is the existence of channels i.e. blood vessels/nerves, is essential for the body, else, in its absence, no blood/Pitta would be moving and life would not even begin without these channels. Kapha gives bulk or shape to our body. And Pitta moves through channels (Vata) to start/progress life. It is Vata, which facilitates brain to make inter neural connections for storing new information and processing it. The flip side of high Vata is that if high current (Pitta) passes through it, it produces sudden power because of thin insulation, burns/inflames the area around i.e. tissues etc., dries it up and produces plaque, and if the blood flow is low there, the plaque gets deposited there and increases Vata further. Thus, same amount of Pitta in a low Vata person will not increase so much combustion as it will in a high Vata person. Thicker the insulation, same amount of current would travel straight and not sideways. Thinner the insulation, that much amount of current may burn it and therefore start travelling sideways causing short circuit. Finally, to conclude, our body rests on a tripod of these three Doshas, which decide the overall personality of an individual. Accordingly, a person would be a predominantly/typically/primarily Vata or a Pitta or a Kapha person. However, more often most of us have more than one Dosha dominating in our constitution thus making us VP, PK, VK, PV, PK, KV and even VPK. And in fact, it is these forces that make each one of us unique in all aspects, whether it is the looks, behaviour, academic intelligence or physical strength, etc. It is also very important to understand that while a person may be Vata or Pitta or Kapha predominant, the forces of VPK differ from one part of the body to another in each one of us, which is what defines the shape of different body parts and makes each one of us different from others.
Master Pitta (Sadhak Pitta)
It is very important to note that Pitta is not only the electric impulses moving through our nerves. Instead, Pitta basically comprises of all the chemicals secreted/produced by the body or consumed by us for carrying out different works. However, electricity that flows through our nerves, moves in the form of chemicals called as neurotransmitters (unlike current which flows through electrical cables which is made up of electrons). And the electricity passing through the nerves triggered by our brain for keeping us alert and active, is the first Pitta (or say master Pitta referred to as Sadhaka Pitta in Ayurveda which is a subDosha of Pitta Dosha) that is responsible for the working of glands and the production of chemicals in the entire body. Thus higher the Sadhak Pitta, higher would be the release of various chemicals in the entire body. Therefore, we would refer Pitta in this book as primarily the chemical responsible for increasing nerve conduction triggered by the brain. This Pitta’s (master Pitta) chemical name is glutamate and due to its nature of conducting electricity in nerves, it is called as excitory neurotransmitter since its release excites the body. Since glutamate generates Pitta and thus heat in the body, it is said to be generating hot energy and since chemicals are primarily hot and fluid in nature, Pitta is said to be the combination of fire and water. However, there are neurotransmitters (chemicals) whose job is to cut down the current in the nerves and bring calmness in the mind and body or say cold energy. The most important calming neurotransmitter is GABA. So when spices like chilies, asafetida etc., being pungent, produce strong currents through the nerves, they push our body to produce more of Pitta in the form of various chemicals. Quite logical that people already high on Pitta should avoid having such foods which further increase Pitta.
Prana Vata – the master of all Sub-Doshas
Now, just the way master Pitta is referred to as Sadhaka Pitta by Ayurveda, the Vata that governs the brain is called Prana Vata (a subDosha of Vata only). Each Dosha has been further subdivided into five sub Doshas with each of the sub Dosha governing a particular part/process of the body. Thus, overall there are fifteen sub Doshas (five of each Dosha) with Prana Vata and Sadhaka Pitta being two of them. Since Prana Vata is the one that decides how active or inactive one’s brain would be (basis which the majority of the personality of the person gets decided), that is why it is called as master of all sub Doshas. It is Prana Vata that governs all the processes of body and acts basis the inputs received from the external world as well as the internal world (the internal processes).
Must check this blog to know the difference between Vata imbalance and Vata aggravation ⇓
In the next blog, we shall discuss that how vata, pitta and kapha manifest themselves in different morphologies and why different people behave differently and are prone to different diseases.
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