Lesson 14 - How diseases are born?
In the last few lessons we discussed Yogic disciplines (Yama and Niyama), Shatkarma and importance of Brahmacharya. Now it is time that we discuss the next limb of Ashtanga Yoga namely Asana. However, before going to the core topic of Asanas or Yoga postures, as they are commonly known, I would like to explain concept of disease as per Ayurveda and Yoga. Understanding this concept will help you to apply Yogic principals and disciplines appropriately in your life.
As per Ayurveda Agni (biological fire) plays a vital role in the well-being of human body. Ayurveda classifies Agni in thirteen types out of which Jatharagni is considered as the chief. It is the job of Agni to transform food into energy that keeps body going. When your agni is in healthy condition you can digest food very well. Such agni properly extracts nutrition from that food and discards the unwanted matter. Ayurveda says that Kapha (Phlegm), Vata (Wind) and Pitta (Bile) govern the overall constitution (prakriti) of an individual. Under healthy conditions these three doshas are in proper balance. Whenever there is any imbalance in these doshas it affects the agni first. The agni becomes weak and cannot digest food properly.
A part of the undigested food is expelled via feces. However, the remaining part gets converted into a sticky substance called Ama. This ama is accumulated in abdominal organs and various other parts of the body. If there is excess Ama formation then it gets mixed in blood vessels, lymphatics and cellular membranes. It then clogs bodily cells, joints and weakens prana (the vital life force). The body cannot function properly with such clogged channels and diseases are born. Also, once the prana is weakened your body's immune system is deteriorated making your body prone to diseases. Thus it can be said that three doshas and Ama are responsible for diseases.
It is a common observation that when we are ill we develop a reluctance for food intake. This is body's natural mechanism to avoid any further damage. Many nature therapists suggest fasting during the period of illness (of course don't take such decision on your own. It is better to consult some expert in the field.).
Diseases form a great barrier to our material as well as spiritual progress. If we are ill we simply cannot focus on spiritual practices. We cannot meditate even for few minutes. Forget meditation we cannot even sit at one place for longer time. Our joints start paining, we get cramps. Moreover, diseases create disturbance in prana and we cannot channelize it for meditative purposes. Thus a Yoga practitioner should try to avoid diseases by following disciplined life style.
It must be noted that many of us generate ama even if it may not be causing any significant signs of a disease. Many people suffer from symptoms such as pain in the joints, cold, cough and dizzy feeling. These are often ignored but such signs can be beginning of some disease. Generally a disease spreads in the body in the following steps:
- Because of various factors including weather conditions, food and stress the balance between the three doshas is lost
- Doshas start aggravating and ama formation begins
- The excess ama formed tries to overflow into the other parts of the body apart from its origin
- Doshas and ama start affecting weak parts of the body
- Disease is born
If doshas and ama are the main cause of diseases then we must:
- Maintain proper balance between the three doshas so that ama is not formed at first place.
- Avoid excess ama if it exists.
With this background you will be able to understand and appreciate the importance of Shatkarmas and Yoga postures. We have already discussed Shatkarmas. They help you to keep Kapha, Vata and Pitta in proper balance. Yoga postures also help you to keep your body disease free by improving the circulation system and pranic system of the body.
In the next lesson we will discuss more about Yoga postures and their therapeutic and spiritual uses.