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Glossary of Ayurvedic

Terms

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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 pranayamafor 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 adimeans “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; talisadicontains 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 snehanabecause 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.

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