A super-short intro to Ayurvedic anatomy

The body is composed of seven types of tissues (dhatus) and numerous channels (srotamsi). These channels supply nutrients and doshas (subtle biological energies) to tissues and organs, to nourish and sustain them. Ayurveda recognises prana (the life force) as the primary factor in health and disease. Western anatomy's framework, in contrast, is the physical systems e.g. skeletal, muscular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, endocrine. It does not consider prana. .

The dhatus are our anatomy; the doshas our physiology. The dhatus are rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), mamsa (muscle), meda (fat), asthi (bone), majja (bone marrow and nerve tissue) and shukra (reproductive tissues). Each haa upadhatus (secondary tissues), such as blood vessels (upadhatu of blood), skin and ligaments (upadhatu of muscle) and teeth (bone). The doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and each governs various physiological functions. .

Further subtle anatomical concepts include agni, ama and the nadis (energy channels through which prana flows and which connect the mind and body). The subtle bodies are as important as the physical, and all aspects of the physical and subtle bodies affect each other. Western anatomy in contrast is material and largely doesn't focus on our energetic body or on emotional imbalance causing physical imbalance and vice versa. .

This image is an 18th-century Nepali painting depicting an Ayurvedic body map. The writing on it is extracts from the Bhavaprakasa, a 17th-c text, still studied today. The painting was exhibited this year by the Wellcome Foundation and it's thought it may have been used in a physician's clinic. One block of text gives this description: "The orifices and mass of tubes with nets, and the brushes and ropes, the grooves too, and the junctions and aggregate bones, the seams and also the skin, the hairs and pores. The body is thought to be made of these." .

May all beings be healthy and happy.

Jacqui Gibbons