Ayurveda ABCs: A Glossary of Ayurvedic Terms

Agni—the fire of digestion. Agni is responsible for the transformation of everything we take into our bodies and minds including emotions and information. If not properly transformed and assimilated, anything we take in may become ama, burdening the system.

Ama—undigested food or unprocessed emotions. Anything that is taken into the body (physically or energetically) that is not transformed, becomes a burden on the body and mind and creates the roots of disease.

Dosha–the dynamic interaction between 2 of the 5 elements. The 3 doshas are the “doers” in the body which control our bodily functions. The 3 doshas are named Vata (the dynamic relationship betwen wind and space), Pitta (the dynamic relationship between fire and water), and Kapha (the dynamic relationship between water and earth).

Elements–sets of qualities which form the building blocks of our perceivable world. Ayurveda and Yoga recognize 5 elements that can be perceived by our senses. They are earth, water, fire, wind and space.

Ojas—rarified essence. This “substance” is the product of a properly functioning body and mind. It is sometimes said to be our immunity, and this is true in a sense, but it is more subtle than the substances we identify as responsible for immunity from a western perspective. Ojas itself is present in both a rarified and less rarified state and its more rarified form is said to be stored in the heart. The more rarified form of ojas is passed down to us by our parents and is responsible for a degree of hardiness and stability in our mind and body. Healthy ojas can be observed as a “brightness” in the eyes.

Rasa–Most commonly used to mean “taste,” The word rasa can also mean sap or juice of a plant or mood or tone of a piece of music or dance. Rasa is also the name given to the plasma in the human body. It is considered the key to our enjoyment of life. Ayurvedic medicine recognizes 6 rasas in foods and herbs.