There is a beautiful poetry to Ayurveda. It is an art, science, and an incredibly practical subject. Ayurveda, a time-tested system, offers ways of understanding one’s body, mind, and whole self—through a lens that is quite different from Western thinking. For instance, the dhatus, or bodily tissues, are a key concept in Ayurveda. By understanding the dhatus we can better understand the Ayurvedic view of physiology. The dhatus in Ayurveda are also helpful in understanding our process of nourishment.
The Seven Dhatus in Ayurveda
The seven dhatus are a deep subject; this post will provide you with a glimpse into this unique Ayurvedic model of physiology.
Rasa Dhatu: Plasma
You can liken the dhatus in Ayurveda to concentric circles, with each tissue layer or dhatu representing a deeper layer of the body. The rasa dhatu is the most superficial layer. It is composed of plasma. When the skin and surface level tissues are moist and smooth, the body has enough rasa. Dry skin, eyes, hair, and nails points to deficient rasa. Ghee and ghruta are two substances that nourish the rasa.
Rakta Dhatu: Blood
When rasa is nourished with ample fluids, rakta is fed. Rakta dhatu is the blood, particularly the hemoglobin. The rakta dhatu relates to complexion and one’s sense of invigoration.
Mamsa Dhatu: Muscle
When rakta is properly nourished, mamsa dhatu is built. Mamsa dhatu is the muscle tissue. A balanced mamsa dhatu exhibits as a healthy expression of will.
Medas Dhatu: Fat
The next layer is medas dhatu, or fat tissue. Good quality fat tissue will be built when the previous dhatus are adequately nourished. Also, keep in mind that fat protects nerves and organs, so this is a vital dhatu indeed.
Asthi Dhatu: Bone
The asthi dhatu is the bone and skeletal system. It represents our stature in the world. Also, healthy teeth and nails represent good, strong bone tissue.
Majja Dhatu: Nerves and Brain
Next is the majja dhatu, composed of bone marrow and nerve tissue. If there is an imbalance in the majja dhatu, you may want to look to see if there are any imbalances with any of the prior tissues. For instance, are the bones healthy? What is the state of the blood and circulation. Deficiencies and excesses in those tissues could be an indication of how the imbalance originated.
Shukra Dhatu: Sexual Organs
The seventh dhatu—the shukra dhatu—receives nourishment when all the six prior dhatus are well nourished. In addition, for quality tissue to be built, toxins and wastes must be properly carried away. The shukra dhatu consists of the sexual organs and reproductive tissues. Also, it relates to our sense of creativity.
It’s All Connected
This is a very brief overview of a very important aspect in the Ayurvedic view of physiology. However, hopefully by taking this panoramic view of the dhatus in Ayurveda you get some sense as to how Ayurveda works with the whole person. Each dhatu is connected to the next. Good health begins with balanced digestion, nourishment, and healthy lifestyle. When the superficial dhatus are well cared for, the deeper layers have a better chance at attaining and maintaining optimal vitality.
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville.
Frawley, D. (2000). Ayurvedic healing: a comprehensive guide. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.