By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Doshas, being responsible for creation and maintenance of body and all activities happening therein, are connected to all tissues, organs and systems. Doshas involve in soft conduction of all these systems in an uninterrupted way. In their state of equilibrium, doshas control all activities of nervous system too. At same time, when these doshas become imbalanced, they cause various diseases related to nervous system.
Read – Vata Disorders (Vatavyadhi): Definition, Causes, Symptoms
Dosha – nervous system
1. Vata relationship with nervous system
Table of Contents
Is Vata nervous system?
This is a golden question and most controversial topic to discuss. Many modern day Ayurveda experts have correlated Vata to nervous system. If not all, most activities of vata have been correlated to functions of nervous system due to closer resemblance.
Definition of Vata
That which causes gati and gandhana is called vata.
- gati which means movement, knowledge or obtaining something and
- gandhana which means reflection of enthusiasm and interest, response to something, carrying a message, continued effort
Therefore vata can be defined as ‘that which causes movement, enables obtaining knowledge, makes one reflect enthusiasm and interest, respond to stimulus and make continued effort’ Read – Understand Vata Dosha By Its Functions
Combining meanings of gati and gandhana, it is clear that entire spectrum of sensory and motor functions, physical and mental abilities of an individual, reflexes to stimulus and all activities happening in body are under control of balanced vata. All these are also activities and functions of various components of nervous system put together.
Functions of balanced and imbalanced vata suggest functions and pathological manifestations of nervous system respectively
From functional perspective of vata
Components of nervous system control and coordinate activities of many body systems through a integrated and synchronized network of nerves and nerve conduction. Functions of balanced vata indicate that they cover most functions carried out by nervous system.
Balanced vata enables – proper breathing and circulation of blood and nutrients, assists digestive fire in digestion of food, formation of nutritional juices, absorption and distribution of nutrition to all corners of body, controls the functions of all tissues, promotes enthusiasm, energy and zeal needed to conduct activities of daily living, expels excreta and toxins from the body and keeps the body healthy. It also controls functions of mind and sensory perception. These wide ranges of activities can be seen to be conducted by a healthy nervous system. Read – Symptoms Of Vata Dosha Increase And Imbalance – Vata Vruddhi Lakshana
Quote ‘vayuh tantra yantra dharah’ which means ‘vata is the formulation and remote controller manipulating this machine called human body’ is true by all sense. Vata is master key for all operations of body. All components of the body are under its control and vata is only independent force operating in the body-mind system and everything else is dependent on balance of vata. Vata balance is a must for body-mind balance and comprehensive health.
From pathological perspective of vata
Likewise symptoms of decrease or increase of vata and other pathological manifestations of vata resemble symptoms of neurological disorders.
Vata decrease causes – weakness of body, loss of speech and consciousness, lack of enthusiasm, slowing down of most activities of the body, weak metabolism, indigestion, laziness, lethargy and shortness of breath. Read – Parkinson’s disease: Prevention, Ayurvedic Treatment, Remedies
Similarly pathological increase of vata causes emaciation due to destruction of tissues mainly due to disturbed neuro-muscular conductivity leading to weak muscles and inability to conduct smallest of activities. People call this as nervous weakness or nervous breakdown in lay mans language. Other symptoms include – tremors, constipation, fatigue, low immunity, insomnia, failure of sensory perception, loss of motor functions, impotence, delirium, vertigo, numbness, pain, inertia, spasms, contractures, twitches, hyperaesthesia, roughness and scaling of body, ticks, rigidity of body parts and discoloration. Most of these symptoms are evident in different neurological disorders.
A stage among six stages of pathogenesis, vata prasara shows wide spread pathology and multi-system damage caused by vitiated vata put into circulation.
From perspective of vata types
Prana vata is said to be located in head i.e. brain.
This vata sub-type operates its activities being located in brain. Thus, chief site of prana vata can be correlated to seat of brain and sense organs located in head.
Prana vata also circulates in chest and controls functions of heart and lungs. It moves in throat and monitors deglutition and breathing. It also moves in ear and tongue, mouth and nose and enables proper perception of these sense organs. Read – Prana Vayu (Pranavata) Location, Functions, Symptoms of vitiation Thus, territory of prana vata extends from head to chest and throat. It can be compared to nervous system which enables input of things, like intake of food, intake of air, input of information related to sense organs. Thus, parts of nervous system which enables intake and input of information, which pushes air and food downwards, can be correlated with prana vata.
Prana vata is said to be most important one among sub-types of vata. Read – Sub Types Of Vata Dosha: Importance, Salient Features
Applied physiology and modern comparison
Vata renders two types of functions when seen grossly –
Higher functions in brain – like i.e. prana vata controls functions of brain and nerves, it commands intellect, mind, sense organs and their functions and consciousness. These functions of prana vata are carried out when this vata operates in brain.
Lower functions outside brain e. functions related to salivary glands like spitting or producing oral secretions, nasal mucosa like sneezing, gastric functions like swallowing of food and reception by stomach, and pharynx like belching and movements of chest. These functions are carried out when prana vata is circulating and moving in other parts of the body like chest and throat.
With above said explanation, we can closely compare functions of prana vata with those of brain and vagus nerve i.e. 10th cranial nerve.
I would like to add up explanation given by Dr Ram Sundar Rao sir regarding prana vata connectivity with nerve fibres and vagus nerves. According to him –
Cerebrum, Cerebellum, midbrain, pons and medulla are parts of brain. Cerebrum, main part of brain has two hemispheres. Nuclei of nerve cells are present in cortex of brain, form gray matter. Nerve fibres of nerve cells are located in medulla of brain and form white matter. Nerve cells, functional units of nervous system are called neurons.
Nerve fibers are of three kinds. They are –
- projection fibers – communicate brain with different parts of spinal cord. From spinal cord nerves emerge which connect all parts of the body.
- commissural fibers – limited to brain, cross from right to left half of brain and from left to right
- association fibers – are confined to same half of brain and communicate different areas of same cerebral hemisphere
Projection fibers can be compared to the component of prana vata which operates outside brain. Commissural and Association fibers can be compared to components of prana vata which operate within brain.
Frontal lobe of brain communicates with thalamus and hypothalamus. They in turn influence endocrine system. This complex mechanism governing all these areas and their connections can be considered as functions of prana vata in commanding brain, heart, perception through sense organs and consciousness. Read – Sanjnasthapana Gana – Consciousness Restoring Herbs Review, Benefits
Vagus nerve, which is also compared to prana vata and its functions, takes its origin from brain and supplies diaphragm, salivary glands, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, bronchi, lungs, heart, stomach and parts of intestine. Control of Vagus nerve on functions like salivation, belching, movements of breathing and swallowing food resemble those of prana vata. Territory of Prana vata too covers all those areas which are supplied by vagus and its branches. Therefore functions of prana vata can be attributed to those of vagus nerve and frontal lobe of brain.
Udana Vata is a sub-type of vata located in chest. It circulates in nose, neck and navel. Thus, territory of udana vata extends from chest, upwards in nose and throat and downwards in navel. Read – Udana Vata Location, Functions, Symptoms of Imbalance
Important functions of udana vata –
At physical level – like production of strength, stamina, immunity, color, efforts in doing work and production of speech
At mental level – production of speech, zeal and enthusiasm
While prana vata mainly functions and contributes towards input phenomenon as explained above, udana vata enables in output phenomenon. Speech, efforts, zeal, strength and stamina are virtues which are put out of the body. Similarly color is also seen outside body. Memory too helps in putting out stored information as and when required. Parts of nervous system controlling and operating in mentioned parts of body are similar to those of udana vata. Read – Role of Vata Dosha And Its Types In Speech And Voice
Production of speech is synchronized by audio-sensory, audio-psychic and audio-motor centers of cerebral cortex.
Synchronization of prana and udana vata – Many activities take place due to synchronization of prana and udana vata. If there is no synchronization between these two vata sub-types many activities of body will be obstructed. Prana and udana work in opposite directions and courses. Therefore they need to work in mutual cooperation. Example – when prana vata pushes food into food pipe towards stomach, food has to pass through chest. Chest vata i.e. udana vata has to relax and cooperate with prana vata. If chest vata doesn’t relax and cooperate with head vata, food cannot easily enter stomach. This may result in regurgitation of food or vomiting.
Samana vata is located near digestive fire i.e. in stomach and intestine. It moves about all through digestive tract.
Therefore territory of operation of samana vata is entire alimentary tract. Along with pachaka pitta i.e. digestive pitta located in stomach and intestine, samana vata takes part in digesting food. Read – Samana Vata Location, Functions, Symptoms of Vitiation Pitta is a form of fire in the body. Vata is a form of air. Association of pitta and vata in stomach is like giving air to fire. If both are balanced, digestion takes place properly. If there is imbalance of either vata or pitta or relative imbalance of both, many types of digestive disorders are manifested.
Chief functions of samana vata are reception of food swallowed with help of prana vata, stimulation of stomach and intestines to produce digestive juices in the form of pachaka pitta, aiding digestion of food, helping in sorting out food into useful and useless components, enables absorption of digested food and excretion of metabolic wastes. Samana vata also controls channels of circulation of sweat, doshas and water.
Samana vata is often compared to Auerbach’s plexus of nerves present in alimentary tract, near digestive apparatus, forms major nerve supply to gastrointestinal tract. This plexus is located between inner circular and outer longitudinal layers of muscularis externa. These nerve cells are portion of enteric nervous system responsible for generating peristaltic movements. It is also called as myenteric plexus. These nerves are part of Autonomous Nervous System. Read – Relationship Between Doshas And Digestive Fire
Myenteric nerve plexus works as a part of enteric nervous system (ENS). Events controlled by ENS include motor activity, secretion, absorption, blood flow and interaction with other organs as gallbladder and pancreas.
Vyana vata is located in heart. It circulates in entire body through rasa tissue circulated from heart, i.e. through circulation. Thus, territory of vyana vata is the entire body.
Main function of vyana vata is circulation of blood. Since vyana vata circulates all through body, functions of vyana vata also include walking, movements of limbs and eye lids. Read – Vyana Vata Location, Functions, Symptoms Of Vitiation All neuro-muscular activities can be correlated with functions of vyana vata. Muscles are very important for all body activities and movements. This is possible only if there is proper synchronization of nerves and muscles. Vyana vata creates those electrical waves needed for muscular movements. Most of our body movements and activities of daily living are under control of muscles controlled by nervous system. This synchronization defines functions of vyana vata.
Vyana vata is said to be highly powerful vata. With this power, this vata sub-type keeps rasa tissue in circulation, continuously, in an uninterrupted way throughout life. Sushruta mentions elimination of sweat as one of the chief functions of vyana vata and Vagbhata mentions ejaculation of semen during coitus.
By seeing all above said explanation, vasomotor nervous system and conduction system of heart can be closely compared to functions of Vyana Vata.
Apana vata is located in lower portion of the body. It is situated in pelvic and sacral regions. It moves extensively in pelvic region, urinary bladder, penis / vagina and thighs. Therefore authority of apana vata is in pelvis, urinary and genital systems and lower limbs. Read – Apana Vata Location, Functions, Imbalance Symptoms, Treatment
Main functions of apana vata include ejaculation of semen, regulation of menstrual cycle and ovulation in women, excretion of faeces, aiding proper urination and enabling proper labour and delivery of the child.
Synchronization of autonomic plexuses operating in lower portion of body can be compared to the functions of apana vata. They include superior and inferior hypogastric plexus, renal, testicular and ovarian plexus.
From perspective of avarana
Avarana is a pathological condition in which there is interference of activities of vata by one or other tissue, excreta, food or sub-types of vata. Obstruction of functions of one type of vata by other type is called anyonya avarana or paraspara avarana.
Example – a case of pranavrita apana suggests functions of apana i.e. lower vata being obstructed prana vata i.e. upper vata located in head. Seats of function of prana vata have been mentioned in above passages, they are head, chest and throat.
Read – Avarana Janya Vata Vikara: Vata Disorders Due To Blockage Of Channels
This shows that prana vata, apart from seats specifically mentioned to define its territory of functioning, also encroaches to reach lowest parts of body i.e. pelvic cavity to affect functions of organs belonging to apana territory i.e. urinary bladder, bowel and genital organs. Similar is case with apanavrita prana i.e. apana vata moving from lower portions of body and blocking prana vata in head.
This may be the case with any vata obstructing functions of other sub-type of vata. In these cases we should not just think that one sub-type of vata is moving to seat of other sub-type and meddling with its functions. It can just be an effect of pathology at one place on other organs of body by feedback mechanism.
This concept is similar to the functions of nervous system and is also applicable to the endocrine system. Nervous system and endocrine system often works in coordination. Any pathology in brain or nerves in head will affect organs and tissues at other corners of body, just as it happens in avarana.
Read – Difference Between VataVyadhi And Other Pathological Vata Manifestations
Here brain will not move to places affected by neurological disorders, nor will nerves, but impact will be there through impulses. Similar is case with avarana, one sub-type need not move to place of other sub-type of vata, but impact of pathology at one place will be seen at other places too. Concept of avarana too justifies widespread impact of vitiated vata in the body, just as in neurological disorders. Therefore functions and pathologies of vata can be correlated with functions and pathological manifestations of nervous system.
From perspective of vata vyadhi
Vata vyadhi is a set of special disorders caused by vitiated vata. Many disorders explained in the context of vata vyadhi are either neurological or neuromuscular or musculoskeletal disorders. Example – Pakshaghata resembles hemiplegia, Ardita resembles facial paralysis or Bells palsy, Mamsagata Vata resembles neuromuscular disorders etc. These conditions also involve avarana conditions. Read – Charaka Vatavyadhi Chikitsa 28th Chapter
From perspective of treatment of vata disorders
When treatments like medicated enemas, purgation and medicines, diet and lifestyle recommendations which mitigate vata are administered to treat neurological disorders results are very promising. Read – How To Balance Vata Dosha? Line Of Treatment And Reasoning
2. Pitta – nervous system
Sadhaka pitta relationship with nervous system
Among sub-types of pitta, sadhaka pitta is said to be located in hridaya. Term hridaya has been used to describe both heart and brain. In this context most functions of sadhaka pitta resemble functions of nervous system. Therefore it is wise to consider brain as seat of sadhaka pitta.
Sadhaka pitta is associated with manifestation of emotions like fear, courage, anger and elation. It enables us in achieving our dreams, aspirations and goals. It is responsible for our intellect, zeal, energy and discriminating power. It destroys depressing effect of kapha and tamas quality on brain activities. Read – Sadhaka Pitta – Location, Functions, Imbalance, Disorders, Treatment
These are functions of Adrenaline, a hormone produced by adrenal gland.
But Sadhaka Pitta is located in hridaya. Its functions are related to functions of brain and nervous system.
Considering term hridaya descriptive of both heart and brain in different contexts and also considering sadhaka pitta as closest resemblance of sadhaka pitta, we can put things in this way.
Adrenalin is produced in adrenal gland, circulated through heart i.e. hridaya in chest and functions at level of brain i.e. hridaya in head and renders above said functions.
Neurotranmitter acetylcholine is antagonistic to adrenaline and has depressing effect on above said activities of sadhaka pitta. Since acetylcholine slows down processes, it can be compared to kapha. On other hand, adrenaline mitigates depressing effect of acetylcholine on brain. Similarly, being antagonistic to functions of kapha, sadhaka pitta wards off depressing effect of kapha on hridaya i.e. brain and keep one energetic and enthusiastic.
Read – Pitta Dosha Dominance In Different Body Parts – 8 Things To Know
Alochaka Pitta – nervous system
Alochaka pitta is a sub-type of pitta located in eyes and is responsible for vision. Alochaka pitta is of two kinds. They are –
Drishti vaisheshika Alochaka Pitta – limited to eyes, located in eyes and helps in seeing things.
Buddhi Vaisheshika Alochaka Pitta – This component of alochaka pitta is located in brain. It is located in region of sringhataka i.e. in between eyebrows.
Functions of buddhi visheshaka alochaka pitta can be correlated to higher functions of brain and different components of central nervous system.
Functions of this part of alochaka pitta are –
Perception of minute and extraordinary information experienced by consciousness
- Enables in retention of gathered information in mind
- Helps expresses thoughts received and retained by mind
- Controls memory process
- It helps in imagination, foresight and visualising things and events before they occur, helps one in being instinctive
- Creates imaginary events i.e. illusions
- Newborn baby instinctively knows how to suck mother’s breasts for milk, in spite of not being trained to do so. This pitta is responsible for these instinctive actions. It induces desire and technique of sucking breast milk in new born.
- Provides power of introspection i.e. pratyhara to seers and saints
- It enables concentration, response and conjunction.
Therefore functions of buddhi vaisheshika alochaka pitta can be correlated with neurological functions. Read – Alochaka Pitta – Location, Functions, Imbalance, Disorders, Treatment
3. Kapha – nervous system
Among five subtypes of kapha, tarpaka kapha is located in head, around brain. Tarpaka Kapha is ‘that subtype of kapha which resides in head and nourishes sense organs or control centers of sensory perception in brain’.
There is a lot of wear and tear taking place in brain tissues too as it works effortlessly in controlling all activities of body. When there is excessive activity of vata and pitta in brain and nerves, kapha acts as a buffer. It protects nervous system from damage of day to day stress.
Read – Tarpaka Kapha – Location, Functions, Imbalance, Disorders, Treatment
Main functions of tarpaka kapha are nourishment of eye and other sense organs, nourish brain and nerves, counteract hyperactivity of prana vata and sadhaka pitta seated in same place where it resides, induces immunity and endurance, invokes virtue of forgiveness, courage and not being greedy. Kapha being a balanced component of doshas, its functions are antagonistic to anxiety and anger caused by vata and pitta respectively. Thus, kapha protects brain and nervous system from bad effects of high end emotions.
On other hand, deficit of tarpaka kapha leads to deficit nourishment of nervous system, nerves and sense organs. This would eventually increase vata and pitta in brain leading to manifestation of many degenerative and inflammatory diseases in brain.
Due to imbalance of this nourishing kapha in brain, some diseases like headache, dryness and inflammation of eyes, nose and ears, neuritis, stomatitis, glossitis, encephalitis, migraine, meningitis etc are manifested. Increase in this sub-type of kapha would cause accumulation of lot of fluid around brain, around eyes and ears, causing pressure symptoms and many disorders. Other diseases like hydrocephalus, cerebral oedema, sinusitis, raised intraocular pressure etc are manifested.
Below mentioned structures and components can be correlated to Tarpaka Kapha due to close resemblance in location and functions.
- CSF i.e. cerebrospinal fluid circulating through sub-arachnoid spaces of meninges and ventricles of the brain
- Endolymph and perilymph of internal ear
- Aqueous and vitreous humours of eyeball
- Mucus secreted in cranial sinuses
All these fluids put together should be considered as tarpaka kapha.
Read – Netra Tarpana Treatment For Eye Care Benefits, How To Do?
All this show relationship of tarpaka kapha with nervous system.
Prana-sadhaka-tarpaka synchronization for balance of functions of nervous system
For smooth conduct of all functions of nervous system, to be away from wear and tear phenomenon, three forces operating at level of nervous system i.e. prana vata, sadhaka pitta and tarpaka kapha should work in a synchronized way without meddling into each other’s activities. This synchronization not only helps in smooth functioning of nervous system but also keeps health of nerves, sense organs and endocrine part of brain in a state of comprehensive health and balance. At same time, these doshas should not suffer from interference from other sub-types of vata or other dosha sub-types in process of their functioning. A cooperation from all vata sub-types and alochaka pitta located in brain is also solicited for balance of the brain and mind health.