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Ayurvedic dictionary for beginners

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Ayurvedic dictionary

If you are completely new to Ayurveda all the different Sanskrit terms can be overwhelming. Trying to distinguish ama from mala and gunas from doshas? Then start here with this ayurvedic dictionary for beginners.

Sanskrit is a very rich language. Often Sanskrit words don’t even have a good translation in English. They may also be interpreted in different ways. (Try to find a good description of the concept of a ‘dosha’).

I use these words in my blog posts all the time… so I thought it was time to put together a dictionary of ayurvedic terms. If you have any other words that still mystify you drop a comment below this post. I will add it to the list!

Looking for a Sanskrit yoga dictionary instead? Then read this.

Abhyanga

Also ‘abhyangam’, massage therapy with warm oil or ghee. Abhyanga uses long strokes over the body with medium pressure. Abhyanga (re)activates the marma points (see below) and moves lymph and toxins.

Agni

Digestive fire, enzymes, our metabolism. ‘Samagni’ is normal digestion. You can also have low Agni (slow or incomplete digestion) or strong Agni (fast digestion)

Ama

Toxins; the undigested leftover of food eaten. When Agni is low, ama will be created in the body. The presence of ama is one of the first stages of manifestation of disease. A white coating on the tongue (after tongue scraping) or food pieces in your faeces are some indications of ama in the body.

Ayurveda

‘science’ or ‘knowledge’ of ‘life’, life science, the ancient system to live a long and healthy life. Ayurveda comprises knowledge about ideal nutrition, lifestyle and medicine according to your unique mind-body type. Also called ‘yoga’s sister science’.

Dhatu

‘tissue’, as in the 7 physical tissues the body is made up of.

Dosha (dosa)

‘that which can go out of balance’. Also: ‘fault’. Bodily humour; the 3 types in ayurveda or 3 energies that make up the body and mind.

Ghee

clarified butter (also ghrita, gritham). Used for cooking, as vehicle for medicinal herbs and massage. Ghee is shelf stable (no need to put in the fridge). All the things that make milk/butter difficult to digest are taken out. Fresh ghee has a caramel like scent (which is why it is often used in Indian sweets!)

Guna

property of a food or medicine; also applied to the 3 mental attributes sattva, rajas and tamas (‘the 3 gunas’)

Jaggery

pure cane sugar

Kapha

the combination of Water and Earth elements, one of the 3 doshas

Kichari

(also ‘kichadi’ or ‘kidgeree‘); a simple dish of rice and mung beans used as preparation for ayurvedic detox and rejuvenation therapies

Mala

bodily waste product, waste matter, excretory substances (faeces, sweat, urine)

Marma

energy points in the body. They are similar but not (all) equal to reflex points or accupressure points.

Ojas

life sap. When food is digested and assimilated correctly ojas is the end product of our metabolism. It is the essence of our immune system; that distinguishable glow of health

Panchakarma

‘five actions’, ayurvedic detox therapies to remove ama from the body.

Pitta

often referred to as ‘fire’ but it is a combination of the fire and water elements; one of the 3 doshas

Prakriti

the nature of a substance; also the body constitution at conception

Prasad

food offered to God/Spirit; food made with love

Rajas

action impulse; wanting to act; one of the 3 mental gunas

Rasa

‘taste’, what we detect with the tongue. Also: ‘plasma’

Rasayana

the collection of ayurvedic rejuvenation practices and treatments

Sadhana

wholesome activity executed with mindfulness eg the sadhanas of food preparation

Satmya

(‘wholesome’, compatible): what is good for the body

Sattva

‘purity’, also adjective ‘sattvic’, pure; one of the 3 mental gunas

Srotas

‘channels’ of the body. They can be physical (found with dissection of the body) or energetic (as in meridians)

Tamas

‘inertia’, want to stay the same, unchanging (also: ‘tamasic’), one of the 3 mental gunas

Vata

the dosha made up of air and ether elements

Vayu

other name for Vata, ‘air’ or ‘wind’, one of the 3 doshas

Vikruti

current body constitution (can be different from the body constitution at conception); dosha imbalance

Vipaka

‘aftertaste’, taste after digestion of food; not detected with the tongue

Virya

‘potency, energy’ of a substance. As in energy of a food or medicine: cooling or heating.

I hope this ayurvedic dictionary helps you! If you think of other words that should be included, drop me a comment below!

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