There are many ways to define Ayurveda, but I think the best is to look at the Ayurvedic definition of health outlined in the Sushruta Samhita.
Ayurvedic Definition of Health
Prakruti & Vikruti
When we look at the Sushruta Samhita’s definition of health, the first thing mentioned is balanced dosha, so our health is good when we have balanced dosha. Now this will vary for each person since we each have our own unique makeup of the 3 dosha of vata, pitta and kapha. However, your state of balance will always be the same. For example, a dual-doshic person like a Pitta/Vata can have a doshic makeup or prakruti of V2 P3 K1. A state of balance for this person will always be V2 P3 K1. If that changes to a V3 P3 K1, the vikruti is Vata since the is out-of-balance for this person who’s prakruti is V2 not V3. To get back into balance, a vata-pacifying protocol would be recommended.
Agni or Digestive Fire
The second part of the Sushruta Samhita’s definition of health is balanced agni or digestive fire. Your agni can be described as sama (balanced), tikshna (hyper), vishama (irregular), manda (slow). Generally, tikshna or hyper-metabolism is an increase in pitta; vishama or irregular-metabolism is an increase in vata; and manda or slow-metabolism is an increase in kapha. Everyone wants to get to a state of sama agni or balanced metabolism.
Dhatu or Bodily Tissue Systems
The third part of the Ayurvedic definition of health is properly formed dhatu or tissue systems of the body. There are 7 dhatu, listed in descending order:
Meda (Fat & Adipose Tissue)
Majja (Bone Marrow & Nervous Tissue)
Shukra (male)/Artava (female) (Reproductive Tissue).
When the dosha are aggravated by eating improper foods, living in an unbalanced way, environmental factors as well as suppression of natural urges, the dosha relocate from their main sites and begin to move through the Dhatu. They will first spill into the Rasa (Plasma) Dhatu and then Rakta (Blood) Dhatu and then Mamsa (Muscle) Dhatu, and so forth.
Mala or Waste Products of the Body
The fourth part of the Ayurvedic definition of health from the Sushruta Samhita is proper elimination of mala. The 3 main mala of the body are mutra (urine), purisha (feces) and sveda (sweat). The main mala of the mind are exhalation, tears and dreams. When we can properly eliminate the waste products of the body, they do not ferment in the digestive tract and turn putrid. Instead they show that the body and mind have properly digested, absorbed and assimilated the food and impressions they’ve ingested.
Srotamsi or Bodily Channels and Systems
The fifth section of the Ayurvedic definition of health is well-functioning srotamsi or bodily channels and systems, sometimes referred to as bodily processes. There are 17 srotamsi:
Anna Vaha Srotas (food)
Prana Vaha Srotas (prana)
Ambu or Udaka Vaha Srotas (water)
Rasa Vaha Srotas (plasma)
Rakta Vaha Srotas (blood)
Mamsa Vaha Srotas (muscle)
Meda Vaha Srotas (fat or adipose tissue)
Asthi Vaha Srotas (bone)
Majja Vaha Srotas (marrow and nerve tissue)
Shukra Vaha Srotas (male reproduction)
Artava Vaha Srotas (female reproduction)
Rajah Vaha Srotas (menses)
Stanya Vaha Srotas (lactation)
Purisha Vaha Srotas (feces)
Mutra Vaha Srotas (urine)
Sveda Vaha Srotas (sweat)
Mano Vaha Srotas (mind)
Each srotas has a sroto mula (root), a sroto marga (passage), and a sroto mukha (mouth or opening). When a srotas is flowing in a balanced way, the srotamsi are in a state of balance. When the srotas become imbalanced, disease begins in the body/mind.
Ananda or Bliss
The sixth and final portion of the Sushruta Samhita’s definition of health is whose mind, soul and senses are full of ananda or bliss. In Ayurveda, the mind and soul is just as important as the body. Our senses are also very important. They are how we take in the world around us. Thusly, we want our senses to be clear and open, but also able to discern negative impressions so that we don’t absorb them into our energy field. This is why the Dinacharya or Ayurvedic Daily Routine is so important. Many of the Dinacharya practices cleanse the sense organs so that we can better digest, absorb and assimilate the impressions we take in on a daily basis.