THE THIRTEEN CHANNELS OF CIRCULATION
The body contains numerous channels through which the dhatus, doshas and malas circulate, known as strotas in Ayurveda, these consist of both gross channels, such as the intestinal tract, lymphatic system, arteries, veins, and the genitor-urinary tracts, as well as the more subtle channels, such as the capillaries.( mentioned earlier in ‘malas’ as mootravahastrotas etc)
In Ayurveda, a complex system of diagnosis is employed to trace the root cause of disease. The diagnosis of all diseases is based on which of the individual doshas are compromised and which channels are obstructed. An excess of any one dosha can create a spill-over effect in the body. Thus, a disease originating from one vitiated dosha is able to travel through the channels to the site of another dosha. Dosha excesses can also create blockages in the channels, thereby obstructing their normal flow.
Men have thirteen groups of channels, and women have fifteen. Of the thirteen common groups of bodily channels, the first three are the channels through which the air (or breath), food, and water travel; these are governed by Vata, Pitta, Kapha, respectively.
Air Channels- pranavahastrotas
The body’s air channels originate in the heart and the alimentary tract and conduct pranic force and vitality through the respiration and circulation systems. These channels become impaired by the suppression of natural bodily urges, by ingesting dry or stale food, and by excessive physical exertion. Symptoms expressed by vitiated air channels are shallow and restricted breathing, fear, anxiety, and nervous tension.
Food Channels- annavahastrotas
Food channels originate in the stomach and carry food through the digestive system. Untimely or indiscriminate eating, unhealthy foods, and low digestive fire cause vitiation of these channels. The symptoms of afflicted food channels are loss of appetite, indigestion, vomiting, anorexia, greed, and possessiveness.
Water Channels- udakavahastrotas
Water channels originate in the palate and pancreas, and regulate the body’s fluid. Obstruction of these passages is caused by excessive exposure to heat, excessive use of alcohol or other addictive substances, and ingesting very dry foods. The symptoms of vitiation are excessive thirst, dryness of lips, throat, tongue and palate, as well as selfishness and dullness.
The following seven groups of channels service each of the body’s seven dhatus. Like the dhatus, the nature of these channels range from the most gross (megascopic) to the most subtle (Microscopic cellular level)
Rasa (Plasma) Channels- rasavahastrotas
Plasma channels begin in the heart and its several blood vessels and transport chyle and plasma to the rasa (plasma) dhatu (all over the body). Obstruction of these passages is caused by stress, grief, and excessively cold and heavy foods. The symptoms of vitiations are anorexia, drowsiness, nausea, fainting and anaemia, impotency, stress and grief.
Rakta (Blood) Channels- raktavahastrotas
Blood channels originate in the liver and spleen and transport blood to the rakta dhatu (all over the body). This group of channels is often referred to as the circulatory system. Vitiation of this system is caused by hot and oily foods, excessive exposure to the sun or fire, and exposure to radioactivity. The symptoms of vitiation are skin diseases and rashes, abscesses, excessive bleeding and inflammation of the genital organs and anus. The emotional symptoms are anger, dullness, and aggressiveness.
Mamsa (Muscular) Channels - mamsavahastrotas
Muscular channels, which originate in the ligaments, tendons, and skin, supply nutrients to the muscle dhatu (all over the body). Impairment of these channels is due to regular intake of heavy, greasy foods, excessive sleep, sleeping after meals, and sedentary lifestyle. The symptoms of vitiation are usually benign tumors produced by the muscular system, tonsillitis, a swollen uvula, hemorrhoids, and swelling of the thyroid glands and adenoids. The emotional symptoms are lack of mental clarity and nervous tension.
Meda (Fat) Channels - medavahastrotas
Fat channels, commonly known as the adipose system, originate in the kidneys and the omentum. They supply fat tissue ingredients to the Meda dhatus (all over the body). Vitiation of this system is due to suppression of digestive activities, and excess of fatty foods, alcohol, and other addictive substances. The symptoms of affliction are generally diabetes, urinary disorders, and possessiveness.
Asthi (Bone and Cartilage) Channels - asthivahastrotas
Bone and cartilage channels, commonly known as the skeletal system, begin in the hipbone and supply nutritive ingredients to the asthi (bone and cartilage) dhatus (all over the body). Affliction of these channels is generally caused by excessive activity, friction of the bones, and excessive intake of food which is e dry, cold or stale. Some symptoms of vitiation are dry, flaky nails and decaying teeth, painful joints, dry and thinning hair, and feelings of deprivation and fear.
Majja (Bone Marrow) Channels - majjavahastrotas
The bone marrow channels, commonly referred to as the central nervous system, supply the marrow and nerve tissue nutrients to the Majja (bone marrow) dhatus (all over the body). In Ayurveda, the marrow is not only the matter found in the bone encasement (called white and red marrow), but is also found in the brain and spinal cord. Impairment of the bones and joints is generally caused by consumption of uneasy combination foods, such as the use of animal foods with milk, or hot and cold substances taken together, trauma and injury, which, in turn, affect the bone marrow. The symptoms of vitiation are fainting, dizziness, loss of memory, blackouts, and compound abscesses.
Shukra (Ovum and Sperm) Channels - shukravahastrotas
The ovum and sperm channels are subtler than the nine preceding channel groups. Originating in the testes and ovaries, these channels are ordinarily referred to as the reproductive system. They transport the semen, ovum, and ojas essence to the male and female tissues. Affliction of these passages is normally the result of unwholesome activities such as excessive or suppressed sex, unnatural sex, sex at improper times like during menstruation and pregnancy, drug addictions, and abortions. The symptoms of vitiation are impotency, infertility, and defective pregnancy. The emotional symptoms are sexual perverted indulgences, selfishness, and aggression.
The remaining groups of channels common to both the male and female are the body’s three elimination systems.
Urinary Channels - mootravahastrotas
The urinary channels being in the kidneys and bladder eject urine from the body. Impairment of these passages is caused by the suppression of urination. The symptoms of vitiation are generally excessive, scanty, or frequent urination, as well as fears, anxieties, and nervousness.
Excretory Channels - purishvahastrotas
The excretory channels ordinarily referred to as the excretory system, originate in the colon and rectum. They evacuate feces from the body. Vitiation of these channels is caused by weak digestive fire, eating before the previous meal is digested, suppression of defecation, and ingesting food of opposite quality. The symptoms of affliction are usually diarrhea, constipation, or excessively hard stools. The emotional symptoms are execessive attachment, dullness, and fear.
Sweat Channels - swedavahastrotas
The last of the excretory channels, commonly known as the sebaceous system, originate in the fat tissue and hair follicles, and expel sweat from the body. Affliction of these channels is caused by excessive activity, heat, spicy foods, acidic foods, excessive alcohol, other addictive substances, grief, fear and anger. The symptoms of vitiation are excess perspiration or no perspiration, rough and dry skin, burning sensation of the skin, aggressiveness, or dullness.
Two additional channels exist within the female body: the menstrual channel, which expels blood, secretions and tissue debris from the uterus, and the breast milk channel, which carries milk to the nourishing mother’s breast. These two channels are both part of the plasma channel, which supply the plasma dhatus (rasa dhatu).
When the channels are blocked, their corresponding doshas/dhatus/mala and updhatus become vitiated. (as mentioned before air, food and water channels are governed by vata, pitta and kapha respectively, also refer to the chart of primary dhatu, updhatu and mala) The cleansing therapies of pancha karma restore order to the system by clearing away to obstacles so that the doshas can flow as they should.