Here we take a look at what satmya is, the Ayurvedic perspective on satmya and how this concept can help you find the best diet and lifestyle practices for yourself.
Satmya, pronounced “sat-mae-ya” is a Sanskrit word that is often used in Ayurveda. It basically means “wholesome adaptation through gradual change” 1
Satmya means suitability to those things which are favorable for oneself. Satmya is also known as upashaya.
Some other frequently used synonyms for satmya are hita (wholesome) and pathya (suitable). Satmya is one of the investigable points of dashavidha pareekhsa described in Ayurveda.
Dashavidha pareekhsa refers to the examination of the patient on the basis of the patient’s following characteristics before proceeding with the administration of medicine and diet.
- Prakriti (constitution)
- Vikriti (morbidity)
- Saar (constitution of the dhatus)
- Samhanan (compactness)
- Praman (measurement)
- Satmya (suitability)
- Sattwa (psyche)
- Ahar-shakti (power of intake and digestion of food)
- Vyayam-shakti (power of exercise) and
- Vaya (age)
Classical Ayurvedic View On Satmya
A substance conducive to an individual is called satmya and the use of such substances is supposed to be crucial for the well-being of that individual.
Satmya is of three types, viz. superior (pravar), inferior (awar) and mediocre (madhya).
According to another method of classification, it can be divided into seven types, depending upon the administration of individual rasas or tastes (six types) and the use of rasas jointly (seventh type).2
Using all the six rasas is considered the superior type of satmya, using only one rasa is considered an inferior type of satmya and with madhya falling between the two.
The efficacy of medicine depends on satmya. If a ‘non’ satmya diet or medicine is administered, it can cause adverse reactions. Satmya is that substance which can be used constantly with positive effects.
Satmya is one of the most important aspects to consider for the correct administration of medicine or diet.
If a person consumes apathya (unwholesome) food or follows apathya lifestyle patterns for a considerable amount of time, such practices will not cause vikara due to habituation. Thus, such substances are called oka satmya.3
The Ayurvedic scholar Chakrapani Datta, in his commentary Ayurveda Dipika on the classical Ayurvedic medical text the Charaka Samhita, says “the continuous usage of apathya ahara (unwholesome diet) for longer durations becomes satmya and will not cause diseases”
Ayurveda recommends using the habitual diet and lifestyle regimens that have the opposite qualities of the diseased individual’s environment.
Chakrapani Datta mentions that the quality of an individual’s diet and regimens should be opposite to the individual’s desha (place) and disease.
For example, anupa desh is kapha pradhana, so to maintain the normalcy, one should use dravya which is opposite to kapha gunas if one is prone to develop Kaphaja (Kapha-related) diseases.4
Types Of Satmya
- Ritu Satmya–food and lifestyle habits according to season
- Oka Satmya– individual habits
- Desh Satmya– diet, and regimens opposite to desha
- Roga Satmya-diet and regimen opposite to disease
Use of all the shad rasas (6 tastes) is the superior type of satmya whereas the use of only one rasa is of an inferior type and the mediocre type of satmya lies between the two.
Individuals consuming a diet comprising of all six tastes including ghee, milk, oil and meat soup are endowed with strength, resilience, and longevity.
Individuals that are accustomed to ununctuous substances, medicines, and diets with only one predominant taste usually possess less strength, resilience, and longevity.
Satmya (wholesome) means suitability of any substance for the body or for an individual. This meaning also stands for those factors which are wholesome to the individual even when continuously used.
Substances and regimen which are suitable to the body are known as satmya.
It does not cause harm to the body even though they are opposite to one’s own constitution, habitat, time, season, diseases, exercise, water, day, sleep, tastes, and other factors.
The Real Meaning Of Satmya
Satmya has several meanings in Ayurveda but primarily it means the adaptation (such as genetic) or habituation in creating a physiological habit of the body. Basically, with long enough exposure, our body adapts to the food, food combinations, environment, daily schedule, climate, and medicines.
A recent finding of gene variation in Inuits that allowed them to thrive on a diet rich in meat and fats with no vegetables or fruit confirms this.1
An example ahar and vihar satmaya – oil, ghee, honey are the dravya (substances) which pacify Vata, Pitta, and Kapha respectively.
Continuous use of oil alleviates Vata, as oil is unctuous, hot, and heavy. Vata being drying, cold, and light in nature is fundamentally opposite to that of oil.
The stronger quality between the two dominates the weaker one, so the continuous use of oil alleviates an aggravated Vata dosha.
Over generations even our genes can learn to adapt to these things.
Similarly, due to continuous use of sarpi (clarified butter) alleviates Pitta as ghee is sweet and hot but soft and not penetrating, whereas Pitta is not sweet, hot and penetrating/sharp.
The regular usage of substances having qualities opposites to those of the respective dosha i.e Vata, Pitta, and Kapha helps in alleviating aggravated doshas.5
What may enhance health, happiness, and ‘ease of life’ for one person may create imbalances and disease for another person.
Ayurveda banks on a strong satmya–asatmya theory, one of the most important factors in health.
‘Satmya‘ means certain factors which can be easily assimilated in the human body without causing any harm or difficulty. It benefits the body and helps in development and growth.
Some of them are made habitual to the body due to constant use. These are ‘oka-satmya‘.
The factors which aggravate or over-pacify doshas, which give displeasure or uneasiness to the body are known as ‘asatmya‘.
Therefore, you must have adequate knowledge about what is hitkar (beneficial), as well as, satmyakar (assimilatory) in your diet and lifestyle.
When your knowledge of your personal satmyta–asatmyta is thorough, you can take in energy and information from your environment, take whatever is beneficial to you, and eliminate anything you don’t need.
Consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before trying the remedies and recommendations mentioned in this article.
Dr. Sashirekha H.K., Dr. Bargale Sushant Sukumar Charaka Samhita Vimana sthana, 1/20, page 165, Chaukhamba Publication, New Delhi, edition 1, 2018.
3,4. Dr. Sashirekha H.K., Dr. Bargale Sushant Sukumar Charaka Sutra Sthana, chapter 6, page 121, verse 49-50, Chaukhambha publication, New Delhi, edition 1, 2018
5.Dr. SashirekhaH.K., Dr. Bargale, Sushant Sukumar Viman ch 1, Charaka Samhita, verse 14, page 159-160