Aging is a complex and common process in the human body, a sum total of changes that occur regularly in a living organism with the passage of time and lead to decreasing ability to survive stress, increasing functional impairment and growing probability of death. Ayurveda, the Indian traditional medicine, describes aging with great details.
Aging in Ayurveda is known as “Jarā” defined as that which has become old by the act of wearing out “jīryati iti jarā”. It is synonymed as “vārdhakya” meaning increasing age. According Ayurvedic medicine human life is divided into—“Balya” childhood (up to the age 16 years); youth and middle age [from 16 to 60 years (charaka) or 70 years (sushruta) and exhibits progressively the traits of growth (vivardhamana, 16–20 years of age), youth (youvana, 20–30 years), maturity (sampoornata, 30–40 years), deterioration (parihani, 40 years onwards) which gradually sets in up to 60 years]; old age, wherein after 60–70 years the body elements, sense organs, strength, and so forth, begin to decay.
While describing aging, Ayurveda takes in consideration Prana (life energy that performs respiration, oxygenation and circulation). It governs two other subtle essence ojas and tejas. Ojas (the essence of the seven dhatus or bodily tissues) is responsible for the auto-immune system and mental intelligence, it is necessary for longevity. Displaced ojas creates the kapha-related disorders and decreased ojas creates vata-related reactions. Tejas (the essence of a very subtle fire or energy) governs metabolism through the endocrine system.
Agni (central fire or energy source in the body) promotes digestion, absorption and assimilation of food. Tejas is necessary for the nourishing and transformation of each dhatu. Aggravated tejas, burns away ojas reducing immunity and overstimulating pranic activity. Aggravated prana produces degenerative disorders in the dhatus. Lack of tejas results in over production of unhealthy tissue and obstructs the flow of pranic energy. Just as it is essential to maintain balance amongst the tridosha—vata, pitta, kapha principles of motion, metabolism, structure, respectively, the dhatus and the three malas (bodily wastes); it is also important for longevity that prana, ojas and tejas remain in balance. The tridosha play a very important role in the maintenance of cellular health and longevity. Kapha maintains longevity on the cellular level. Pitta governs digestion and nutrition. Vata, which is closely related to pranic life energy, governs all life functions. Proper diet, exercise and lifestyle can create a balance among these three subtle essences, ensuring long life.