Term ‘Rasa’ in Ayurveda signifies many things.
Most commonly it is understood on the physical level where it points towards the sense of taste perceived by the sense organ tongue.
On the mental level it is the good and bad experiences we have in our lives for e.g. a favorable experience is sweet. Good and bad memories and experiences are often referred to as sweet and bitter respectively. Sweet experiences are nourishing for the mind as well as the body while bitter ones have the opposite effect.
Spiritually speaking ‘Atma rasa’ where ‘Atma’ signifies our soul is a stage where one is in union with one’s soul. This union is a state of ecstasy. This stage is beyond the perception of mind hence it is not bitter or sweet but always neutral.
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and spiritual well being. Hence ‘rasa’ so vividly described in Ayurveda is the basis of health.
Taste or Rasa are six in number. Each rasa has a quality which is the attribute of the 2 primary elements it is composed of. The organ of perception of taste –tongue has the predominance of water element (dry tongue cannot perceive tastes).
Sweet Water + Earth
Sour Earth + Fire
Salty Water + Fire
Pungent Air + fire
Bitter Air + space
Astringent Air + Earth
Each Rasa affects the Doshas. For e.g. eating sweet foods will aggravate Kapha dosha having the same elemental composition (water + earth)
Effect on Doshas
Dosha Pacifying Aggravating
Vata sweet sour salty astringent bitter pungent
Pitta sweet bitter astringent sour salty pungent
Kapha pungent bitter astringent sweet sour salty
Using tastes to stay healthy:
All the 6 tastes should be included in each meal. Once it becomes a habit the false cravings will slowly fade as all the nutrient needs will be fulfilled. For e.g. Sweet taste is rich in carbohydrates, lipids and proteins while bitter and astringent tastes are rich in minerals and vitamins.
The key to balancing the body is choosing foods and herbs that have the opposite qualities of the doshic imbalance. For e.g Pitta imbalance causes hyperacidity, gastritis ,heartburn, ulceration etc as a result of Pitta’s hot and sharp qualities .Foods and herbs for balancing Pitta should be sweet, bitter and astringent all of which are having cold and dull properties.