School of Ayurvedic Diet & Digestion
Muscle tissue (mamsa dhatu) includes skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, smooth muscle, ligaments and tendons. Together, they play an essential role in coordinated mobility, strength, maintenance of posture, binding the body together, giving shape to the body and protecting delicate organs such as your stomach, liver and intestines. Muscles are the second densest tissue in the body after bones and can contribute to up to half the entire body weight.
Muscles contain bundles of fibers surrounded by connective tissue called fascia. These fibers are then grouped in bundles of bundles, surrounded by more fascia. Connective tissue is included in Ayurveda's definition of mamsa dhatu. Tendons (kandara) connect muscle to bone and allow for movement. Ligaments connect bone to bone, hold structures together and keep them steady. Fascia connect muscles to other muscles. On an esoteric level, muscle tissue relates to all the connective tissue in the body except for blood and bone. This quality of muscle tissues binds and holds the whole body together as one.
A muscle contracts in a similar way that a nerve fires - though an electrolyte pump. When calcium is in excess and magnesium is deficient, the muscle may become hyper (udana vayu). When magnesium is in excess and calcium is deficient, the muscle may become overly lax (apana vayu). Muscles require balanced blood chemistry to function gracefully. Similar behaviors can be seen in the nervous system as racing thoughts and fidgeting muscles often happen at the same time.
In Ayurveda, the strength and quality of the muscles is determined through visual assessment. Excessive ear wax is a sign that too much protein is being consumed in the diet, leading to overproduction of poor quality muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is very sensitive to disruptions in blood chemistry, much like nervous tissue. Ayurveda recommends purifying the blood by reducing digestive toxins (ama) through proper diet and cleansing, ensuring adequate hydration and balanced electrolytes. Muscles become strong when used appropriately, so exercise suited to your constitution is recommended in Ayurveda. However, muscles can be damaged by overexertion, strain and overstretching, as microtears in the muscle can lead to a buildup of scar tissue.
Ayurveda offers a workable framework to restore the health and vitality of the muscle tissues, depending on the person's individual needs. The first step is to stimulate and strengthen digestive capacity (agni) to reduce the formation of digestive toxins. These toxins can create an acidic environment in the blood, disrupt blood chemistry and ultimately affect the quality of the muscles. By reducing blood toxicity and improving the quality of the blood (rakta), the muscles will receive the adequate nutrients to perform optimally. If the muscle tissue is deficient, Ayurveda promotes the inclusion of anabolic foods, such as dairy, meat, and other sources of protein to build the tissue. Muscles also need regular movement and exercise, but just to a comfortable level. Exercising to about 70% capacity, or to when you just start to break a sweat but can still breathe through your nose, is recommended as opposed to pushing beyond your limits.