by Sheyna Haisman-Holmes
Srotāmsi or the srotas are the channels by which doshas move throughout the body. The srotāmsi are physical and energetic channels that are countless, running through all the cells, capillaries and beyond. Vedic texts state that there are billions of srotāmsi and that they gather together to create the main ones, which include the tissues and organs. Not only do these channels carry all doshas throughout the body, but they also carry nutrients, the five elements, wastes, oxygen, emotions and more.
The main srotas are:
Anna vaha srotas ~food
Prāna vaha srotas ~prāna
Ambu vaha srotas ~water
Rasa vaha srotas ~plasma
Rakta vaha srotas ~blood
Māmsa vaha srotas ~muscle
Meda vaha srotas ~fat
Asthi vaha srotas ~bones
Majjā vaha srotas ~marrow/nerve tissue
Shukra vaha srotas ~male reproduction
Ārtava vaha srotas ~female reproduction
Rajah vaha srotas ~menses
Stanya vaha srotas ~lactation
Purisha vaha srotas ~feces
Mūtra vaha srotas ~urine
Sveda vaha srotas ~sweat
Mano vaha srotas ~mind
The three to receive are prāna (life force/breath), water and food. The seven to nourish and maintain are the dhātus (tissues), which are plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bones, nerves/ bone marrow and reproductive tissues. The last three are for elimination through urine, feces and sweat. These 13 are most talked about, but the mind is a channel as well. Women have two more srotas through lactation and menses. The above srotas are the observable ones, while there are billions that are unnoticed pulsing through our bodies.
These srotas come together and make up larger srotas, like maha srotas, which is the whole gastrointestinal tract. The srotas can be as small as a pore or opening in a cell to as big as the digestive or respiratory system. Each srota has a root, passage and opening. Some of these are easily observable through our physicality, but others are more internal like our fascia, veins and lymphatic system. For example, for the bone channel, the root is the pelvic girdle, the passage is the skeletal system, and the opening is the nails and hair. In this case we can look at the condition of the hair and nails and if they are brittle, it suggests that the bones are brittle. The nourishment of this tissue moves through the skeletal system and the main seat is in the pelvis. This srota can be disturbed by over activity, under activity, and not feeling supported emotionally.
When there are disorders in the flow or function of the srotamsi, it is called sroto dushti. Examples of this are excess flow, stagnation, swelling, growths and passages into the wrong areas. We can look at individual systems like the bones and muscle tissues, fat distribution, skin, nervous system, menstrual cycle, etc. to tell us where the disruption is. Although many of these blockages can be helped through nutrition, they often require exercise, sitting with the emotions, practicing breath work and self-Abhyanga. These are just a few things we can do that will help us to unwind deep blockages and assist the flow of the srotas. We can make sure to eat nourishing foods and water and have proper bowel movements each day. We can sweat, stretch, practice pranayama and meditate. The breath plays such a big role in overall health and detoxification of the body to keep the srotas clear.
We can even use blood tests and results from Western medical practices to see which channels are obstructed. If we are having an issue with our lymph system, that may point to the plasma tissue. If we are showing signs in our liver and spleen, that may be pointing to the blood channel. There are specific things to do to cleanse or nourish these systems and professional medical advice can be given to do so.
Being aware of the srotas can serve as an important check in with our bodies to make sure that everything is flowing and being nourished. Simple daily practices are the building blocks to maintaining optimal health!