How Ayurveda Brings Colours to Life for the Visually Impaired

As I walked around Bode Lake in Dreamwood, a countryside area of Chicago, the evening sky after the rain was filled with vibrant colours. The sight was breathtaking, and it sparked a thought in my mind. I wondered how I would explain the feeling of colours to someone who has been blind since birth. Then, an idea struck me: I could use the principles of Ayurveda to help them understand.

We may explore various approaches to explaining colours to a blind person, drawing upon sensory associations, natural elements, temperature, emotions, and vivid descriptions. By engaging other senses and tapping into universal human experiences, we can create a bridge of understanding that allows blind individuals to appreciate the beauty and significance of colours in their own way.

Engaging the Senses: Taste, Smell, Touch, and Sound

According to Ayurveda, we receive inputs from five senses (indriyas) – hearing, touch, vision, taste, and smell – which correspond with five basic elements (mahabhutas) – Akash (space), Vayu (air), Agni (fire), Jala (water), and Prithvi (earth). One of the key ways in which Ayurveda can help blind individuals understand and appreciate colours is through the engagement of the other senses. By exploring the tastes, smells, textures, and sounds associated with different colours and elements, we can create a multisensory experience that brings colour to life in a tangible and meaningful way.

Research has shown that the brain is capable of remarkable adaptations in response to sensory input, a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. When one sense is impaired, such as vision, the brain can compensate by enhancing the processing and perception of information from other sensory modalities. This cross-modal plasticity allows individuals to develop heightened abilities in their remaining senses, enabling them to navigate and understand the world in unique ways.

For example, the yellow colour and the element of earth can be evoked through the taste of sweet, nourishing foods like ripe mangoes, which contain high levels of carotenoids and antioxidants that contribute to their vibrant colour and sweet flavor. The smell of freshly baked bread, with its complex aroma profile resulting from the Maillard reaction between sugars and amino acids during baking, can also evoke a sense of warmth and comfort associated with the earth element. The texture of soft, warm sand, with its unique granular structure and thermal properties, can provide a tactile connection to the grounding energy of the earth. Finally, the sound of a deep, grounding drumbeat, with its low-frequency vibrations that are processed by the vestibular and somatosensory systems, can create a sense of rhythm and stability reminiscent of the earth’s solid foundation.

Similarly, the blue colour and the element of water can be experienced through the taste of cooling, refreshing foods like mint, which contains menthol, a compound that activates cold-sensitive receptors in the mouth and nose, creating a cooling sensation. The smell of the ocean breeze, with its mix of salt, organic compounds, and negative ions, can stimulate the olfactory system and evoke feelings of relaxation and clarity. The sensation of a cool, smooth stone, with its thermal conductivity and tactile properties, can provide a tangible connection to the calming energy of water. The sound of gentle waves lapping at the shore, with their rhythmic and soothing patterns, can engage the auditory system and promote a sense of tranquility and flow.

The red colour and the element of fire can be explored through the taste of spicy, warming foods like chili peppers, which contain capsaicin, a compound that stimulates heat-sensitive receptors in the mouth and triggers the release of endorphins, creating a sensation of heat and euphoria. The smell of burning incense, with its complex blend of aromatic compounds, can activate the olfactory system and evoke feelings of passion and intensity. The warmth of the sun on the skin, with its infrared radiation that penetrates the dermis and increases circulation, can provide a direct experience of the fire element. The sound of a lively, passionate drumbeat, with its rapid tempo and dynamic variations, can engage the auditory and motor systems, creating a sense of energy and excitement.

The colour green and the element of air can be evoked through the taste of fresh, crisp vegetables like lettuce or celery, which contain volatile organic compounds that contribute to their fresh aroma and crisp texture. The smell of newly cut grass, with its mix of green leaf volatiles and organic compounds, can stimulate the olfactory system and evoke feelings of growth and renewal. The sensation of a soft, velvety leaf, with its unique surface texture and cellular structure, can provide a tactile connection to the gentle energy of air. The sound of wind rustling through the trees, with its variable frequency and amplitude, can engage the auditory system and create a sense of movement and change.

Finally, the colour purple and the element of ether can be experienced through the taste of rich, complex foods like dark chocolate, which contains a mix of bitter alkaloids, flavonoids, and other compounds that contribute to its deep, multifaceted flavor. The smell of lavender or frankincense, with their complex aroma profiles consisting of terpenes and other organic compounds, can stimulate the olfactory system and evoke feelings of relaxation and spirituality. The sensation of a cool, misty breeze, with its fine water droplets and gentle airflow, can provide a tactile experience of the ethereal realm. The sound of a resonant bell or chime, with its pure, sustained tones that are processed by the auditory cortex and associated areas, can create a sense of clarity and expansiveness.

Using Emotional Connections (Mana) and Symbolism

Another powerful way to explain colours to a visually impaired person is by tapping into the emotional and symbolic associations that colours evoke. Colours are often linked to specific feelings, moods, and cultural meanings that can be universally understood, even without visual references. This approach is supported by research in the fields of psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience.

Studies have shown that colours can influence emotions, behaviours, and physiological responses in humans. This phenomenon is known as colour psychology and is believed to be rooted in a combination of biological, cultural, and personal factors. Colours can evoke specific emotional states by triggering associations and memories stored in the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions and regulating physiological responses.

For example, the red colour is often associated with passion, love, anger, and danger. These associations are thought to have evolutionary origins, as red is the colour of blood, which can signal both life and death. In many cultures, red is also linked to fire, which can provide warmth and light but also cause destruction. On a physiological level, exposure to the colour red has been shown to increase heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductance, indicating a state of arousal and alertness. When you think of red, imagine the warmth and energy of a flickering flame, the rush of adrenaline during a thrilling moment, or the deep bond of love and connection.

Blue, on the other hand, is frequently connected with feelings of calmness, trust, and stability. These associations may stem from the visual prominence of blue in nature, such as the sky and the ocean, which can evoke a sense of vastness and tranquillity. In many cultures, blue is also linked to water, which is essential for life and can provide a cooling, soothing effect. Studies have shown that exposure to the colour blue can lower heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate, indicating a state of relaxation and stress reduction. Picture the vast expanse of the ocean, the quiet stillness of a peaceful lake, or the profound insights gained through introspection and self-reflection.

Green is often linked to nature, growth, and balance. These associations are rooted in the prevalence of green in the natural world, particularly in plants and vegetation, which are essential for life and provide a sense of harmony and vitality. In many cultures, green is also associated with fertility, prosperity, and good health. Research has shown that exposure to the colour green can improve mood, reduce stress, and enhance cognitive performance, possibly due to its calming and restorative effects on the nervous system. Imagine the fresh, invigorating scent of a forest after the rain, the gentle sway of leaves in the breeze, or the comforting embrace of a nurturing presence.

Yellow is commonly associated with happiness, optimism, and energy. These associations may be influenced by the visual similarity between yellow and the sun, which provides light, warmth, and life-sustaining energy. In many cultures, yellow is also linked to gold, which is valuable, precious, and often associated with divine or sacred qualities. Studies have shown that exposure to the colour yellow can increase serotonin levels in the brain, leading to improved mood and increased feelings of well-being. Picture the radiant warmth of the sun on your skin, the contagious laughter of children at play, or the spark of inspiration that ignites your imagination.

Vision to Ignite Inner Vision

By exploring the emotional and symbolic meanings of colours, we can create a shared understanding that transcends visual experience. These associations can help blind individuals connect with the deeper significance and cultural context of colours, fostering a sense of inclusion and appreciation for the rich tapestry of human experiences that colours represent.

Ultimately, the experience of colour is deeply subjective and personal, shaped by individual perceptions, emotions, and associations. When explaining colours to a blind person, it’s important to embrace this subjectivity and celebrate the unique ways in which each person understands and appreciates colour. By engaging the senses, evoking emotions, and tapping into the power of symbolism, we can ignite an inner vision that allows blind individuals to experience the beauty and depth of colours in their own extraordinary way.

Through the lens of Ayurveda, we can create a language of colour that speaks to the heart, mind, and soul. By inviting blind individuals to taste, smell, touch, and hear the essence of colours, we open up a world of possibilities and understanding. As we explore the emotional and symbolic meanings of colours, we foster a deep connection to the world around us and the experiences that shape our lives.

Article and Photo By: Dr. Abhimanyu Kumar

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