Ayurveda is based on the principle of the five elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. These 5 elements are referred to as the Panchamahabhutas – Pancha means “five”, Maha means “great”, Bhuta means “elements”. The structure of the universe including the physical body is composed of the 5 fundamental elements/building blocks of nature. Ayurveda teaches us how to recognize these elements and apply them to maintain health & promote healing.
The Five Elements Are
(ether/space) serves as the medium in which the other elements are able to manifest. “Akasha” translates to all enclosing, all-pervading, omnipresent. It is the space within which all objects of the universe exist. Akasha represents space, which relates to the sense of sound/ears. Together with the air element ether forms the Vata Dosha. Its attributes are clear, light, smooth, subtle, expanding and soft.
( air) is the principle of movement. Prana (vital life force) is the principle of Air. It exists without form and flows freely through the body, controlling breath and helping to give movement to biological functions. Vayu/air relates to the sense of skin/touch. Air is the dominant element in Vata Dosha. Its attributes are rough, light, dry, mobile, subtle and cold.
(fire) is the principle of conversion, light, and heat which are produced from the friction inherent in movement. Fire promotes appetite, metabolism, and digestion. Fire converts food to energy and is responsible for body temperature and the absorption & assimilation of food. Tejas/fire relates to the sense of sight/eyes. Fire is the dominant element in Pitta Dosha. Its attributes are sharp, hot, light, dry, subtle and radiant.
(water) is the principle of liquidity/flowing motion and cohesion. Water promotes transportation and is the river in which life flows. This element provides the body with fluids such as lymph, plasma, and urine and makes up most of our bodily weight, carrying nutrients from one part of the body to the other. Aap relates to the sense of taste/tongue. Water is the dominant element in Kapha Dosha. It attributes are cool, liquid, flowing, soft, cloudy and dull.
(earth) is the principle of form and structure. Earth holds all living creatures of the planet giving support, food and shelter. Bones, teeth, cartilage, nails, skin and tissues are all derived from the earth element. Prithvi relates to the sense of smell/nose. Together with the water element earth forms the Kapha Dosha. It attributes are hard, heavy, dense and stable.
Ayurveda groups the five elements into three types of energy in which govern all the functions of the body – these energies are called the Doshas “Vata, Pitta, Kapha”. Ayurveda teaches us that every living being consists of a unique combination of the three Doshas.
(Water & Earth) is the energy of lubrication and structure.
The function of Kapha provides lubrication to the body and maintains strength to the joints, organs, muscles & bones, skin and immunity. Kapha natured people tend to have a full bodied- strong build, have thick hair, large eyes and sweet radiant skin. The main locations of Kapha in the body are stomach, lungs, chest, lymph, fat tissues, mucous membrane, throat, head, and upper body.
The mind tends to be calm and steady, have strong endurance, strong immune system, and steady appetite. They are loving, compassionate, nurturing, peacemakers and create stability. When Kapha Dosha becomes imbalanced digestion & metabolism tend to slow down resulting in weight gain & water retention, excessive sleep, depression, emotional attachments, possessiveness, envy, congestive disorders, and diabetes. Qualities of Kapha are moist, cold, heavy, static, sticky and soft.
Kapha slogan: “Don’t worry be happy”
(Fire & Water) is the energy of transformation.
Pitta governs metabolism, digestion, and energy. Pitta natured people tend to be medium built with medium height, muscular build, have oily skin and tend to have warm body temperature. The main locations of Pitta in the body are small intestines & stomach, skin, eyes, sweat glands, liver, spleen, blood, and lymph.
The mind is sharp and highly focused, have great skin complexion, they are energetic, competitive, and courageous, they have great digestion as the fire/Agni is burning. They are great teachers, communicators, blessed with wisdom, highly disciplined and excellent leaders. When Pitta Dosha becomes imbalanced they tend to anger quickly, have excessive body heat, may suffer from acid reflux, ulcers, heartburn, indigestion, excess/toxic blood creating inflammation and infection and skin rashes. Qualities of Pitta are oily, sharp, acidic, light and have a fiery nature.
Pitta slogan: “My way or the highway”
(Space & Air) is the subtle energy that is associated with movement and change.
Vata is like the wind as it gives motion to everything. People with Vata natures are physically light, have flexible bodies, tend to have dry skin, thin hair, cold hands and feet. The main locations of Vata in the body are the colon, pelvic organs, thighs, legs, bones, lungs, skin, ears, brain and nervous system.
The mind is active, sleep patterns change and digestive system can be sensitive. They are very intuitive, enthusiastic, energetic and creative – Vata’s are always on the go & love to travel. When unbalanced they are prone to anxiety, worry, stress, fear, and insomnia. When Vata Dosha becomes imbalanced they tend to become constipated, have weight loss, restlessness, digestive imbalances, joint/ muscle issues, weak immune & nervous system. Qualities of Vata are dry, light, cold, subtle, changing, mobile and rough.
Vata slogan: “Can I change my mind”