THE 5 ELEMENTS : FUNDAMENTS OF LIFE
The first and most important principle of ayurveda is that of the 5 elements. Understanding and experimenting the 5 element principle is key to maintain balance in our body.
The basic assumption is that whatever is present in the macrocosme is also present in the microcosm. That means that whatever composes the universe also composes all elements within it : both for living and non living beings.
The 5 primordial elements (or Panchamahabutas) that compose the cosmos are :
- Earth (Prithvi)
- Water (Jala)
- Fire (Tejas)
- Air (Vayu)
- Space (Akasa)
Each of these elements have a particular set of qualities (gunas) and function.
|Space||Clear, light, subtle, soft,immeasurable||Connection, freedom, love,|
|Air||Mobile, dry, light, cold, subtle, rough||Movement, change, thoughts|
|Fire||Hot, sharp, light, dry, subtle||perception, intelligence, luminosity|
|Water||Dull, cool, damp, soft, slimy, oily, liquid||Flow, downward movement, cleansing, life|
|Earth||Heavy, dull, static, dense, hard, gross||stability, resistance in action, gravitation|
This is easily noticeable within the body but also in nature. I recommend that you start observing for yourself and making the connection.
MANIFESTATION OF THE 5 ELEMENTS IN THE HUMAN BODY
The 5 elements and their qualities are present in our body in various proportion. The way the elements are combined within us is our individual DNA, known in Ayurveda as our body-mind constitution (or prakruti). Elements have been grouped under 3 categories known as the doshas:
- Air & Space —> Vata dosha
- Fire & Water —> Pitta dosha
- Water & Earth —> Kapha dosha
Each individual may have one, two or more rarely three predominant doshas. Hence, a person may have a Vata predominant constitution, or a Kapha-Pitta predominant constitution. The doshas govern all biological, psychological and physio-pathological functions of the body, mind and consciousness.
VIKRUTI = THE STATE OF IMBALANCE
Overtime our unique constitution (prakruti) is influenced by and reacts to various factors such as :
- Age, lifecycle (Childhood=Kapha, Adulthood=Pitta, Old age=Vata)
- Geographical location
- Climate/ Seasons (Earth cycle)
- Moon cycle or menstruation cycle
- Earth cycle – time of the day
When imbalance (Vikruti) occurs, one of more of the dosha becomes aggravated. This disturbs the digestive fire (Agni), and therefore results in toxic unprocessed food (Ama). These toxins block the bodily channels (Srotas) and is deposited in the tissues (Dhatus) where disease manifests.
THE MAGIC FORMULA
There is a very simple way to prevent or revert imbalance in the body. That is to apply the principle of :
In other words, the qualities of the elements have the capability to balance or aggravate each other. For instance fire increases fire, whereas the cold and liquid quality of water balances the hot and dry quality of fire. Air increases air, whereas the heavy and slow quality of earth balances the light and mobile quality of air.
Becoming aware of the qualities of our internal and external environments is the key to maintaining balance.
We need to remember that the 5 elements are present in everything that surrounds us and is within us, such as food, environment and emotions.
- For instance bread is dry and light (air) in quality, chili is hot and drying (fire).
- The desert is dry and hot (fire quality), sea sides of Northen country are moist and cold (water quality).
- Anger is hot, sadness is cold, anxiety is light and dry.
- Bones have similar qualities to air (dry and light), blood has similar qualities than fire and water (liquid and hot).
Understanding the 5 elements in that way, we learn to maintain balance in our body through lifestyle and dietary adjustments.
This essential principle of the 5 elements, once understood, needs to experimented, digested, assimilated to become inner wisdom and drive our behaviour. Then only, does balancing our body, mind and consciousness becomes a natural act.
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Ayurvedic Consultant – DipALN, DipAMT (Ayurveda)
The Ayurveda Centre