Learn Basics of 5 Elements in Ayurveda
How This Helps
Our bodies are created in the same fabric of the universe. The same five elements aka 'Panchamahabhuta' in Ayurveda make up the entire universe and also create the human body. ⠀
Most people are familiar with 'Doshas', but do you know that the three doshas- Vata, Pitta and Kapha are formed of the 5 elements in Ayurveda.
The five elements are Akash (Space), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire), Ap (Water) and Prithvi (Earth) and understanding these can help you unlock the secrets to your being.⠀
The element 'Akash or Space' 💫when in the universe, is seen as the vast space that holds the planets and the stars, in our bodies the same element can be understood as various hollows of the body- that skull cavity that accommodates your brain or the abdominal cavity that holds various organs.⠀
The element 'Vayu or Air' 💨when in the universe or nature is seen as the wind, the one that gives the movement for planets, comets etc, whereas in the body Air is seen as the one that fills your lungs, that which gives movement to all processes in your body and also the gas that you are so uncomfortably bloated with.⠀
The element 'Agni or Fire' 🔥in the universe represents the brilliance of the sun and the stars, in our body, it is seen as the digestive fire that burns your food, and your eyes that light up your world.⠀
The element 'Ap or Water' 💦is seen in nature as the oceans, rivers, and seas, and in your body as various fluids- saliva, blood, plasma, and is responsible for nourishment.⠀
The element 'Prithvi or Earth' 🌎in the universe is seen in the form of planets, wood, rocks and stones, and in your body, it is seen as the denser parts like bones, nails, and hair.⠀
These five elements not only make your body but also the doshas and thus balancing the five elements is the key to balancing your body. If even a single element goes out of balance, it creates disharmony leading to ill health. ⠀
The Five Great elements - Akash (Space), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire), Ap (Water) and Prithvi (Earth) make up the fabric of the entire universe and our bodies. Our physical bodies are an expression of the five elements and as we leave the physical body the five elements dissolute and disperse back into nature. ⠀
Agni (Fire) in Ayurveda:
Agni Mahabhuta or Fire Element is the third in the sequence of elements and can be understood through vision. ⠀⠀
Applications of Agni Mahabhuta can be seen as: ⠀⠀⠀
1. Ayurveda states that Agni Mahabhuta or Fire Element manifests in the human body at various levels- Jatharagni or the digestive fire, 7 Dhatu Agni or the 7 aspects of fire element that bring about the transformation of tissues, and 5 Bhutagnis- that bring about transformation in each of the elements.⠀⠀⠀⠀
2. According to Ayurveda, all the diseases stem from weak digestion. Strong digestive fire or Agni is fundamental for optimal health. It is important for you to process your food and all the nutrients you consume.
3. Pitta Dosha is formed by the combination of Fire and Water element. It is the fire element that provides warmth, visibility, brilliance, sharpness to Pitta Dosha.⠀⠀⠀
4. Sour+Salty+Pungent tastes have dominance of Fire element in its composition.
Sour (Earth + Fire) Fermented Food, Lemons and Lime
Salty (Watre + Fire) Sea Salt, Rock Salt
Pungent (Fire + Aire) Spices such as ginger, cloves and black pepper
All the foods mentioned above promote digestion.
5. Ginger Pickle for Digestion 🍯: I love this pickle and here is a simple recipe:
This is my favorite recipe for digestion.
Take a palm-sized piece of ginger, peel and grate it + add a dash of salt + 1 lime juice and raw honey. Mix it well and store it and voila, you have a homemade remedy to help your digestion!
Vayu or Air Element in Ayurveda: Vayu Mahabhuta or Air Element is the second in the sequence of elements and can be understood by movement. You can understand this element only through touch as it is invisible.
Vayu Mahabhuta can be applied as following: ⠀
1. The air element is the immediate source of life. If we don’t breathe air, it can kill us faster than any other element. Thus, Vayu (air) is synonymous with that of prana (life energy).⠀⠀
2. Vata dosha formed by the combination of Space + Air elements is known as the King of doshas due to its ability to move itself as well as the other two doshas Pitta and Kapha immobile. The Air element gives Vata dosha the ability to move.⠀⠀⠀
3. There are three taste that dominate air element:
Pungent (Air + Fire_ Cloves and Black Pepper
Bitter (Air + Ether) Arugula, Kale
Astringent (Earth + Air) Legumes + BEans
These foods should be avoided if you have a Vata dominant body type.⠀⠀⠀
4. Coffee addiction: Coffee is the most common stimulant in today's world. It is bitter, clear and Vata aggravating.
Try to avoid coffee if you are Vata dosha as it can have effects of fatigue, insomnia as well as make you feel anxious. If you like coffee, my suggestion is to add cream to balance its aggaracvation for vata dosha.
In addition to cream, coconut oil + grass fed butter helps as well to help with aggravation of vata dosha.
5. Pranayama is simple exercise to control your breath by practice of Hatha yoga. According to hindu scriptures, control of your breath controls mind and concentration. Calming and controlling the breath can thus calm and control the mind. Try to practice simple nostril breathing as it can calm you.
Akash or Space in Ayurveda:
Creating Optimal Space within***⠀ ⠀ Ether or Space is the mother of all elements as it holds all the other elements within it serving as a container. Akash or Ether can be understood as the essence of emptiness.⠀Ether or Space can be understood by its characteristics of being invisible and unobstructed. ⠀ ⠀
Applications of Akash Mahabhuta can be seen as: ⠀
1. Ayurvedic dietary principles of eating to 2/3rd your stomach capacity and leaving 1/3 space for the activity of digestive juices.⠀
2. Fasting or Langhana creates space for your body to do its work when you minimize the workload by restricting food/ water and thus can help digest Ama (digestive toxins) as well as Meda (Fat). This is also the reason for the popularity of Intermittent Fasting today.⠀
3. Prolonged self-administered detoxes can make you feel spacey, ungrounded, distracted due to excess of Akash Mahabhuta + Vayu Mahabhuta leading to Vata aggravation.⠀⠀
4. Bitter taste is the only taste that has dominance of Ether element in its composition. This is why Bitter taste is the most cleansing of the 6 tastes and can help develop mental clarity when used optimally.⠀⠀
5. Morning pages (writing 3 pages early in the morning on waking up) helps you detox your mind and declutter your emotions by helping you release emotional baggage.
Mahabhuta or Element of Water is number four in Ayurveda elements. This element can be tasted unlike Vayu or Ap element.
Ap (Water) Element in Ayurveda: Applications of Ap Mahabhuta can be seen as : ⠀⠀⠀⠀
1. The water element 💧is the primary source of nourishment in our body.
It helps us become calm, cool, soothe, soften and moisturize our body.
2. Kapha Dosha is the principle of cohesion in the body and is formed by the combination of Water and Earth element.⠀⠀
3. Water element is crucial to our sense of taste and without water element there would be no taste.
Two tastes of sweet and salt are the most predominant tastes in water element. If you have aggravated Vata, it can make you crave for these two tastes to balance your Vata dosha.Try not to consume too much salt and sugar as it can lead to water retention in your body and make you lethargic and indigestion. If you are Kapha dosha, it can result in yeast infection as well as indigestion.
4. Water element is crucial to Hydration as well as Lubrication. Water helps hydrate our bodies while the fats and oils lubricate. Thus, water is responsible for creating softness, moisture, calmness in the body and helps pacify Vata as well as Pitta and nourishes Kapha.⠀⠀⠀⠀
5. Charak Samhita also enlists water as the best amongst substances that have a calming and soothing effect. Typically, we give a glass of water to a person who is anxious or stressed out. Drinking enough water is also essential to create fluidity and ensure that your emotions don’t get stuck.⠀
Prithvi Mahabhuta or Earth Element in Ayurveda for Creating Optimal Nourishment⠀⠀⠀⠀
Prithvi Mahabhuta or Earth Element is the fifth in the sequence of elements and pertains to the sense of smell. ⠀⠀⠀
Applications of Prithvi Mahabhuta can be seen as : ⠀⠀⠀⠀
1. Earth element brings stability and structure and is responsible for strength as well as nourishment of our body.
2. Kapha Dosha, the principle of cohesion in the body and is formed by the combination of Water and Earth element where earth provides the stability and the inertia to it.⠀⠀⠀
3. Critical to our smell sense; if we use any fragrance, it can help enhance the earth element. This is the reason why essential oils can help to calm our senses via smell and provide more stability by nourishing the earth element.⠀⠀⠀
4. Of the six tastes- Sweet, Sour and Astringent are predominant in the Earth element. Earth element enriching foods help to build muscle as well add strength and stability to the body.
Earth + Water = Sweet
Earth + Air = Astringent
Earth + Fire = sour
5. Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha that is known to vitalize the body, support muscle growth as well as promote strength has a dominance of Earth element. If you like to nourish earth element, you can try to have Ashwagandha with warm milk in the morning when you wake up.