The 5 Elements in Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, you are viewed as a unique individual made up of five primary elements. These elements are:

  • Ether (space)
  • Air
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Earth

To understand your body you must understand these five elements. Ayurveda explains that all matter in the universe is made up of five elemental, cosmic energies or building blocks. These elements are representative of states of matter. This concept of the five elements lies at the very heart of Ayurvedic science.

These five elements are present within each being. Because these elements are present in the environment, they will in turn have an influence on you. The foods you eat and the weather are just two examples of the presence of these elements.

The 3 Doshas are Derived from the 5 Elements 

Vata Dosha

Vata is a combination of the elements space and air. It is dry, light, cold, mobile, active, clear, astringent, and its energy is dispersing. Vata governs the principle of movement and can therefore be seen as the force which directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration and elimination. Thus, Vata controls some of the basic body processes such as cell division, the heart, breathing, nervous system and the mind.

 

Pitta Dosha

Pitta represents the elements of fire and water. It has evolved from the functions of fire in nature. As fire cooks, digests or destroys everything that it comes across according to its strength; similarly, Pitta is the basic energy-generating constituent necessary for all the metabolic operations of the body. The transformation of foods into nutrients that the body assimilates is an example of a Pitta function. It is also responsible for metabolism in the organ and tissue systems as well as cellular metabolism.

Pitta is hot, sharp, light, liquid, sour, oily and has a spreading quality. Pitta types have a medium frame and good muscle tone. They are likely intense, energetic, dynamic, perfectionist and focused individuals. When Pitta is in balance, they make great teachers, leaders and guides.

 

Kapha Dosha

Kapha dosha combines the elements water and earth. It has heavy, slow, cool, oily, liquid, dense, thick, static and cloudy qualities. Kapha means the adhesive material which in the body acts as the assembling constituent. The gel like substance between your joints can be considered as Kapha for understanding purpose.

Kapha is responsible for growth, immunity, strength and offers protection; cerebral-spinal fluid protects the brain and spinal column and is a type of Kapha found in the body.

Kapha types tend to have larger bones, thicker muscles and fat, slower metabolism, abundant wavy hair, big attractive eyes, put on weight easily, and may have cool, clammy skin. Kapha types also talk and move slower but with grace and dignity. When balanced, there is consistency, dedication, loyalty, unconditional love, calmness, nurture, devotion forgiveness, love, generosity and compassion.
 

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What is Health

The Ayurvedic definition of health is that state in which your structure and function is operating optimally and you are in a state of physical, mental and spiritual equilibrium.

The Ayurvedic state of health

  • Vata, Pitta, Kapha are in equilibrium with regard to your individual body-mind type (Prakrti).
  • All seven tissues are in the proper state of strength and integrity.
  • Your digestive fire is balanced resulting in proper appetite, digestion and assimilation.
  • Waste materials are produced and eliminated in a regular manner.
  • Your sense organs are functioning normally and your mind is undisturbed.
  • Happiness and contentment is the experience of life.  

Ayurvedic Principles

  • All things in the universe (both living and nonliving) are joined together.
  • Every human being contains elements that are found in the universe.
  • All people are born in a state of balance within themselves and in relation to the universe.
  • This state of balance is disrupted by the processes of life. Disruptions can be physical, emotional, spiritual or a combination. These imbalances weaken the body and make you susceptible to disease.
  • Health is good if your interaction with the immediate environment is effective and wholesome. 

Prakrti

The word Prakrti means natural or original form and source. Pra can be translated as the beginning or source of origin, and krti means composition or creation. Thus, prakrti refers to the innate constitution of your body and mind.

The five elements and the three Doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) constitute Prakrti and is determined at the moment of conception depending on the predominant combination of the elements. You are born with a basic Prakrti which determines your body type, personality and tendency to illness. While your basic Prakrti does not change, except for very rare circumstances, aspects thereof change with age, seasons and geo-climatic conditions. By understanding your Prakrti, you can anticipate your disease tendencies and patterns and learn how to cope with them in order to prevent becoming sick. During Ayurvedic consultations with Heidi Nordlund, you will gain the understanding of your Ayurvedic body-mind type.

Superficially it may appear that some types are better than others. However, each type has its positive and negative aspects. There is no "wrong" type, and you should not desire to be of a different one. You need to start from wherever you are. This means that you need to understand where you stand and accept it. Then plan intelligently to attain the healthiest state by realizing your potential. The Ayurvedic understanding of Prakrti provides a way to do this - to analyze and assess where you stand and to provide guidance to attain perfect health. You have an inherent tendency to move in the direction of self-healing and balance.

The backbone of Ayurveda is the principle that health is dependent on the balance of your body-mind type. Understanding your innate constitution allows for comprehending the imbalances that are going on and how optimal health is restored. Thus, assessing your Prakrti is a guide for intelligent action to tell in which direction you should move and how to improve your physical and mental well-being.

Prevention - Better than Cure

The essence of Ayurveda is prevention and Ayurveda offers extensive recommendations, procedures and techniques to protect your health.

In the course of normal, everyday life, your body easily accumulates toxins. This may be due to stress, improper diet, chemicals in the foods you eat or drink or other lifestyle-related factors. Toxins causesill health and ageing. Learning how to avoid accumulating these toxins is a key factor in maintaining your health and longevity.

In Ayurveda, diet is very important and is regarded as the foundation of good health: food is medicine and medicine is food. Which diet is suitable for you and your health depends upon your individual body-mind type and current imbalances. Ayurveda offers the answers to which foods are appropriate for you to eat and which to avoid, how and when to eat. The old slogan that breakfast is the most important meal of the day may be a good advice for some but very bad for others.

Ayurveda advocates a joy-filled life and takes into account modern realities as well as the importance of enjoying what you eat - whatever it is. Ayurvedic consultations offers recommendations and guidelines and is not to be taken as inflexible dictation.