According to Ayurveda five elements provide the foundation for the entire physical world, from a grain of sand to the complex physiology of the human body. These elements—Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth—are the building blocks of all material existence.
Ether (akasha) is the space in which everything happens. It is the “home” for all objects in the universe. It is the space all the other elements fill. It has the qualities of cold, light, immobile, subtle. It is omnipresent and expansive. It has no limits.
Within the body it represents the hollow of the intestines, blood vessels, the bladder and the space within the lungs. The sense organ is sound.
Air (vayu) is existence without form. It is the gaseous form of matter that is dynamic. It has qualities of cool, rough, mobile, flowing, hard, clear and dry. You may be familiar with Prana—the vital life force. Without it life is not possible.
Air allows blood to circulate, breath to move, nerve impulses to glide and thoughts to flow. The sense organ is touch.
Fire (agni) has the power to transform the state of any substance. It has the capacity of heat and light. It has the qualities of hot, sharp, dry, rough, light, soft and clear.
It generates energy within the body and governs digestion, assimilation and perception. It ignites our intellect. The sense organ is sight.
Water (apas) is the cooling element. It is necessary for the survival of all living things: the protector. It is the bridge between gaseous state of matter and the solid state. It provides the body with basic nourishment and soothes all pain and inflammation. Water is cool, stable, heavy, flowing, dull, cloudy, soft and smooth.
Within our bodies, water stablises the flow of neurological impulses, protects joints from friction, keeps our mucous membranes from drying out. The tongue provides the ability to taste the world around us. Our taste buds only work with saliva, when water is present. The sense organ is taste.
Earth (prithvi) represents the solid, stable state of matter and the structure of the universe. It cradles and holds all living creatures of the planet, offering food and shelter.
The earth element provides the structure for healthy growth and development of bodily tissue, our bones and our muscles. The qualities of earth are cool, dense, dull, heavy, gross, stable, clear and hard. The sense organ is smell.
The Elements in You
We as individuals are a unique expression of this consciousness.
All five elements are present in all of us, but the proportions vary from person to person. This concept of constitution (prakruti in Sanskrit) is the main framework at the very heart of Ayurveda. Our individual bodily intelligences or dosha are known as vata, pitta and kapha.
Prakruti, your essential constitution, remains unchanged throughout our lifetime and is genetically determined from the moment of conception; even the diet, lifestyle and emotional state of your parents influence your prakruti.
Prakruti is thus your personal blueprint for this life!
Doshas govern times of the day, seasons in the year, times in our life cycle from birth to death. They govern specific organs and how our bodily systems function. They represent climate and environment and are used to explain your personal circumstances.
Understanding our constitution plays a major role in how we live our lives effectively and how we can implement self-care through regimes, diet and lifestyle choices to bring ourselves back to balance in times of stress, dis-ease and within the changing seasons, including as we age.