the five elements (mahabhutas)

Ayurveda views the physical body along with everything in the Universe as being composed of five primary elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether or empty space. These elements are expressed in the body and mind as qualities of stability/support (earth), feeling/fluidity (water), heat and metabolism (fire), respiration and circulation (air), space and lightness (ether). The proportions of these elements within and around us have profound influences on how we experience our physical, psychological, and spiritual selves.

Earth – grounding, stability, concentration

Water – fluidity, gracefulness, cooling, calming, feeling centered awareness

Fire – rhythmic movement and breathing, intensity, heating, external awareness

Air – movement, lightness, flexibility, sensation, sensitivity, memory

Space – Awareness, expansiveness, witnessing consciousness

People will often gravitate toward food and activities that reflect or increase an element(s) tone that they are familiar with. A good example is a person with an abundance of the air element might choose a light, ethereal foods and activities while a fire type might choose intense, precise, heating/spicy food and activities. It is important to work in a way that “feels right” but also consciously cultivates complementary traits, such as grounding and stillness for the air type, or coolness and relaxation for the fire type in order to strike a balance.