Elements & Doshas -
Five Elements and Three Doshas

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.

 

The Doshas

Doshas are biological humors that structure systems and govern the psycho-physiological functions of every individual. Each dosha is a combination of two elements. At the moment of conception a person receives a unique combination of these doshas from their parents, known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. This combination exists in every cell of a person’s body and creates their constitutional nature (prakriti). As a person grows and develops their amount of Vata, Pitta, Kapha their system will also be affected by their diet, environment, emotions and lifestyle.

Vata - is the principle of kinetic energy in the body. It mainly influences the nervous system and controls all body movement. Elementally, this dosha relates to the way air and space interact in the body/mind.

Kapha - is the principle of potential energy and controls lubrication and stability. It mainly pertains to the tissues and wastes (which Vata ‘moves’ around). Elementally, this dosha relates to the way water and earth interact in the body/mind.

Pitta – controls the body’s balance of kinetic and potential energy. It influences all processes of digestion and transformation through its activity in the metabolic and endocrine systems. Elementally, this dosha relates to how fire acts in the body mind.

Ayurveda classifies each person’s psycho-physical constitution in terms of the doshas. The biological implications of the doshas are horizontal in nature and do not imply anything about the spiritual evolution of an individual. Whether Vata, Kapha, or Pitta one may be a saint or a sinner.

 
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