The 5 External Elements Within Us

The 5 External Elements Within Us

In the ancient healing science of Ayurveda, the five elements are discussed like philosophical concepts.

The elements are the basic principles of the Universe . . . and they represent the primary components of all living things. Imagine a breeze flowing through the trees, the softness of the earth beneath your feet, the vastness of the sky, the feel of water on your skin . . . the warmth of fire. When we look to the beauty of nature, we find that five elements provide a foundation for what we know to exist. Ayurveda recognizes the elements, Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth, as the building blocks of all that encompasses the material world. Here is an example you may be able to relate to . . . Let's say it's autumn where you live and you are constantly exposed to excessive wind. You often become cold and have dry skin this time of year. The wind, in Ayurveda, can cause an imbalance of the air element, so you may start to see the element of air increase in unpleasant ways as well, including ailments of the digestive system . . . such as gas and/or constipation. However, through a greater understanding of Ayurveda, we can identify more complex associations and discover specific treatments for any excess element. For instance, the emotion of fear affects the nervous system . . . and increases the air element in the body and mind. And over time the imbalance of extra air (fear and worry) is likely to create coldness and dry skin. Elements are more than just the mere state they exist in. Water, for example, has more to it than the substance humans call H2O. It also embodies the physical qualities, biological functions, and energetic properties. Since water is liquid, it is heavy, soft, and cohesive. It governs all our bodily fluids and is even necessary for chemical reactions to take place in nature. On the subtler levels of the mind and emotions, Water relates to a calm personality and promotes love, compassion, and contentment. This is the cycle of nature and body, of element and emotion, of all things together.

The 5 Elements in Ayurveda are:

Earth, the principle of inertia

Water, the principle of cohesion

Fire, the principle of radiance

Wind, the principle of vibration

Ether, the principle of pervasiveness

These elements can be assigned to different regions in the body and are each connected the five senses. Joined together as pairs, they can manifest in a dosha, known as a body’s constitution in Ayurveda.

Earth (“Prthvi”)

The earth element, represents the solid state of matter . . . and along with water, is actually responsible for the physical constitution of the body. Bones, teeth, and tissues are all considered as earth elements. Earth connects to the nose and the sense of smell. Water and Earth form the kapha dosha.

Water (“Ap”)

Liquid states of matter and it indicates change or instability. Water is responsible for the fluid metabolism in the body, therefore blood, lymph and other fluids are considered as water elements. Water connects to the tongue and the sense of taste. Water is the dominant element in the kapha dosha . . . and is also present in the pitta dosha.

Fire (“Tejas”)

The fire element represents form without substance and it has the power to transfer the state of any substance. In the body it is responsible for digestion and perception and connected to the eyes and therefore sight. Fire is the dominant element in the pitta dosha.

Wind (“Vayu”)

Wind or air represents the gaseous state of matter. It indicates mobility and is dynamic. In the body, the wind element is responsible for the respiratory system and necessary for all energy transfers as air is the key element needed for fire to burn. Wind connects to the skin which perceives touch. Air is the dominant element in the vata dosha.

Ether / Space (“Akasa”)

The element of ether represents the space in which everything takes place. It relates to all hollow or empty places in the body, such as all our channels, pores, and the ears that perceive sound. Together with the air, this element forms the vata dosha. Ancient Health Care believes Ayurveda is more than a philosophy . . . it's a movement. Their motto states, “From nature to planetary movements to energetic frequencies, we can harness to gain a deeper connection to ourselves, others, and our environment. We understand symptoms and ailments are not enemies to be destroyed; they are messengers encouraging us to pay attention to our basic needs.” In this harmony, the five elements give meaning to our delicate relationship between our bodies and nature. We easily utilize plants, herbs, minerals, and water because these substances are the same in composition and character to our own underlying composition. As the yogic saying goes, Namaste, we are one.