What are the 5 elements in Ayurveda

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

The practice of Ayurveda (or "Science of Life"), is made up of the understanding that there are 5 elements in nature that work within the practice. So what are the 5 elements in Ayurveda?

We are going to dive deeper into one of the key principles of Ayurveda which is called Pancha Mahabhutas- The 5 Elements.

Ayurveda views the human body as well as all forms in our universe I've been made up of different combinations of the five elements:

  • Space

  • Air

  • Fire

  • Water

  • Earth

These elements are the core of Ayurvedic principles, as they represent ideas fundamental to nature and matter. Together, they are a collection of qualities that form the building blocks of nature.

In order to understand Ayurveda, it is essential to first understand these five elements. According to Ayurveda, the components and functioning of the cosmos are similar to our body components and its functions.

A human body like everything is the universe contains all five elements working together.

as I will explain each element a bit deeper, use your body as a frame of reference. In my upcoming course, Ayurveda in Business, we will apply each element to your business.

In the next episode of this Ayurveda serie, we will speak about the doshas so it is important before speaking about doshas to understand the elements.

Element 1 - Space

This element comes first because it is the subtlest of all five.

Everybody has lots of space in it. This is how you can see space. for instance, your skin, which is your largest organ, is exposed to the qualities of space all the time. As human beings, connecting to space was once instinctual, however in this day and age, with so much artificial distraction and information bombarding our senses, humans have largely lost the ability to connect to this divine source.

From emerges the vibration which takes the form of sound in the ear. Sound and Space are inseparable, so the ear is considered to be the sense organ of space. The mouth is its organ of action.

PRACTICE TO CONNECT WITH SPACE: Chant mantra and listen to the sounds of nature, animals around you.

Element 2: Air

This is the second element because it evolves from Space. Anywhere there is space, air will move. Anywhere there is movement, there is air. Space is passive while Air moves around.

It represents the capacity for motion and all forces and movements which occur as a result.

Air is the element of inspiration, freedom and intention, bringing clarity and form to our ideas by way of movement and exploration. Air exists within the human body as the breath, prana, life force or chi. It is the element that enables the force of life to move through our body, vitalising us with the energy of the universe.

Air is connected to the sense of touch. Touch and air are inseparable, so the skin which receives the touch is considered to be the sense organ of the element air. The hands through which we reach out are its organ of action.

PRACTICE TO CONNECT WITH AIR: Pranayama is the practice of using the breath to change our state of being, simple yet profound. Placing our attention on the breath as we’re walking, sitting, or laying down brings life to our entire being. Becoming aware is the key. Practice 2 minutes of mindful breathing, set an alarm and have no attachment to any thought that arises, be aware, let it go.

Element 3: Fire

The third element is fire which evolves from space and air. Just as the sun is the generator of energy for the earth, fire is the generator of energy for the body.

The fire of the sun warms the Earth as it does a human body. The core of the earth is fire, just as is the human core with the stomach and small intestine.

Anywhere there is heat in the body comes from fire.

Fire is the governing force of our energetic body, our power and identity.

We invoke Fire to empower ourselves in times of transition, to embrace change, to let go and remind ourselves we are always growing, because change is the only constant in life.

We need fire to cultivate the energy of confidence and clarity to make conscious choices

Fire is connected to vision and the sense of sight. Fire is the primordial form of perception, light, and vision. It provides the light for perception. The eyes are the vehicle through which light is received and perception takes place. Hence, eyes are considered to be the sense organ of fire.

PRACTICE TO CONNECT WITH FIRE: Light a candle and watch the flame using your sense of sight (connected with the element of Fire). It is called Trataka (त्राटक Trāṭak: "look, gaze") is a yogic purification and a tantric method of meditation that involves staring at a single point such as a candle flame. It is said to bring energy to the "third eye" and promote various psychic abilities.

Element 4: Water

This is the fourth element because it comes out of the previous three. Fire causes air to become dense, giving us the element of water.

Water is all over the planet in oceans, rivers, lakes, the cells of plants and humans. As you probably know some 80% of the body is made up of water and you are filled with liquids.

The element of creativity, relationships, flow, trust, allowance, womb and vitalising force of our emotional body. Water helps us develop our emotional intelligence by reminding us to let go of wanting to change what cannot be changed, practicing to accept with grace.

Water exists in the human body as the rivers of life, blood, intra-cellular fluid and lymphatic system keeping us vital.

The water element manifests as taste, which in Ayurveda is represented by the balance of six specific tastes in your food: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. we will not expand on this here but it is important to note it. The tongue is considered to be the sense organ of water. The taste buds of the tongue work only in the presence of water or saliva.

PRACTICE TO CONNECT WITH WATER: Connect with a natural body of water, either by jumping in the ocean, a river or a lake. If you can’t access a natural body of water, a shower or long luxurious bath is a good second option.

Element 5: Earth

Earth evolves out of the four other elements, that’s why it is the fifth element we are covering in Ayurveda. The earth element represents the matter of the universe. This is a solid structure of the body and the easiest element conceptually to wrap your head around.

Earth gives form to the human body and all creation. Earth, the element of strength, stability and vitalising force of our physical body.

In nature, Earth is anything solid such a trees. Indeed, the greatest example of growth, stability and strength can be seen in the most ancient of living things, trees that grow for thousands of years. Let's consider it's roots, spreading deep into the ground for earth nourishment, growing tall and wide for nourishment from sunlight. The stronger its roots become, the more expansive the tree grows, and vice versa. We grow our roots deep and strong by having healthy mind, body, emotions and spiritual practices.

Having strong roots is one thing, however being discerning about the nourishment you absorb is another thing altogether.

Earth is connected to the sense of smell and our nose which is the vehicle through which smell manifests.

PRACTICE TO CONNECT WITH EARTH: Take your shoes off and ground yourself barefoot on the Earth and close your eyes to smell all the fragrance that are around you.

Final thoughts

It is important to remember that the same five elements are moving around in all of us and in everything. We are all made of the same stuff which is why Ayurveda views the human organism as a microcosm in the whole universe. It is the same in everything, business, aliments, and life.

If you’d like an intro, get my ‘Align with the Elements course’ and to dive deeper join the waitlist of my Ayurveda in Business course which will be released for Love Friday (aka Black Friday).

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