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The 5 Elements of Ayurveda

what are the five elements
Written by Jackie Parker

Ayurveda is based on the belief that everything is made up of the 5 elements.

What are the 5 elements? They are Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.

To help you understand, think of the elements as principles of density. (Ether being the most subtle and earth being the most gross.)

  • When matter is in its subtlest form and it appears there is only space, that’s ether.
  • If there is any kind of movement within space, that’s air.
  • Any time matter gives off heat and light, transformation occurs, that’s fire.
  • When matter is fluid and liquid, that’s water.
  • If matter is in a solid state or hard, that’s earth.

Every object and person are unique because they contain varying ratios of the five elements.

The 5 Elements of Ayurveda

Now you understand that the 5 elements of Ayurveda are not really things, rather, they are ideas or qualities of energy.

Ether

the 5 elements of ayurveda

Ether is the idea of empty space. It’s the space between all things and separates one thing from another, and yet paradoxically space connects everything.

It is the place of the mind where all ideas or possibilities come from.

In the body, it’s the space between organs, cells or any hollow area.

We know an element because of its qualities. The qualities of Ether are light, expansive, subtle, open, smooth and soft. The more Ether you have in your body/mind, the more clear and creative you will be.

Air

the 5 elements of ayurveda

Air is the idea of motion. It represents all the forces in the world that have the ability to move things. Gravity, thermodynamics, propulsion, celestial forces of the moon and tides are all a function of the air principle.

In the body, we cannot see air, but we can see the effects of it. Nerve impulses, circulation, joint movement, nutrients into and out of cells and the elimination of waste are all governed by the air principle.

The qualities of Air are cold, dry, rough, erratic and clear.

Fire

the 5 elements of ayurveda

Fire is the idea of heat, light, and transformation. It’s the force that transforms one thing to another.

In the body, fire is necessary to digest and break down food. The fire principle is what allows food to transform into body tissue. Fire also creates intelligence and understanding in the mind. (This is what we mean when we say someone is “bright.”)

Water

the 5 elements of ayurveda

Water is the idea of fluidity and flow.

In the body, it’s the plasma, urine, saliva, fluid secretions, and the fluid around cells.

The qualities of water in the mind are responsible for deep feelings of attachment, love, empathy, and compassion. If you have an abundance of water in your constitution, you are more likely you are to attach yourself to people and things if you are
out-of-balance.

Its qualities are cool, heavy, and flowing.

 

Earth

the 5 elements of ayurveda

Earth is the idea of solidity or stability.

In the body, it’s all solid structure like bones, muscles, organs, skin, hair, and teeth.

The more earth you have in your constitution the heavier and denser your body will be. Earth in the mind creates a steadiness when you are in balance and stubbornness when you are out-of-balance.

The qualities of the earth element are cool, dry, heavy, stable, slow, and rough.

Elements Combine to Form Your Unique Constitution

The proportion of the 5 elements in your body/mind is unique to you. They combine and determine your constitution. Your health depends on keeping a balance with each of these elements.

What’s Your Type?

The next step is to determine your doshas, constitution or Prakriti. (your unique combination of elements.) Your constitution was determined at conception and will stay with you through your life.

Understanding your constitution will help you understand yourself better

When you know your body/mind type you can work towards creating ideal health and optimum weight for you. Take the next step now and discover your unique combination of the elements. It’s like your DNA or fingerprint in that it never changes. Take the test now.

the 5 elements

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About the author

Jackie Parker

5 Comments

  • Interesting! I have studied acupuncture and in Chinese medicine, an understanding of the elements also apply. Although there are some differences, the way elements interact to maintain a balance is quite similar.
    I have always found interesting how alternative medicines try to make the human connect with nature and its elements, while allopathic medicine tries to convince us that humans have nothing to do with the environment that surrounds us.

    • Right? Thank goodness consciousness is shifting so that we’re more in tune with our bodies and our environment. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • Hi Jackie,
    Great website and I took the time, thoroughly piqued to take that Dosha test. I can’t wait for the results which would be emailed to me.

    In reading the article itself while I easily could identify the air, fire, water and earth, it made perfect sense that the 5th element – ether has to exist as well.

    Space in it’s purest form as you stated in the article is ether. Between all things there is space and it was an “oh yeah” feeling after I read that part of the article.

    It also makes perfect sense that all 5 elements combined form a person’s own unique composition. And it would make quite practical that in order for a person to achieve the best overall health regarding both mind and body that he/she keep in balance each of the 5 elements in his/her life.

    A super article, Jackie and one that certainly caused me to sit back and reflect a bit.

    Jeff

    • Thanks Jeff! Once you begin to look at life through the 5 elements, life gets way more interesting. The concepts of the elements are everywhere because they are the building blocks of life. See if you can start to notice. 🙂

  • I’m waiting for my results to come through and am intrigued to find out what they’ll say. I do agree with the concept of the 5 element and can see myself as mainly water. I’ll do some further research on this.

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