Ayurveda Elements - Healing Principles of Health
In Ayurvedic philosophy, the Five Great Elements (Pancha Mahabhuta) make up our natural world. These Five Ayurveda Elements can also be attributed to the different manifestations of Human Consciousness because of their similarly clear, subtle, mystical, and omnipresent qualities. The relationship between the Five Elements is a dance amongst themselves and originates from the First Element, Ether, otherwise known as Space. In turn, Ether becomes Air causing friction to create Fire, becoming denser into Water and finally coagulating into Earth. Therefore, all Five Elements become contained in Earth as one.
Just as the natural world provides macro-ecology, the individual experiences a micro-ecology reflected by the natural world around them. Ayurvedic principles provide the tools to unite our inner ecology with our external ecology to build harmony. The principles aim to bring focus and balance to the Five Ayurveda Elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Ether/Space) both internally and externally to restore and bring forth optimum mental and physical health emotionally and spiritually.
This article will highlight the Five Great Ayurvedic Elements of the three Doshas and your Constitution, explaining why each is unique and how you can discover their qualities during an Ayurvedic retreat, both inside and outside.
Table of Contents
What are The Five Ayurveda Elements?
The Ayurveda elements are Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Ether.
Akasha (Ether, Space)
The Ether Element, known in Sanskrit as The Akasha is considered to be the first and most subtle element. In Sanskrit, it translates to “all-enclosing, omnipresent or all-pervading.” It permeates through the cosmos and is the omnipotent force for all life, sound, vibration and creation. It is the creative life force energy that gives drive and consciousness to existence. All the openings, passages, pathways and movements in our body are what correspond to the Akasha element. There is space within our ears so we can hear sound. There is space within our throat so we can swallow. There is space within our eyes so we can look at our environment. There is space between our joints so we can move, run, walk and dance. There is space within our hearts to keep the blood flowing.
Akasha is more than just the absence of matter, it is the original form of existence to which everything, and everyone formed and to which everything, and everyone shall return to.
The Air Element, known in Sanskrit as Vayu, not only means air as a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and other gases but also as a dimension of movement. Out of all of the 5 Ayurvedic Elements, Vayu is the most accessible and easiest element to gain some mastery of. Most yogic practices involve an element of breath work, called pranayama. Prana means life force in Sanskrit and is the most available to our existence every moment of the day. Without Air, we have no breath or ability to move through life. The impact of the air that we breathe is very immediate. Most people can’t go without air for more than three-and-a-half to five minutes before causing serious damage or suffocation. The qualities of Air evoke movement, ease, lightness, speed but also unpredictability and flightiness.
Tejas or Agni (Fire)
The Fire Element, known in Sanskrit as Agni, is essential for your health. Agni is the intelligent force of each cell, each tissue and every system within the physical body. Metaphorically speaking, fire stands for intelligence, wit, clarity, truth, presence, and light. The element of fire lives in the physical body, keeping us “burning” and moving. This fire directs the release of hormones via the endocrine system and oversees the digestive, metabolic, and regulatory functions. Ayurveda identifies that Fire also resides in an even more subtle place: our minds. In our minds, fire provides clarity, illumination, and truth. This subtle aspect of fire is called Tejas in Ayurvedic philosophy, and it directs all mental, emotional, and spiritual activity, including the crucial mental actions of discernment and discipline. Fire is the element responsible for burning, clearing, cleansing, transforming and illuminating, but also for destruction, rage, power, impatience and recklessness.
The Water element, known in Sanskrit as “Apas”, is the Fourth great element and evolves from Ether or Space, Air and Fire because it contains all aspects of the other three elements. Apps represent fluidic matter and provide the body with basic nourishment, protection against dissolution, give motion and soothe pain and inflammation. We as humans are made up of 70-75% water. It is the element that primarily protects our body and provides it with its most fundamental nourishment. Water is healing; it protects, nourishes, and binds the body together. By its qualities, water is cooling, hydrating, heavy, smooth, stagnant or inflow. It is the antidote to the symptoms that have the opposite of these qualities such as deep sensitivity, emotionally ungrounded, dehydrated, on-edge, low self-esteem or if your heart has become hardened.
The Earth element, known in Sanskrit as “Prithvi” is the fifth and final great element. It is the final element because it evolves out of all five elements and contains the essence of all. Earth represents the densification of all matter until it becomes solid. Prithvi by its quality is stable, heavy, dry, dense, hard and tangible. When you are feeling ungrounded and unearthed you may feel flighty, chaotic or stuck in your head.
The Five Ayurveda Elements and their Relationship to the Doshas
The Five Great Elements exist within all of us, and they all combine to form what is known in Ayurveda as a Dosha which forms your overall Constitution. The Dosha is the basic governing principle that forms differently in each individual’s overall makeup, in Ayurveda we call this Your Constitution. There are 3 Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which are predetermined from the moment of your conception. An Ayurvedic doctor at Sen Wellness can guide you to understand what your Dosha is based on a series of questions about your lifestyle, food habits and energetic levels.
Vata is formed from the Air & Ether Elements
Its primary principle is movement and flow. Vata is that impulsive, spontaneous ease that is light-footed and gone with the wind in your hair. Vata resides in the colon, large intestines, pelvis, lower back and thighs. It is the breeze that ignites your digestion, eliminating toxins and waste. Yet it is also responsible for the flowing movement in your body, the metabolism and cellular behaviour. It is the fuel to your fire (Agni), your intellect, your passions and your intuition as it is also an integral part of your nervous system. As described earlier regarding the movements of the Elements and their relationship to one another – It also has a very key part in determining the other two Doshas; Pitta and Kapha.
Kapha is formed from the Earth & Water Elements
With its cooling and soothing properties, Water gives primary protection to the body against too much heat (Pitta) and movement (Vata). However, Kapha provides the underlying structure and foundation making way for the growth and development of matter and tissue in the body. As Kapha increases in the body, there is also an increase in thickening fluids alongside the structure of the body. Kapha provides protection and lubrication to all the body organs in the form of mucous, brain fluid and synovial fluid for the joints. Kapha mostly resides in the upper body including the respiratory system, upper stomach, mucous membranes, joints and head.
Pitta is formed from the Fire & Water Elements
The main attribute of Pitta is that of transformation. Its qualities are hot, light and flowing. Imagine Pitta as the caterpillar evolving into a beautiful butterfly out of its chrysalis or the boiling water that steams and evaporates. Pitta, like Agni, is passionate and sharp. It manifests in you as your inner confidence and passions. It is found within the body in the stomach and small intestine. It is the driving force behind your internal temperature, but also your intellect, intuition and emotions. Pitta is responsible for your metabolism, mostly impacting the blood, eyes, skin, liver, stomach, spleen and gallbladder.
The Doshas and their Imbalances
Vata is a combination of Air and Ether, it is without Fire, Water or Earth. Therefore, its properties associated with Vata dosha include dryness, coldness, mobility and lightness. It is responsible for the Central Nervous System, respiratory system and general mobility in the body. When Vata is in balance, it gives clarity, energy, enthusiasm and creativity. However, when it is out of balance it can cause nervousness, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and digestion issues.
Pitta is a combination of Fire and Water. It has properties that include heat, a build-up of acidity or tartness and the ability to spread (think like Wild Fire). It is responsible for your metabolism, the endocrine system, speech fluency, motivation, intellect and good mental and physical digestion. When it is out of balance it can cause rage, irritability, impatience, stress and frustration. It can also cause skin irritations and gut problems.
Kapha is a combination of Water and Earth. Its properties include coldness, stability, weight and oiliness. It is responsible for the immune system and the lubrication of the body. When it is in good balance it supports strength, stamina, motivation, a healthy immune system and strong mental stability. However, when it is out of balance, there can be symptoms of lethargy, weight gain, stubbornness and depression.
How an Ayurveda Retreat can help Balance the Elements
When you arrive at The Sanctuary, each guest will have a private consultation with our Resident Ayurvedic Doctor. The primary focus for our practitioners at Sen Wellness is to discover the root cause of dis-ease, whether that be due to certain lifestyle choices, stress, medical prerequisites or emotional imbalances. You will then be prescribed a comprehensive, personalised programme of treatments and herbal medicines depending on your constitution and any imbalances present. Ayurvedic practitioners share the belief that disease (dis-ease) begins from within. The emotional and mental dis-ease that forms in the guise of anxiety, depression or stress perpetuates a build-up of negativity in the system, which can lead to a manifestation of painful physical ailments such as muscle aches, digestion problems, lethargy or skin irritations. The symptoms of these ailments can be identified by our highly qualified Ayurvedic doctors who can diagnose even the most subtle issues forming in the body. These symptoms are then identified and addressed with bodywork treatments such as massage, diet, herbal remedies, yoga and breathwork exercises.
The 5 Treatments you can expect at an Ayurvedic Retreat with Sen Wellness
- Ayurvedic Massage
- Herbal Medicine
This is the holistic approach that we create at Sen Wellness Sanctuary during your retreat to encourage your whole being to come into full balance with the Great Five Elements and your constitution.
Schedule at the Sanctuary
During your retreat at Sen Wellness Sanctuary, your daily routine revolves around the Ayurvedic principles known in Sanskrit as dinacharya, meaning “to be close to the day”. This routine is deeply in touch with the rhythms of nature, the cycles of the earth, moon and sun.
Waking at Dawn with a refreshing herbal tea, alongside the animals and nature surrounding the Sanctuary, allows you to tune in with the day from the beginning. Starting your day with a Yoga class is the best way to kick-start your Agni (Fire) so that you feel energised for the day. The daily pranayama breathwork opens your Vayu (Air) and Akasha (Ether, Space) elements.
After Yoga, you are welcome to swim in the Indian Ocean or the cool Sanctuary Pool, connecting with the water allows you to refresh and connect with your apas (Water).
A healthy but light breakfast is served after Yoga, based on a tailor-made Ayurvedic diet to support your constitution, food is the medicine of the Earth and brings you deeper into connection with your internal Prithvi (Earth) element. At the Sanctuary, your diet consists of a selection of home-cooked and raw vegetables and little-to-no dairy products.
The rest of your day is open to rest, relaxation, or a local excursion to the surrounding areas. All your treatments are scheduled during the day so you can enjoy your prescribed Ayurvedic massage and treatments in a peaceful, natural environment. This routine provides a structure that supports your internal system to restore balance and harmony to your biological and emotional balance. During your stay, this routine will support you with a greater toolkit of self-care practices that you will be able to integrate back home.
The Final Word
In conclusion, Ayurvedic teachings aim to bring awareness to the Five Great Elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Ether/Space) both internally and externally of ourselves, to restore and balance our internal and external health. They combine in various ways, in different proportions to form your individual body type and constitution. This constitution is then determined by the predominant Doshas (Vata, Kapha, Pitta) within you.
At Sen Wellness Sanctuary, we have not only specifically designed our treatment program but also the layout of our building to compliment your wellness journey. This exemplifies the importance of your external world mirroring your internal world and our intention to support you in finding total restoration and balance.