Elements + Doshas
Five Elements + Three Doshas
THE FIVE ELEMENTS
The five elements of nature serve as the foundational blocks of our existence. Everything in the universe, down to the individual cells within our bodies, is composed of ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Each of us is uniquely constituted by varying combinations of these elements. Understanding the qualities of these elements helps us decipher how the substances we consume impact our body, mind, and soul.
Ether embodies connectedness and space, known as "akasha" in Sanskrit, serving as the primary element in nature. Ether is synonymous with emptiness, omnipresence, and is characterized by cold, dry, light, subtle, immobile, sharp, rough, unstable, and clear attributes. Its season is winter, and it represents all that occupies space within the body, like ducts, canals, and pathways, as well as consciousness in the mind.
Air symbolizes motion, termed "vayu" in Sanskrit, standing as the second element in nature. With qualities of cold, dry, light, subtle, mobile, flowing, hard, sharp, rough, and clear, air's season is autumn. Within our bodies, it manifests as the respiratory and nervous systems. In the realm of the mind, air propels the movement of thoughts.
Fire represents light, heat, and transformation, known as "tejas" in Sanskrit, evolving from ether and air. While ether provides the space, air ignites the capacity for fire to burn. The season of fire is summer, embodying the attributes of hot, dry, light, subtle, unstable, flowing, hard, sharp, rough, and clear. It governs digestion within the body and perception within the mind.
Water embodies flow and liquidity, referred to as "Apas" in Sanskrit, furnishing the body with its fundamental nourishment. The season of water is spring, and it carries characteristics of cold, moist, heavy, stable, smooth, gross, flowing, dull, cloudy, and soft. Fluids are its representation within the body, while in the mind, water signifies gentle, loving, and compassionate emotions.
Earth signifies solidity and stability, termed "Prithvi" in Sanskrit, concluding the sequence of the five elements. Its season spans late winter to early spring, encompassing traits of cold, dry, heavy, stable, rough, gross, dense, dull, clear, and hard. Within the body, it encompasses our physical structure, while within the mind, earth signifies mental stability.
THE THREE DOSHAS
The physiology of a human being is governed by three primary forces formed through a combination of the five elements of nature: Prana (life), Tejas (light), and Ojas (love). These three represent the fundamental biological energies that oversee the functions of the body and mind. When these energies function harmoniously, they sustain good health within the body and guide regular bodily processes. However, when they fall out of harmony with each other and our environment, imbalances occur. These imbalances correspond to our doshas - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each individual possesses a unique balance of prana, tejas, and ojas at the moment of their creation, which we refer to as birth. This equilibrium is known as our constitution or prakruti in Sanskrit, and it determines both our body type and personality. Our vikruti, on the other hand, represents the current state of our doshas, leading to experiences of dis-ease and imbalance.
The Vata dosha is composed of air and ether. It governs motion and circulation, nerve impulses, joint movement, and the flow of thought. Vata's qualities mirror its elemental composition, rendering it light, cold, dry, mobile, subtle, and rough. Within the body, vata resides in the large intestine. An increase in vata prompts pain and abnormal excess in motion, such as rapid breathing, twitching, and a heightened heart rate.
The Pitta dosha consists of fire and water. It manages the digestion and metabolism of food, thoughts, emotions, and sensory inputs. Its primary quality is heat, accompanied by attributes of lightness, slight oiliness, instability, and sharpness. In the body, pitta is situated in the lower half of the stomach and small intestine, where the digestive fire or agni resides. An escalation in pitta usually leads to fever, reddening of the eyes or skin, and/or an accumulation of heat in other organs.
The Kapha dosha combines water and earth. It imparts structure and stability to the body. Kapha's attributes encompass heaviness, coldness, moisture, stasis, smoothness, and softness. Within the body, kapha takes residence in the upper half of the stomach, contributing to mucus production. A surge in kapha induces swelling, weight gain, and excessive mucus production.