Ayurvedic Principles #1: Five Elements

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According to the Ayurvedic theory, we are part and product of the Universe. Therefore, we are made of the same stuff that makes up the universe… This is may not be a surprise anyone. However, understanding Ayurvedic physiology requires and extra dose of imagination regarding this fact of our universal belonging.

According to Ayurveda, the Universe is made of 6 basic elements (and so are we). These elements represent observable natural activity of the universe rather than any specific objects:

  1. Space: Space element represent a clear, light, open void within which activities like creation and life can proceed.
  2. Air: this element acts within this space. Like the air we observe, inherently it is mobile and light. This mobility gives rise friction, dryness, roughness. Air is also cooling and subtle in nature.
  3. Fire: this element is luminous and light… It is hot and sharp, giving it the capacity to pierce through and consume objects. When controlled in can be used to illuminate, process, cook, and transform objects.
  4. Water: this element is heavy, flowing and soft… as it flows it dissipates heat and cools objects. It soothes, softens, dulls the rough and hard objects. It also moistens dry objects.
  5. Earth: This element is solid, dense, and heavy… It is physical matter that can vary in its degree of solidity, density, stability or immovability, and weight. It creates solid structures that give physical shape of the universe.

Suggested Meditation: 

Reflecting on these elements individually, helps to further illuminate how we experience these elements in our daily life… Take a day to observe each element. What do intuitively notice about Space, Air, Fire, Water, or Earth in your daily external and internal experience.

Space can be experienced as physical or mental space. What space do you find yourself going daily? What kind of space do you most resonate with? What qualities of space bring you most peace and/or freedom?

Air can be experienced as wind or thought movements. How do you move through your day rushed or with intention? What makes you rush? What makes you move with intention? How do people around your affect your physical and emotional movements (in aggravating or soothing ways)?

Fire can be experienced through heat radiating through the heating vents or the sun; fire be seen as passion or will or ambition that drive us forward. Notice your physical sensation of heat or cold? What do you feel most comfortable or attracted to? What do you feel passionate about? Or consider what makes you angry or what inspires loving patience?

Water can be experienced as what we drink to soothe our thirst or as soft feelings of love, empathy, and compassion that soften our hearts and bring us together. What happens if you drink enough water for a few days in a row? What causes your mind and actions to flow and what disturbs a smooth flow in your day? What inspires softening of your heart and what causes your heart to harden and close? Are you attracted to dry foods? (how do they feel?) Are you attracted to watery foods? (How come?)

Earth can be experienced as the physical pillars of a building or as the daily routines that give structure to our day. These daily routines be shaped to become pillars of a healthy, thriving life. How do you structure your day? What would be the ideal structure of your day? What daily routines feel uncompromisable?  What is one pillar of health could you strengthen now (hydration, exercise, sleep, stress management, balanced meals)?

Please, take some time to consider these and observe the elements in action in your life and environment before moving you next blog in the series.

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