Updated: May 12, 2021
Ayurveda follows the basic laws of nature. As such, there is a recognition that we are made up of the five elements found in nature- earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These five elements are referred to as the Pancha Maha Bhutus, in Sanskrit. The quality of of our lives and our health is maintained by these elements. When there is an imbalance in one, there is discomfort and symptoms arise.
So how exactly do the elements show up in us?
The elements are more of ideas or fundamental concepts of life. These ideas create a poetic and practical metaphor for the way our bodies and minds function. We each contain the elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. It's the proportion of each element that makes us unique. The following is a brief overview of these concepts. Soon to follow will be in depth looks into each element.
Earth represents the solid form of matter and the principle that provides stability. In our bodies, this means the physical structure, including our bones, muscles, and organs. In our minds, this translates to mental stability.
Water represents the liquid form of matter. In our bodies, this includes blood, saliva, tears, mucous, interstitial fluid, and more. In our minds, water represents gentle, loving, compassionate thoughts and emotions.
Think of a camp fire. The heat and light it generates is obvious. Now consider how it transforms wood to ash. In our bodies, this is the fire of digestion. In our minds, fire illuminates truth and governs our perception, understanding, and discernment.
Air is the force of all movement. In our bodies, air is perceived through the movement of of nerve impulses, the circulation of blood, respiration, and the mobility of our bodies. In our minds, the idea of air is behind the movement of our thoughts.
Ether is the subtle field through which all existence emerges. Ether represents the spaces or cavities in the body; the abdominal cavity, thoracic cavity, cranial space, and cellular space. This abstract element is one which other elements fill. In the mind, ether is the container of our thoughts and feelings.