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Ayurveda Basics | 5 Elements 3 Doshas

Ayurveda means the science of life. Ayurveda originated in India about 5000 years ago as the sister to Yoga. At the time, yoga was primarily meditation, with asana (the movements) to strengthen and stretch the body, to support it in sitting for more meditation. Ayurveda was everything else…our individual constitutions, diets, healthy habits, etc. More than just what we eat, Ayurveda stresses that we are part of nature and therefore it teaches us to live in rhythm with the day, with the seasons, and within our lifespan.

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The 5 Elements

Ayurveda describes everything in nature in terms of the 5 Elements. Each element has specific qualities. (If you missed the post on Gunas (qualities), check it out HERE).

Ether (Space) - empty space with the potential to be filled. Ether has the qualities of cold, dry, light, and clear.

Air - the first thing to fill empty space. Air also has the qualities of cold, dry, light and clear but it is also mobile.

Fire - the burning energy of transformation. Fire is hot, sharp, and unstable.

Water - makes up 70% of the earth's surface. Water is cold, moist, stable, and soft.

Earth - the physicality of matter. Earth is cold, dry, heavy, hard, and sticky.

The 5 Elements In Our Bodies

Ether can be found in the space of our sinuses, our digestive tract, the four chambers of the heart and in the pores of our bones.

Air contains the oxygen we need to live and we breath it without even thinking about it.

Fire keeps our bodies at 96.8F / 37C and is responsible for our digestion as well as all our enzymes and hormones.

Water makes up everything 60-70% of our bodies. It's in every cell, it makes up all the fluids of our bodies from blood to urine to sweat to tears.

Earth makes up all our cells, giving us our solid mass.

rocky beach with blue sky and sunrise just out of view

3 Doshas

The 3 Doshas are made up of various combinations of the elements. Dosha is defined as "each of three energies that circulate in the body and govern physiological activity".

Vata is the combination of Ether and Air. Therefore, Vata energy is dry, cold, light, rough, subtle, and mobile.

Pitta is mostly Fire with a dash of Water. Therefore, Pitta energy is oily, hot, sharp, light, and liquid.

Kapha is the combination of Water and Earth. Therefore, Kapha energy is oily, cold, heavy, slow, and smooth.

Each of us is made of all these energies because each of us is made of all 5 elements. However, we are all different combinations. How do these Doshas show up in our bodies and minds?

Vata people tend to be very thin (small boned), either very tall or very short. They are often cold and dry. They are usually very creative folks, but when unbalanced, they can come across as spacey, unable to focus and suffer from anxiety.

Pitta people tend to have a more athletic build. They are often warm-blooded and a little oily. They are very logical and analytical, but when unbalanced they can be rude, workaholics. They digestion can easily run too hot, leaving them hangry, or leaving them with heartburn and/or diarrhea.

Kapha people tend to be big-boned and often carry a little more weight. They are very nurturing people, that tend to have strong physical and mental endurance. When unbalanced they can be overweight, lean toward laziness, or clinginess.

We all were born with a certain constitution or doshic makeup. However, we live in a state of constant imbalance, which can make it difficult to figure out what our true dosha makeup is. Therefore, it is best to simply pay attention to the gunas we experience and do something to bring balance. Our imbalances will change throughout the day, the season, and our lifetime. Therefore, we should be constantly evaluating what our bodies and minds need.

This strive for balance affects every aspect of our lives. As you begin to think of the world in gunas, it becomes easier to see how you can bring more balance to your life.

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