After knowing what ayurveda is the next step is to understand the five elements that make up the universe. The five elements are ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth. These five elements are see on the macro and micro level. We all know how the elements evolve on the marco level because we can see them in our every day lives. These same elements also make up our bodies because humans are the microcosm of the universe.
Earth has the characteristics of being solid, heavy, slow, static, and stable. It is the foundation on which we build the other elements. On the macro level earth is the dirt and the rocks that create a foundation for every thing else. In our bodies earth is connected to our muscles, bones, sense of smell, physical strength, and instinct of survival.
Water brings fluidity, compassion and emotion. The characteristics of water are liquid, cold, heavy, dull, soft, and smooth. On the macro level we see water in rivers, oceans, and rain. Water manifests in our bodies through the bladder, mucous membranes, sweat glands, reproductive organs, the desire to procreate, passion, and creativity.
Fire has the ability to penetrate, transform, and ignite what is dormant. It is hot, share, luminous, spreading and subtle. On the macro level we can see the damage done by fire when things are destroyed but it is also necessary for cooking and creating. In our bodies fire relates to digestion, the eyes, blood, body temperature, focused understanding, and intellect.
Air brings mobility and stimulation to that which is still. It is dry, light, clear, subtle, cold and rough. Think of a very windy day and how it feels like nothing is ever still. Air manifests in our bodies in the lungs, heart, skin, hands, nerve impulses, love, and nervousness.
Ether, or space, is expansive, immeasurable, and vast. It is subtle, clear, light and cold. On the macro level ether is just empty space. In our bodies ether is found in the throat, ears, neck, space between cells, communication, vibration, and personal expression.
In ayurveda these five elements are brought together into the three doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) which I will explain in a later post.