Ayurveda: Introduction to the Five Elements and Interconnection
Ayurveda is an ancient healing system with its roots in India.
Samye Institute’s guest author, Diana Carey developed an interest in Yoga, meditation and Ayurveda started back in the 1980. She went to India in search of yoga, meditation and knowledge. It was a great inspiration which lead to years of studying yoga, breathing techniques, meditation and Ayurveda. She moved to a yoga ashram in the mountains of the Black Forest in Germany, and stayed there to study for a few years. At the same time, she devoted her attention to exploring healthy and organic food choices. She returned to her home in Denmark, and pursued a Anthroposofic art therapy education. In 2002 she started a wholesale company importing organic foods, and sustainable products. Her mission was to make organic foods more accessible and to inspire people to live a healthier life and help people. She has taught yoga since 1999, and has given ayurvedic consultations on foods and herbs.
In Samye’s Wellness blog series, Diana looks forward to sharing her knowledge of herbs, organic foods and Ayurveda with us, as well as healthy recipes.
Ayurveda and Elements
The Tibetan healing system and Ayurveda are closely linked and very similar. Some herbs are used in both traditions, and both systems use the knowledge of the five elements (earth, water, fire, wind (air) and space).
Our physical body, as well as everything around us consists of the five elements. There is a connection between the effect of the elements surrounding us, and those within us. It´s like a dance between the two.
They can be in harmony or disharmony. When they are not in harmony, you will often get symptoms in the body or mind that show this. The symptoms can be weaknesses in the body, or different ailments. These can most often be relieved, or healed through herbs, exercise, breathing techniques, foods, treatments, and more. All these things have an effect on our body and mind, and we can do our best to balance the elements within us. We can´t do anything about the elements that are played out in nature where we live. But what we can do is to live as much in harmony with them as we can. That means that from our side, we can do certain things that are supportive to our body and mind, as the seasons change. Each season has a quality according to the elements, but also if you travel to other countries (hot, cold, wet, dry), that will have an effect too.
Vata, Pitta, Kapha
We are all born with a unique constitution, and more or less of the five elements. Ayurveda categorizes them into a term called doshas (energy types). The elements play their role in regards to our body and mind, and what we are prone to when it is balanced, and when it is not balanced.
The doshas are called vata, pitta and kapha, and contain the following elements:
Vata: ether/space and air/wind
Pitta: fire and a little water
Kapha: earth and water
The Qualities of the Doshas
Vata is the energy in the body that stands for movement, lightness, dryness.
Pitta is the energy that transforms and metabolizes, and is fiery/warm.
Kapha is form, heaviness, stability, moisture, damp/cold.
They all have their positive sides when they are balanced, and their less positive sides when they are in excess. The role the doshas play is constantly changing in response to weather, conditions, and stress.
For example, if vata dosha goes into excess, one gets dry skin, a bit airy fairy, forgetful, and can have problems making decisions.
If pitta dosha becomes excessive, one can get skin problems such as rosacea, psoriasis, rashes or reddish skin. Mentally one is more prone to anger and impatience.
If kapha dosha is excessive, then it is easy to gain weight, retain water, have a feeling of heaviness, inertia and depression.
How Can I Balance the Doshas?
These are all normal stereotypes, and each individual can use different herbs, eat certain foods, drink certain beverages, as well as learning to be aware of the different mind sets there may be when in balance and when not.
In future blog posts we will be sharing seasonal tips and recipes based on ayurvedic and yogic knowledge. We hope that you may find inspiration to support your daily lifestyle. We suggest that you also listen to your body, and encourage you to get to know it, and see how it reacts on different foods and herbs. This is also a way to practice awareness.
Diana Carey, is the CEO and founder of NatureSource, a wholesale organic products company based one hour from Copenhagen, Denmark.