Everything in this universe is the product of different combinations of the Five Basic Elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air & Space. The five element theory is fundamental basis of Ayurvedic Philosophy. In Ayurveda, the five elements are precisely known as Panchmahabhuta.
Let’s take a closer look at the 5 elements and how they influence the Mind & Body:
1) Space (Akash):
Akash is the first element in the process of evolution as it has been depicted as an ever pervading, omnipresent element covering the entire cosmos. It has a maximum expanse. Non-resistance is its specific attribute. When we hit a solid substance we feel resistance, but when we move our hand in space we do not feel any resistance. Whatever be the expanse of an object, it will be its Akash. Whatever be the space occupied by a person, building, country etc will be their respective Akash. Whatever is the limit of a person or an object, is also the limit of the respective Akash. In the human body the akash is represented by all the pervading spaces like:
– The numerous pores of the skin
– Space inside the body
– Alveolar and bronchiolar spaces
– Chambers of the heart
– Alimentary canal
– Blood vessels
2) Air (Vayu):
We have air all around us. Though we cannot see it but it can be perceived by the feeling of touch and when the wind blows against the skin. And we can see the effects of air through the motion of trees, fans, and windmills. Motion, movement and speed are means by which we recognize Vayu. Akash or space is the seat of Vayu. Vayu is responsible for all movements in the cosmos. It might not be the air that flows in the earth’s atmosphere, but air itself can take various forms to control the movements in the cosmos as a whole. Due to Vayu there is vibration in the cosmos and in the body the same vibration at a micro level is responsible for the sustenance of life. In our body it controls all the movement at a physical level (circulation of blood, expansion and recoiling of the chest cage etc.) and also at the Neuro- psychic level (the thought process, travelling of nerve impulses etc). All creativity whether sprouting of a seed or growth of a fetus to regeneration of cells, to creative ideas all are possible only through Vayu.
3) Fire (Agni):
Agni transforms and metamorphises everything in the universe. The Agni is present in each and every particle and each and every cell of our body. The same agni is present in each and every particle of the cosmos and manifests in different forms such as the luminosity of the stars, the electricity in the clouds, or the fire from wood. Heat, burning and transformation are the main attributes of Agni. In our body Agni gives heat and radiance, by burning the food consumed and transforming the ‘food juice’ formed out of the process of digestion into the subtle precursors essential for the nourishment and growth of various tissues of our body. At the mental level, Agni transforms the stimuli received from the senses into knowledge and thoughts.
4) Water (Jal):
The water element has the inherent property of cohesion. The water we see is composed of all five elements with dominance of Water element. In the cosmos the Water element is responsible for balancing the Fire element. So much so that the universe is visualised as a combination of Agni (fire) and Soma (Water). The fluidity and cohesiveness and coldness are the hall mark of the Water element. As in the cosmos, the water element balances the Agni in our body, it is responsible for maintaining the fluidity of various important body components and it is responsible for holding together of various tissues in our body. At the mental level it is responsible for the feelings of love and affection that ‘holds’ a family together.
5) Earth (Prithvi):
The most important inherent property of the Earth element is to give substance. Like we described in the case of water, the earth we inhabit does not represent the Earth element. In the cosmos the earth element is responsible for giving matter the ability to be perceived, to exist, to get still in the dimensions of time and space. When this matter comes under gravitational force, it results in weight. So in our body all that is substantive, heavy, stable and still is represented primarily by the earth element – for example, our bones. Due to its inherent properties the Earth element in our body gives anchorage or ‘holding capacity’.