The Doshas and the five great elements

If we are to understand any of the Ayurvedic topics or principles, we must first understand the very foundation of the Ayurvedic approach to health and well-being. The ancient Rishis or Sages of India used the theory that all that exists in nature also resides within each and every one of us. Our external environment consists of the five elements Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. The external forces of these elements that exist in our universe are intricately connected to the same elements that are a force which resides in our internal universe.

The five great elements are:

Earth is the solid state of matter. Its attributes are stable, solid, fixed, or rigid. Earth is a stable substance and has the qualities of cool, heavy, dry, rough, gross, dense, dull, and hard. In the body these qualities are evident in the hard part of our bones, in our dense muscle tissue and fat tissue which grow and accumulate but are also the stability and support our bodies require to live and thrive.

Water is the liquid state of matter. Its attributes are cohesion and flux. Water is a substance without stability. Water element is cool, flowing, soothing, heavy, moist, smooth, dull, cloudy, and soft. In the body these qualities are evident in the complexion of your skin, the mucosa which lubricates your joints, or the production of sweat and tears.


Fire is the power than can transform the state of matter. It can convert a substance from solid to liquid to gas or vice versa. Its attribute is transformation. The qualities of fire are hot, sharp, bright, mobile, and expansive. In the body these qualities are evident in our hunger, our digestive process, both physically and mentally, and the assimilation of nutrients in our body. It is fire element that expresses itself as a fever, a rash, an emotional outburst, or ambition.


Air is the gaseous state of matter. Its attributes are mobility or dynamism. The qualities of air are cold, dry, rough, irregular, unstable, subtle, and light. In the body these qualities express themselves in all forms of movement from the gait of our walk, the wind produced by digestion, the replaying of thoughts in our mind, our creativity and expressiveness. Air is existence without form.


Space is the field from which everything is manifested and into which events occur. Space or Ether has no physical existence. Its attribute is subtle. It is the place where everything happens and without it nothing may happen. Its qualities are cold, dry, light, expansive, pervasive, and still. In the body, space exists as the stage where all other elements perform. Air passes through space, fire ignites in space with the assistance of air, water fills space and earth settles into space. Space has no existence, form, or stability.


Ayurveda takes all five elements and further reduces them to what is known as the doshas of Vata, Pitta and Kapha.


Vata represents the Air and Space elements.


Pitta represents the Fire and Water elements.


Kapha represents the Earth and Water elements.


Although all three doshas exist within all of us, we are born with a unique doshic balance known as your Prakruti. It is extremely rare for a few fortunate individuals to be born with a perfect balance of all three. This is called Tridoshic. Most of us have a predominance of two doshas which is referred to as dual doshic. For those who are born with an extremely high percentage of one dosha we would simply refer to them as predominately Vata, Pitta or Kapha.


The prakruti you are born with does not change during your lifetime. When determining your doshic balance through an online quiz or questionnaire you should always reflect on what is true for you during your younger years or when you have felt the healthiest. This will help you understand your own unique constitution and how best to keep yourself in balance.

When we find ourselves feeling unwell or out of balance, we can also take a “Vikruti” quiz which will determine our imbalances so we can focus our efforts on pacifying the dosha that is causing the concern. Our diet and lifestyles strongly influence the doshas daily and simple changes can have a great impact on our overall health and well-being. Seasonal adjustments are also important as the external environment we live in can wreak havoc on our delicate balance.


Now that we understand these basics, we can begin to explore the doshas in depth.

Take a dosha quiz now. There are many options available online. We recommend www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/dosha-quiz/

Following the dosha quiz it will automatically move into questions about your current state. We promise this will provide you with some great insight into your mind and body and what imbalances may require your attention.


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