Elements/Gunas/Doshas

A major tenet in traditional medicine is, EVERYTHING is made up of the 5 elements. I look to the natural world to see this easily. Mountains are obviously more earthy, oceans more watery, the sun more fiery, wind more airy and the space that everything resides in is the space/ether element that holds everything together. We can also look at how the elements express themselves within the human body:
earth=the tissues and structure of the body

water=the fluids of the body

fire=metabolism, enzymes, hormones, warmth of the body

air=movement (nerve impulses, valves opening/shutting) and communication (the brain telling the organs to release chemicals)

space or ether=the space within the body. IE: empty vessels, cavities & organs, the space within cells, the entire space of the body

 

Another principle to understand is, our planet is polarized. Everything has either a negative or positive charge. The charge something or someone has determines if an element will express it’s positive or negative characteristics.  For instance, air is essential to life. But if we have an excess of it in our bones, it’s called osteoporosis. A deficiency of air can be felt in an asthma attack. The elements take on the characteristics of their environment. A healthy environment will express the strengthening, higher vibratory qualities of the elements. An unhealthy environment will produce the weaker, disease-promoting expressions of the elements.  {The yogic practice of neutrality is beyond the scope of this conversation}

 

GUNAS ~ CHARACTERISTICS

Guna is the Sanskrit word describing the intrinsic qualities of the elements. If we say something has more earth-y qualities what we are saying is, it shares the same properties as earth.

Earth’s inherent qualities are dense (ever been in a earthen house?), cool (have you noticed your pets lie on the tile floor to cool off on a hot day?), stable, slow (it took a long time to create the Grand Canyon), hard, heavy and gross.

Water is naturally cool, stable, heavy, moist, smooth, gross, flowing, dull, cloudy, and soft.

Fire is hot, light, dry, rough, subtle, flowing, sharp, clear and soft.

Air is mobile, cool, light, dry, rough, subtle, flowing, sharp, clear, and hard.

Ether is clear, light, subtle, soft, immeasurable, expansive, freedom, non-resistance , formless.  Ether has qualities, but unlike the other elements, ether’s qualities are based more upon the absence of its opposing quality than on the actual quality itself. For example, ether is subtle because it lacks the gross presence of the more obvious elements. It is light because it does not have the weight of earth or water. Ether is all-pervading, omniscient, omnipresent. It is the field the whole world is contained within. This makes ether the substratum from which all the other elements are derived.

Because the elements are the building blocks of this entire realm we can see their characteristics in everything from; thoughts, feelings, behaviors, tissues, relationships, weather, voices and on and on. It may be a new concept to you, pondering that everything is made of the 5 elements. It may be helpful to adjust your perspective in a new way in order to expand your idea of how an element communicates itself. How often does ether come up in conversation? Hardly ever and yet, ether is the field that the whole world is held in. Like they say, fish dont contemplate water.

  DOSHAS

When you hear people talk about their “dosha” all they are talking about is their particular ratio of the elements.  Our personal dosha is the genetic constitution we are born with. It very rarely changes.

Ayurveda observes that in nature certain elements naturally mix together. Earth and water blend to make the dosha called Kapha. Air and ether naturally blend to make the doshas called Vata. In the body we see fire as digestive enzymes/hormones whose medium is liquid. Fire by itself would be destructive to the human body so fire  is contained in a liquid medium. The blend of fire and water is called Pitta dosha.  Everyone has all 5 elements within them but most of us have a couple elements that are more expressive than the others and hence we say something like, that person is mainly of vata dosha, secondarily pitta and least of all kapha. What we are really saying is that person has expresses mostly air/ether traits, secondarily fire/water and least of all water/earth traits.

Gunas of Kapha: (the characteristics of water & earth)

heavy, slow, cold, oily, gross, dense, liquid, cloudy, soft, static, salty and sweet

Gunas of Pitta: (the characteristics of fire and water)

oily, sharp, hot, light, fleshy smelling, spreading, liquid, pungent, sour

Gunas of Vata: (the characteristics of air and ether)

cold, dry, light, clear, subtle, rough, mobile

Students of Ayurveda LOVE to see, hear, taste, smell and feel the elements or doshas everywhere! It really becomes a lot of fun to observe Nature in all things.