If you are on the path of understanding the body, it is essential to know that all matter in the Universe is made up of five elements, known as “Pancha Mahabhutas” (five basic elements): Space (Akash/Dyaus), Air (Vayu), Fire (Agni), Water (Jal/Varun) and Earth (Prithvi/Bhumi).
Ayurveda and Yoga say understanding the five elements of nature will help you understand the laws of nature.
Pancha Bhoota – 5 Elements
Let us understand how five elements or Pancha Bhoota (Pancha Mahabhuta)of nature affect humans. Each element corresponds to one of seven chakras of the body and different types of yoga asanas.
1. Earth – Prithvi
Earth is the personification of the solid state of matter. Its distinguishing features are stability, immobility, and hardness. In the outer world, stones and soil steadfastly resist the destructive forces of water and wind.
The same “earthly” stable structures are present in our body. These are bones, cells, and tissues – the systems through which blood and oxygen circulate. The sense connected to the ground is the sense of smell.
Each element corresponds to a chakra, and in this case, the earth element can be found in the first: Root Chakra, Spine (Muladhara).
Some yoga poses that work on this element is Mountain Pose (Tadasana), Tree Pose (Vrksasana), and also Downward Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
To feel this element during your practice, it is essential to have physical stability, to feel that each part of the body is connected to the others and that all together support the entire organism.
If the body is stable, firm, and compact, the mind is also in a state of silence.
2. Water – Jal
Water symbolizes change. In the outside world, water is involved in the cycle: evaporation – formation of clouds – precipitation. Water flowing down from mountains into the sea slowly erodes hard rocks. Life itself on earth exists due to the presence of water. Almost 60% of all human body contains water.
Water is an unstable substance. The sense connected to water is taste. The chakra that represents this element is the second: Sacral (Svadhisthana).
In practice, it can be found in Vinyasa Yoga, that is, movement synchronized with breathing.
We can perceive the element of water when we make a fluid, delicate and effortless movement from one position to another. It is important that the movement is repeated several times and that it is done in the rhythm of your breathing.
3. Fire – Agni
Fire is identified with heat, light, and energy. Fire is a very active energy in nature and is difficult to control. In the body, it governs the digestive and muscular systems, the electrical impulse of the heart, and the fighting aspect of the immune system.
The psychological characteristics are determination, courage, energy, power, vitality, centeredness, lucidity, and speed. The sense connected to fire is vision.
The chakra representing this element is the third: Solar Plexus (Manipura). We can feel this element when we do all the positions that work on the abdominal area, and we can feel it as a kind of heat that develops in the area around the belly button.
To do this more effectively, we can use so-called Locks (bandhas), in particular the Diaphragm Lock (Uddiyana bandha) and Root Lock (Mula bandha).
4. Air – Vayu
Air is the gaseous form of matter. We cannot see the wind swaying the branches of the trees, but we can feel it. We feel how it passes through the respiratory tract, getting into the lungs.
If we stop breathing even for a minute, we will feel with all our being that air is absolutely necessary for life. In our body, thanks to air (oxygen), oxidation reactions occur; that is, energy transitions from one form to another.
The sense connected to the air is the touch. The chakra representing this element is the fourth: Heart Chakra (Anahata).
The aspect of practice that most represents the air element is Pranayama, that is, the process by which we work on the quality of breathing.
5. Space – Akash
Space is where everything exists. The inner space of our body is like outer space, in which celestial bodies are separated from each other by distances of millions of miles.
It is limitless and empty but potentially contains everything; it contains and is contained, and it gives us a sense of expansion.
In the body, it governs the nervous system. The psychological characteristics are calm, presence, freedom, detachment, increased sensitivity, and receptivity.
The sense connected to the ether is hearing. The chakra representing this element is the fifth: Throat Chakra (Vishuddha).
The aspect of practice that most represents this element is the presence and full awareness of the present moment that must happen not just when doing yoga but in everything, you do in life.
Role of five elements in Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, there is the inner wisdom of Nature within each element, which allows this element to manifest its own qualities and characteristics.
Modern science lacks a deep understanding of nature, so it fails to trace the connection between the processes in nature and the processes inside the human body in its entirety.
On the contrary, Ayurveda concluded that the same laws govern the interactions of elements in nature and in the human body over several thousand years of its history.
Our bodies are built from the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. All these are various combinations of the five elements.
Consequently, a person’s physical body cannot be anything other than a combination of these same elements. Man is a product of nature and its integral part.
According to Ayurveda, it is the combination of the three Gunas that gives life to the five elements (tattva). In fact, each of them is under the influence of the Gunas, being subject to rajas (movement), tamas (inactivity), and sattva (balance).
The five elements confirm that the universe is made of energy and intelligence that can take different forms. These five elements are not considered purely physical substances but as a set of qualities put together.
When one or more elements prevail at the expense of others, imbalances begin to emerge that can lead to real disorders or illnesses. The five elements have different characteristics. According to Ayurveda, it is important that they are in balance and that none prevails over the others, so the body and mind experience well-being.