According to Ayurvedic wisdom, the universe is made up of five core mahabhutas, or elements – ether, air, fire, water and earth – and the human is a miniature replica of this.
The elements can be understood literally, and for the qualities that each one represents.
Ether is the manifestation of matter and mass. It symbolises maturity and wisdom.
Water goes beyond being the liquid that supports life, also representing fluidity, regeneration and connection.
Fire is heat and passion. Its dynamic energy is found in flames and campfires but also in the warmth and light of the sun’s rays.
Air, the breath of life, is a representation of movement and together with Earth, provides the foundation for all the other elements to dance in rhythm.
These five elements are present in each of us and they combine to form our Dosha. Doshas are the basic governing principles of Ayurveda and they form differently in everyone to give a unique make-up. There are three Dosha types – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – and this is set at the moment of conception. Based on your Dosha, Ayurveda makes personalised recommendations on how to eat, move and live while honouring your individual needs and appreciating that they’re different for everybody. The Dosha is a unique DNA that connects us genetically to Mother Nature – discover your Dosha type by taking our test at the bottom of this page.
Vata is made up of the elements of air and ether. The principle of Vata is movement. In nature, Vata is the cold wind that sweeps through mountains. It is the dryness and unsteadiness in the leaves that makes them fall in autumn, but it’s also their lightness, which allows them to travel. In you, Vata is your impulsivity and spontaneity, your quick movements and chilly feet. The main place of Vata is the colon and it ignites your digestive fire, the agni. Vata is also responsible for all movement in the body, as well as metabolism and cell division. It is the fuel of your intellect, supporting your memory and understanding. It has a central role in controlling the other two Doshas, Pitta and Kapha.
Pitta is made up of the elements of fire and water. Its main principle is that of transformation. Pitta is hot, light and fluid. In nature, Pitta is the caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly, the boiling water that evaporates. Pitta is sharp like the facets of natural crystal and the spikes of the hedgehog. In you, Pitta is your confidence and passion. In the body, Pitta is found in the stomach and the small intestine. It is what ignites your hunger and thirst and what helps you digest. It is responsible for providing internal heat, but also for your intellect and emotions.
Kapha is made up of earth and water. It is the energy of structure and strength. It is steady and grounded, but also soft and slippery. In nature, Kapha is reflected in the heaviness and stability of mountains and the roots of trees. It is smooth like a waterfall and cool like the fog. In your body Kapha is found in the stomach and the chest. It is responsible for your body mass, strength and stability. It builds your immunity and supports your fertility. Kapha helps you be patient, forgiving and generous.
Ayurveda believes that our own make-up mirrors that of the universe. Being familiar with our own constitutions helps us to make the right choices about the way eat, sleep and live.