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Monday
Sep082008

Ayurveda & Body Types: Doshas and the Elements

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In the last article in this series we talked about the general nature of the doshas and why they are so important to us. In this article we're going to look more at the nature of the individual doshas so that you can begin to get to know them and, therefore, get to know more about yourself and why you have certain preferences and personality traits.

A friend of mine recently said that what she likes about Ayurveda is that, like astrology, it gives you a good idea of a person's make up, their talents and inclinations etc. But with Ayurveda you can actively work with that information, and learn to support your strengths and shore up any weaker areas.

As you get to know the doshas you will see them in yourself, your friends and family, in what you eat, and even in the weather. I mentioned previously that understanding the elements of each dosha gives vital clues to discovering their nature so here's an introduction to the doshas and their respective elements to get you started...

 

A Quick Look at the Five Elements

 

 

Our planet earth and everything on it is categorised by Ayurveda according to the five elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth. The properties of the elements are not literal, but are observed by their nature. For example a chilli pepper is considered fiery due to it's nature of being "hot". It's effect on the body is heating. If something is sticky, heavy, cool, solid and stable, it will come under the category of earth, because it's nature is like that of the earth.


Ayurveda's five element theory shows how you are situated within the natural world surrounding you. The world is made from combinations of the five elements, and you are also composed of the same five elements. You are a microcosm of the universe around you.


The goal of Ayurveda is to keep the various elements in your body balanced. This is done by applying gentle opposites to any heavy elemental influences in your life. For example if the weather is cold, you need to take action to keep warm, if the environment around you is hot and dry, you need to take sip plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. It's very simple really.


When your body is in balance with itself internally and the environment around you, you experience health and contentment, but imbalance brings disharmony and disease, this is where Ayurveda seeks to serve all humanity by helping us become wise to our nature and our surroundings so that we can know the art of making little shifts here and there to steer our course through life in health and harmony.
Let's move on to look at how Ayurveda's doshas, or body types, fit in with the elements...


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Diagram: How the Doshas & the Five Elements are Related

Vata dosha (air + ether)

 

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Vata is composed of the elements ether (or space) and air, with air being the dominant element.

AIR relates to all types of movement, including physical movement, the breath and even cellular respiration.

ETHER relates to our mental space or environment and emotions such as: fear, anger, delusion and desire.

To get to know the properties of vata think of the wind. The wind is cold (even on a hot day you can feel the coolness of a breeze), moving, subtle, and drying.

 

As Vata is composed of the elements ether and air it is responsible for all movement related functions in the body, such as respiration, circulation, and the movements of the mind - thoughts.

On an emotional level vata is responsible for the positive expressions of creativity and flexibility, but when vata is out of balance, it shows its negative aspects as fear and anxiety.

 

Pitta dosha (fire + water)

 

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Pitta is composed of the elements fire and water, with fire being the dominant element.

WATER relates to the bodily tissues that are liquid: plasma, blood, sweat, urine, saliva and mucus.

FIRE relates to appetite, metabolism and the digestive system, it also governs hot emotions like passion.

To get to know the properties of pitta think of fire in all it's aspects. Heating, subtle, and transformative (as in the fire used in cooking, or baking clay).

In the body, pitta is responsible for metabolism, and digestion due to it's fiery and liquid nature. Pitta also governs our appetite and, on a more subtle level, pitta gives the ability for processing events, emotions and ideas.

Emotionally pitta is concerned with courage and ambition, but when out of balance pitta can will show it's negative traits of anger, and pride.

 

Kapha dosha (water + earth)

 

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Kapha is composed of the elements water and earth, with water being the dominant element.

EARTH relates to the structural tissues of the body like the skeleton, muscles, skin, and nails.

WATER In Kapha, water manifests differently to the water aspect of pitta - here water relates to the lubrication of the bodily tissues, and forms plasma, saliva and mucus.

Due to it's clay-like blend of water and earth kapha is responsible for cohesion in the body. Kapha builds the body's structure.

Emotionally, kapha gives love, loyalty and devotions, but too much kapha in a person reveals kaphas negative traits: greed, jealousy, and "stuckness" or stubbornness.

 

With thanks to the following FLICKR photographers who kindly allow the use of their images: Big Bubble photo by h.koppdelaney | Kite photo by Luis Alves | Fire photo by millicent_bystander | Water drop photo by jmsuarez

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