According to Ayurveda, everything is made up of five great elements — animate and inanimate — they are responsible for the structure of the universe. Pancha means “five” and mahabhuta means “element”.
In a healthy body, these five elements are maintained in a particular proportion. When there is an imbalance, disease occurs. Each element is related to a primary organ of action, which allows the body to respond to each of the sense organs
Here is how the elements work within our bodies.
Sense Organs: Ears
Sensory Facility: Hearing
Properties: Clear, light, subtle and infinite
Aakash or Ether brings to mind vastness openness – a hollow space in which one has the freedom to move around. This element is present in the hollow cavities of the body. By no means does Ether imply emptiness. Rather, it refers to a special form of matter that fills the void (with highly compact molecules). In the modern world, we know these special forms of matter as radio frequencies, light radiation, cosmic rays, etc. Since this element is connected to the ear which is hollow, it transmits sound waves which enable the sense of hearing.
Disease: The primary feature of the Aakash Bhuta is coldness. The more of this element in the body, the more cold it is. The aging process or degenerative diseases like osteoporosis occur due to the decrease in density of the matter between the hollow spaces of the body. This is also why older people feel chilly as they have a greater proportion of Ether in their bodies.
An imbalance of the Ether element in the body manifests as Vata dosha disorders.
Sense Organs: Skin
Sensory Facility: Touch
Properties: Light, clear and dry
The Vayu or Air element governs all the movement in the body – inhalation, exhalation, opening and closing of eyelids, extension and contraction of joints, movement and other motor functions. The Vayu Bhuta is made manifest in the skin. This is the organ that easily senses any movement or vibration, or detects changes in pressure. As the skin registers movement, the nervous impulse is formed due to this element.
Disease: The imbalance of the Air element leads to extreme dryness of the skin, tissues and joints. As wind travels faster across a large space (increase in Ether), it causes excessive coldness and increased sensitivity to drafts, obstructed blood flow, bloating, constipation, lethargy, insomnia, muscular spasms, emotional stagnancy, dry cough, etc.
Vayu imbalance leads to Kapha dosha disorders.
Sense Organs: Eyes
Sensory Facility: Sight
Properties: Hot, sharp, light and dry
Agni can only be present in a space (Ether), where there is movement (Air). The movement of matter causes friction and heating, which gives out light. Thus, the basic characteristics of this element – heat and light.
In the human body, this element’s most obvious form is the digestive fire which helps in digestion. The light of your eyes is through this element so it is responsible for vision. The shine of the skin and glow in the complexion is also a reflection of Fire element. On a subtle level, a person’s presence can possess luminosity that lights up a room. Healthy people naturally emit an energy and radiance.
Disease: The imbalance of Agni Bhuta expresses itself in its aggressive form, as a fever in the body. Other symptoms of excessive Fire are hyperacidity, redness of skin, inflammation, excessive sweating and bad temper. We can draw a parallel to these problems with excess Pitta dosha. On the other hand, the lack of Agni can dampen the digestive fire, which results in low absorption of nutrients and building up of toxins in the body.
Sense Organs: Tongue
Sensory Facility: Taste
Properties: Cool, liquid, heavy, soft and slimy
The thought of water brings to mind qualities like flowing fluidity. The most important aspect that we need to know about Jala Bhuta is its ability to bind substances. In essence, we cannot make a brick using dry earth. But if we add water to the soil, we can easily shape it into bricks. This cohesive nature is what builds the various structure of the body by binding different cells together. The liquidity within the mouth or saliva is what brings us the sense of taste. The lack of this liquidity causes dry mouth which robs us of taste.
Disease: The excess of the Water element causes an imbalance of Kapha dosha. It is made manifests as excess mucus, phlegm, swelling of glands, joint problems and edema of tissues.
Sense Organs: Nose
Sensory Facility: Smell
Properties: Heavy, immobile, compact and rough
The Earth element controls hard organs as teeth, nails, flesh, bones, tendons and muscles. These give structure and strength to the body. This element is present all around us so it gives us the sense of smell. The corresponding organ to smell is the nose. Observe that the nose is harder in mass compared to the rest of the sensory organs.
Disease: Excessive Prithvi Bhuta shows itself as blockage of blood vessels, loss of appetite, heaviness of limbs and rigidity of joints. The shortage of the Earth element in the body results in weakened muscle tone, leaching of calcium from bones and general weakness.
Its symptoms point to the state of excess Vata dosha in the body.
Everything is made up of different proportions of each of the elements described above. When understood and applied correctly, the pancha mahabhutas become a powerful method in interacting with your environment.