Ten Pairs of Opposites

posted in: Ayurveda Wisdom | 4

Ayurveda draws on ten pairs of opposites to describe and in a way categorize all matter that exists in the universe. These qualities, or gunas, describe the interaction and inner-workings of the main energy forces – the Five Great Elements – on a particular object.  They reflect the positive and negative, yin and yang of all forces in the universe.  They are the basic qualities of all objects – physical or subtle.  They provide a spectrum to describe the essence of our life.

Heavy     ⇔     Light
Dull         ⇔     Sharp
Cold         ⇔     Hot
Oily         ⇔     Dry
Smooth     ⇔     Rough
Dense         ⇔     Porous
Soft         ⇔     Hard
Static         ⇔     Mobile
Cloudy     ⇔     Clear
Solid         ⇔     Liquid

At a practical level, our bodies as well as the foods we eat reflect a prevailing yet shifting degree and combination of these qualities. The underlying premise of all Ayurvedic practices and treatments is: like increases like and opposites balance each other. In this way, Ayurveda prescribes the use of foods, herbs, exercise, and daily routines with a specific set of these qualities in order to counter and heal specific imbalances in the body and mind.

In particular, all foods can be described using these 20 qualities – or ten pairs of opposites. For example, heavy foods include grains, cheese, yogurt, salty processed food and red meats whereas light foods include leafy veggies and herbs like turmeric and coriander. Cold foods include cucumber, watermelon and fennel while hot foods include ginger and chile peppers.  Dry foods include millet, barley, dry fruits and toast, whereas oily foods include butter, ghee, oils, nuts and seeds, and fried foods.  It is helpful to start thinking of food through these adjectives, in order to know what foods to eat to balance qualities that prevail in you based on yourMind/Body Constitution.

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4 Responses

  1. […] the joints and air passages, and to nourish and protect the bodyʼs organs, cells, and systems. The qualities of Kapha include moist, cold, heavy, dull, soft, sticky, and static. Kapha people are loving, […]

  2. […] oils. They strengthen the tissues in the body, improve circulation, and strengthen the heart. Their qualities are heavy, oily, and cold. Sweet foods give the mind a sense of compassion and satisfaction. […]

  3. […] within you and the food you eat. [See also the posts on Body/Mind Constitution , The Six Tastes , Ten Pairs of Opposites and The Five Elements – Balancing the Mind/Body with […]

  4. […] we begin to understand the qualities associated with each of the five elements (i.e. through the ten pairs of opposites – dry/oily, hot/cold, heavy/light, dull/sharp, smooth/rough, dense/porous, soft/hard, […]

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