The Five Elements – Balancing Mind/Body with Food

The Five Elements – Balancing Mind/Body with Food

posted in: Ayurveda Wisdom | 2

Seeing aspects of the world as reflected through the lens of the five great elements – ether, air, fire, water and earth -  has provided me many practical tools in understanding and addressing my own health and well-being.  (click here for overview of the Five Elements). The most practical of which is balancing the mind/body constitution (i.e. The Doshas – vata, pita, and kapha), through the food we eat (i.e. The Six Tastes – sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter). It’s actually quite simple, at least in theory. Once 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, static/mobile, cloudy/clear , sold/liquid) – particularly as they work within our body/mind (the doshas) and within the food we eat (the six tastes), then we apply the basic rule: “Like increases like and opposites decrease each other.”  For example, the air element embodies the quality of dryness. Just think wind – generally when it prevails it leads to a dry and brittle sensation in our head and throat. In my situation, my body generally runs dry (I’m predominately vata)- dry skin, hair, and internally my intestines.  Wind exacerbates this dryness. In addition, it’s best I limit foods that have a dry quality – such as dried fruits, crackers or toast, many legumes (beans), and generally foods with more pungent, astringent and bitter tastes – as they will further aggravate this drying quality, and ultimately lead to constipation. For those of us who do run dry, we should pay particular attention when eating such foods, being sure to balance this adverse effect with its opposite. Perhaps soak the dried fruit, add an oily spread to crackers or toast, and generally add some natural oils to legumes, spicy foods, bitter salads, etc.  This is just a simple example of how the five elements work within us and our food. Approaching healthy eating in this way is really an art, not a science. It is an ongoing creative process, not a revelation of perfection. It’s an expressive and experimental way to think about food, considering its effects on our particular body-mind constitution. From my experience, there is always a creative food combination or substitution that will address imbalances in a body-mind constitution. The panchamahabhutas provide us the tool for finding it.   Indeed, this is the tool that I will be using to derive many of the recipes and food ideas on this blog. So, you won’t have to try hard to crack the code! The following chart provides a rough sketch of the qualities – or ways to describe the elements – and how they work within our body/mind (the Doshas) and our food (the six tastes) – again, remember this is not a perfect science, and is a matter of degree, so there is some room for discrepancies and personal opinions… (click on table for expanded view)

2 Responses

  1. Ann Callahan

    Thanks so much for this insightful help.

    I look forward to studying more of this practical wisdom, beneficial to all.

  2. Erin Hannum

    Thanks for visiting!

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