The Five Elements + The Connection to Our Daily Lives
Ether, Air, Fire, Water, Earth
A podcast follow-up by Logan Wagenseller
It’s truly a joy to share something with others that I believe in. And, I’m lucky enough to call it work! Talking Ayurveda on Dharma Drops was so much fun. I could’ve turned a one-hour podcast into a one-week seminar at the rate Rebecca and I were going!
Ayurveda can seem like a big, unfamiliar word; but the understanding of it is actually quite practical in our daily lives. Just so you can soak up all of the Ayurvedic goodness, here is a follow-up from our conversation. This recap is an overview of the Ayurvedic information in the podcast—no frills, no surprises. To get the full rundown of our episode (including cat fights and more), you can listen on all major podcast apps or read the episode recap.
The Five Elements + The Connection to Our Daily Lives
Ether, Air, Fire, Water, Earth. These are the five great elements or the Pancha Mahabhutas. According to Ayurvedic practices, the Pancha Mahabhutas are more than just physical elements. They are collections of qualities that, together, form the foundation of Nature.
We, as humans, can be viewed as the mini-me’s of the earth, each comprised of the same five elements or Pancha Mahabhutas. Think Austin Powers, whose mini-me adopted and emulated the very qualities of his larger, stronger counterpart.
If a person truly embodies the five elements, the doorway of knowledge opens to understanding the connection to the world inside and outside of the body. Not only does this create a pathway for understanding, it also integrates us with our Highest Self, allowing us to live with intention and mindfulness at every turn.
It may seem like a big concept, living connected to your Highest Self. But it’s actually something you can cultivate daily through simple life routines and connection to the five elements of Nature.
My favorite and most simple explanation of Ayurveda is this: Ayurveda is a constant dance between too much and too little of each element. In other words, understanding and cultivating balance is the Ayurvedic key to longevity.
Let’s dive in to the elements and where they can be found in our daily lives, shall we?
Ether, in our lives, can be seen as free, unstructured time. To evaluate if you have too much space or ether, consider the following:
Is your head in the clouds?
Do you start projects but never follow through because something else carries your attention away?
Do you have a lack of space?
Do you have too much unfilled time?
If ether is in excess (meaning there is too much space), create grounding practices and connect to something physical. Create structure throughout your day. As always in Ayurveda, whatever you do, do it mindfully and with balance in mind.
If space is deficient (meaning there is not enough ether), create space where you can. Do something you enjoy or practice yoga. Allow yourself unstructured, free time. Notice where you are constricted in your life and create space there.
The combination of ether and air is the vata dosha. Vata remains healthy when motion is controlled, but able to flow without obstruction. As such, it’s important to find a balanced state between ether and air. One way think about it is control prevents excess flow, while freedom prevents stagnation.
Vata is considered the leader of the three Ayurvedic Principles in the body. As such, it's critical to keep vata in good balance.
Vayu represents movement. For instance, the air element inspires activities such as journaling, painting, spontaneous travel, a brisk walk, etc. However, it is important to note that this element is closely tied to ether. Consider if you are giving yourself enough space for movement. For instance, is your kitchen free of clutter so you can create a nourishing meal without feeling overwhelmed? Do you have enough space in your day to move and live intentionally?
If air is in excess, it means the air/wind is not guided. You may experience emotions and thoughts that fly like the wind. According to Ayurveda, if your emotions are scattered, it could lead to issues such as difficulty sleeping or random pains in body that you can’t explain. To find balance, commit to a daily rhythm.
If you are deficient in air, get your circulation going! Try something new. Through the cultivation of empty space and possibility is there room for the air element to move.
The fire element is your powerhouse. When exploring agni, consider the following:
Are you motivated?
Do you follow through with tasks and commitments?
Do you stand up for what you believe in?
Are you able to commit to daily yoga or exercise?
Do you go after your dreams?
When fire is in excess, it manifests as inflammation, indigestion, red eyes, short temper. In many cases, it is, literally, the color of fire showing up in your body. Red and hot. You can temper the fire with cooling practices, such as drinking mint tea, focusing on mild foods, or choosing to have fun over work.
If fire is deficient, it’s important to break a sweat everyday. Figure out a system to hold yourself accountable for motivation. Set goals you’re stoked to follow through with! Make sure your goals are in alignment with your Highest Self instead of making yourself miserable with a workout that doesn’t serve you best. Find exercise and activities that are joyful.
The water or jala element is found in saliva, flowing blood, joint lubrication, spinal fluid, and brain tissue. Water represents cohesion, nourishment, and growth. Consider the following:
Do you go with the flow?
Are you nourished enough to hold it together when dealing with whatever life throws at you?
Can you stay true to yourself?
When we are lacking internal moisture and cohesiveness, we don’t have enough of the water element. This can cause us to feel dried out or scattered (think vata). Therefore, if you are deficient in jala, bring the element back into balance by consuming nourishing foods, practicing yin yoga, or enjoying water activities or sports. Do whatever nourishes your soul and calms the dry air.
If water is in excess, you might experience weight gain, bloating, or lethargy. To bring the excessive water element back into balance, try reducing sweets and break a sweat!
Like Mother Earth, prithvi manifests in the mind as resiliency and empathy. Consider the following:
What are your priorities?
How much do your core values guide your life?
Do you experience joy and love?
Do you have trouble setting boundaries?
If you are deficient in prithvi, take time to pause and breathe. Avoid multi-tasking. Self-inquiry is crucial here to figure out what’s important to you and what your fundamental values are. These foundational pieces that truly nourish us pave the road for our connection to our Highest Self.
If you have excess earth in your life, where can you build heat, space, and air. In other words, how can you lighten the load so to speak?
I hope this information sparked an “ah-hah!” moment or two. And I hope it has shed light on just how simple living connected to your Highest Self can actually be. Like anything else, it’s a practice! I encourage you to dive deeply into your own Ayurvedic practices. And, please, share your discoveries and successes with me. Comment below!
Yoga has opened the door for a lifetime of learning, self-discovery, and an opportunity to do what I love, teach. Committing to daily practice has taught me how to navigate life’s uncharted waters with grace and strength and instilled in me a desire to share that same sense of personal power with others. My yogic journey has encouraged a deeper connection within, and a better understanding of my relationship to what exists around me. It allows me to walk a bit softer in a hard world, and gives me peace in knowing that I am capable of creating the life I desire to live. As an instructor, I strive to always give others the love, positivity, and space to journey closer toward their own Self discovery. Through training and teaching, I hope to instill in students confidence, strength, and self-love in a strong and powerful, yet compassionate and vulnerable way, inspiring those around me to unearth their truest potential and tell their authentic story, always. Follow Logan on Instagram.