For those of you that come to my yoga classes, you may have noticed that I often incorporate the five elements into the sequences and practices that I share. In this blog article, I will share with you a little bit more information about the five elements, where they come from and why they are so great to work with in our yoga practice.
Ayurveda is the worlds oldest healing system, and promotes a holistic and individualistic approach to healing imbalances and disease within the body and mind. It originates from India, as yoga does. In fact, yoga stems from Ayurveda and many yoga practices are prescribed to individuals on their path to healing. You can think of Ayurveda as the Indian equivalent of Chinese medicine – it’s an ancient system which uses herbs, diet, exercise and other practices to heal the individual.
Ayurveda sees the 5 elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space in the world around us, but also within each of us. We are all made up of the 5 elements, in varying degrees, which gives us our unique constitutions. With this is mind, Ayurveda describes three main Doshas or constitutions, Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Vata, Pitta & Kapha
Vata = Air and Space
Pitta = Fire and Water
Kapha = Water and Earth
Whilst we all have some Vata, Pitta and Kapha within us, most of us will be predominantly one Dosha type. It is also common to be a mix of two doshas for example, Vata- Pitta or Pitta Kapha. Some people are tri-doshic, which means they are a balanced mix of Vata – Pitta – Kapha. (This is a huge subject and I won’t be able to go into too much detail in this blog, but I will recommend further reading at the end of the article if it is something you are interested in)
Vata types have more of the elements of air and space within them. They tend to be either really tall, or small and find it difficult to put on weight. They are fast and light on there feet and are quick and enthusiastic talkers. Vata types are prone to dry hair and skin and brittle nails. The have sporadic energy – there energy comes quickly, but their stamina isn’t great. They often despise routine, and will eat at different times each day. They are light sleepers, love to travel and spend money quickly. When out of balance, Vata types are prone to anxiety and worry.
Pitta types have more of the elements of fire and water within them. They tend to be medium height and of moderate build. They are direct, motivated and passionate people and are excellent leaders. Pitta types have strong digestion, warm body temperature and sometimes reddish or thinning hair. They have a powerful intellect and excellent concentration. They are precise, sharp witted and often out spoken. When out of balance, Pitta types can be short tempered and argumentative.
Kapha types have more of the elements of earth and water within them. They tend of be of a bigger build, and find it difficult to lose weight. They have thick and often dark hair, thick eyelashes and oily skin. They are slow moving and find it difficult to get going in the morning. Although their energy is slow to start, they have excellent stamina. Kapha types are home bods, and love there creature comforts. They are good a saving money and strive to gain assets. When out of balance, Kapha types can become heavy, depressed and stagnant and find it difficult to find the motivation to do anything.
If you would like to find out what dosha type you are, click here to take an online test! (There are many other tests available. Just google ‘dosha test’ to find other tests too).
The Five elements in our Yoga practice
Once you have figured out what dosha type you are, you can find out which yoga practices are beneficial to you to help keep you in balance.
Vata types have you have an excess of the air and space element in their constitution. An earthy and grounding yoga practice is very important to keep you in balance. For example- Restorative yoga, Yin yoga, Yoga Nidra and Hatha Yoga styles would suit you best.
Pitta types have an excess of the fire and water element in their constitution. A cooling but moderate to fast paced yoga practice would help to keep you in balance. Vinyasa Flow, Hatha Yoga and Hatha Flow would suit you best.
Kapha types have an excess of earth and water in their constitution. A light and fiery yoga practice would help to balance this out. An Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Core Vinyasa Class would suit you best.
In the next blog article, I will go into a little bit more detail about the practices related to each of the 5 elements, and how you can use them to help find balance in your body and mind.
Thank you so much for reading! As usual, if you have any questions get in contact with us, or leave a comment below.
Beth Hartig x
Recommended books about Yoga and Ayurveda-
Yoga and Ayurveda by David Frawley
Ayurveda and The Mind by David Frawley
Yoga for your Type by David Frawley