Panchabhuta Chikitsa. A study of the 5 elements

The five elements in existence are space, air, fire, water and earth. Together, they play an almost magical role in wellbeing and sickness. If they are in a harmonious state, they can bring wellness and good health. But if they are out of balance, they can be the cause of disease. Any serious disease can be healed if we know the secret to balancing these elements. Panchabhuta Chikitsa is a branch of Ayurveda which conducts the analysis and treatment of diseases based upon this principle.

The five elements in existence are space, air, fire, water and earth. Together, they play an almost magical role in wellbeing and sickness. If they are in a harmonious state, they can bring wellness and good health. But if they are out of balance, they can be the cause of disease. Any serious disease can be healed if we know the secret to balancing these elements. Panchabhuta Chikitsa is a branch of Ayurveda which conducts the analysis and treatment of diseases based upon this principle.

Akash Tattva or the space element

This element can be found both inside and outside the body. When the connection between the internal and external space element gets blocked, a disease may develop. Yath Pinda thath Brahmandya. To purify the mind and create a positive environment outside the body, chanting and fasting are of great help. Chanting creates vibrations that connect the microcosm (us) with the macrocosm (the Universe).

Precious gems also impact the physical body and are used in medicinal form – in Bhasma, Praval Pisti, Mukta Pisti, Manikya, Navratan Rasa. When cancer patients do not respond to treatment, we give them Navratan Rasa.

How do gems impact the system?

Each Ratna or gem has an impact on our existence by inviting cosmic vibrations in a positive way. Cosmic vibrations are always present, but their influence on us can be positive or negative. Like the fire in our kitchen – it can cook our food or burn the house down. Both are possible. When the planetary alignment changes, the effect on us can be sometimes slight, sometimes intense. Besides, it is not the same for everyone, the way it affects us depends on our individual birth chart. When the cosmic vibrations become too intense, we can nullify the negative effect by chanting, using gems and performing certain Homas. In this way, the vibrations which were supposed to have been negative are flipped around and made positive, bringing us well-being and prosperity. It is also possible that we may have accumulated impressions which may have been good until adversely affected by planetary orientation changes. This is where offerings come into play – we offer the extra impressions to the Divine or the cosmos when we donate.

How do we keep our mind space clean? Meditation is the most powerful tool at our disposal. Japa, Tapa, Mani, Mangal, Homas; all these do help, but nothing can beat meditation. Meditating twice daily will make way for abundant blessings and miracles in our life.

Vayu Tattva or air element

In Ayurveda, diagnosis and treatment is based on Vata, Pitta and Kapha constitutions. Pitta and Kapha are handicapped, they cannot move without help from Vata. Vata plays an important role in balancing and also unbalancing Pitta and Kapha! When medicines don’t work, breath work helps. In other words, air element helps, it plays a very important role in Akash Tattva.

In Ayurveda, Vayu is treated as God, because the whole Pinda, the whole body has all 5 elements, but it becomes alive only when it has Prana Vayu. Oscillation of Prana keeps it pulsating. The moment this stops, a death like state occurs – it looks like death, but the person is still alive. But to be in life force energy or Ayu state, a certain level of Prana is necessary. When our Prana levels sink, we become dull, drowsy, dizzy, tired. When Prana hits rock bottom, then the Atman (soul) leaves the body.

Vayu plays a crucial role in adjusting life and longevity. The greater the Prana flow, the longer the Atman resides in the body. This is the secret to well-being and a long life. Pranyamas (breath work) can heal anything within the body. Meditation helps all 5 elements while breathing helps air, fire, water and earth. It is advisable to do some breathing technique every single day; Sudershan Kriya is highly recommended. It has been medically established that Sudershan Kriya increases Prana and oxygen levels, keeps immunity high and stress levels low. It dramatically reduces bad cholesterol, addictions and worries. Depression goes away.

Agni Tattva or the fire element

The fire element exists in liquid form in the body. According to Ayurveda, good health starts with good digestion or digestive Agni. So what natural measures can we take to balance the fire element?

Before we sit down to a meal, we may eat a little ginger with a pinch of rock salt and a few drops of lemon juice. This whets the appetite; the digestive fire is stimulated which in turn helps digestion. Chitra Kadi Vati, Agni Tund Vati or Pachani Rasayani also helps. The mind should be calm and relaxed during meals. We should begin by offering our food to the Divine and be fully aware of the quantity and quality of the food we are about to consume. It’s also beneficial to eat with our hands. These practices will burn food completely, no ama will be created. Our system is very clever. It can release the right amount of digestive juice for optimal digestion. It knows the exact quantity of vitamins and minerals that should be absorbed from food. If that level of consciousness is there, if that much mind awareness is there, we will receive the optimum amount of nutrition from our food. This means that we will not suffer any deficiency.

However, if we eat with a restless mind, or while chatting away, or while working on our computers instead of focusing on our food; the system gets confused. It will only be half alert. It will release digestive juices without awareness of how much it has to digest, how many vitamins it has to absorb. It will either work too little or too much.

A diet to balance Agni.

Follow a 5-day Langana (fasting). Eat light food like Khichdi, fruits or soups. Vata constitutions can fast on milk, some fruits and Khichdi with a little dollop of ghee. Pitta can favour fruits and vegetables, a little Khichdi. Kapha can fast on soups or hot water. All of us must do this at least once a month. Those with specific ailments can do a 5-day fasting program. This will help with eye problems, acidity, poor digestion, allergic rhinitis, cough, cold and wounds that do not heal. An obsessive mind is appeased by a Khichdi diet. Those with Ama (toxins) issues, or those unable to lose weight will benefit immensely from a 5-day Khichdi diet, especially when done during seasonal change. 5 to 15 pounds may be shed and the person doesn’t just get symptomatic relief – the entire constitution is healed.

Jal Tattva or the water element

Our body is not just a solid entity. Every day, we consume plenty of liquids which flow in the body. If the flow is harmonious, then the body is healthy. If the body does not receive enough water, toxins will get clogged in the system, cells will suffer a toxin overload, and we will become dull and listless. If we drink too much water, then minerals will get washed away, the nervous system will become shaky, the mind restless, and we will feel weak and drowsy. During the day, it is advisable to drink 1 cup of liquid every 2 hours – this includes water, tea, juice, soup, any liquid. 8 to 12 cups of liquid during the day is fine. In summer, the liquid intake can be a little more, in winter a little less. Those with Pitta constitution can have normal to cool water. Vata and Kapha should have warm to hot water. No water should be had immediately before or after food. This will only dilute the digestive fire.

Prithvi Tattva or earth element

The solid parts of our body include minerals, muscles, bones and tissues. How do we balance all this? We should eat according to our specific constitution. A Pitta constitution already has more of the fire element, so Pitta should not have too much chilli, sour or fermented food. Sweet, bitter and astringent tastes are to be favoured by Pitta. Earth element is in excess in the Kapha system, there is no space for water or air element to move or fire element to act. In this case, overeating should definitely be avoided.

We should make it a habit to include all 6 tastes (salty, bitter, sweet, pungent and astringent) in our meals. Start with a sweet taste, end with astringent. Begin your meal with a dash of jaggery (diabetics can use a raisin substitute). Commencing a meal with a sweet taste allows our system to digest the exact number of calories needed at the time. That way extra calories won’t be stored in the body. The system will accurately estimate energy requirements and will have a clear judgement of how much protein, minerals and vitamins to absorb during the rest of the meal. Extra digestive juices will not be released. Starting a meal with fried items will only serve to confuse the system. In order to absorb the protein and fats in savoury items, extra digestive juices will be released, resulting in too much protein and fats being assimilated.

Do not end the meal with a sweet taste. If we do that, the body absorbs the extra carbs which may accumulate into ama. Always end the meal with an astringent taste as Kapha is activated immediately after food. Too much Kapha makes us dull and drowsy. Closing the meal with an astringent taste helps balance Kapha and Pitta. It also helps with digestion and will not allow the extra Kapha to get aggravated. Buttermilk after lunch and Asava and Arishta after dinner are excellent astringent tastes. Individual constitution is as important as individual blood group. Keeping this in mind, Vata can enjoy more sweet, sour, and salty items which Kapha should partake less of. Pitta can have more sweet, bitter and astringent tastes.

Before even one morsel goes into the mouth, it’s sensible to reflect on whether that morsel is good for health or not. Proteins and minerals are needed in the right amount. Extra proteins are needed only for those who are physically active, otherwise the surplus protein will create acidity. When the system becomes sour; muscle fatigue occurs, joint pain increases, arthritis is aggravated and too much ama is generated in the body. Our diet should include more fruits and vegetables, a moderate amount of protein, a little fat. The base of our food pyramid should be antioxidant, which means consuming more salad and vegetables. The next layer should consist of protein and fat. But we’re doing it the other way round! We ingest more protein and fat, less fruit and vegetables!

When we meditate regularly, do Pranayams, fast once a month, drink the right amount of water and ingest food according to our constitution, then we are well on our way to health and that becomes a wonderful journey! With awareness we can enjoy every kind of food in moderation. Take more of what is good for our constitution, less of what is not. There is no need to avoid anything!

Perfect balance in lifestyle is accompanied by a happy mind, followed automatically by good health. Some Doshas can be balanced with food awareness, Agni can be balanced by the practices mentioned earlier. Let us also be aware of our Dhatus – Rasa Dhatu (plasma) can be balanced with adequate liquid intake, Rakta Dhatu (blood) by eating food that encourages blood formation. Root and shoot vegetables should form a major part of our diet. One part of our vegetable intake should be from the root, one part from the shoot. The root (beetroot, carrot) part will provide different minerals, the shoot part (spinach, broccoli) will offer good quality protein. Add fresh fruits to the daily diet for vitamins.

Be happy without a reason!

Create a happy environment – Prasanna chitta! All senses are quenched. Vata, Pitta and Kapha are balanced, we are in a harmonious state. This happiness can only come when we reach a Sattva state from deep meditation. Rajasic happiness is that which comes with a reason – a little of this is also needed in life. A Tamasic state is when we just want to sleep, a little Tamas is needed for good sleep.

Too much Rajasic or Tamasic food can make our system hyper. Food and mood are directly connected. Have more Sattvic food, a little bit of Rajasic food, very little Tamasic food. People who fast for months suffer from insomnia. It is good if Sattva is high, but Vata should not be propelled upwards. Eating only vegetables will increase Vata resulting in insomnia. All root vegetables will keep us grounded, while shoot vegetables will increase our Prana levels. We need to balance both – too much or too little sensory pleasure can create mental illness. Touch, taste, sound; all should be balanced. Using proper attachment to our senses will make us equanimous.

Pranayama, meditation and Satsang increase our Sattva and make us feel happy and elevated. For more tips on increasing energy and Sattva levels, do attend Ayur Jagruti lifestyle webinars!

The writer, Dr Lokesh Raturi is a Senior Ayurveda Vaiya and Trainer with the Sri Sri Tattva. He has trained hundreds of Ayurvedic physicians and practitioners worldwide on pulse diagnosis. He is also actively involved in the on-going development of Ayurvedic formulae. He is a visiting faculty member with the Art of Living International Center in North Carolina, USA.



Leave A Comment