The human body is the product of five elements of nature: Akasha i.e. Space; Vayu i.e Air; Agni i.e Fire; Jal i.e. Water; Prithvi i.e. Earth.
These five elements are the building blocks of nature. In Ayurveda, each body is considered to be a blend of these five elements. Some bodies are heavily influenced by one element or another and that gives birth to Prakriti and Vikruti.
Prakriti is the innate state of being which is unique for each individual. Prakriti is the nature of the body influenced by the genetics of the person. It is the predetermined mixture of different elements that make up the body.
Vikriti is the imbalance created by the environment. Epigenetics plays a crucial role in making the elements in your body imbalanced.
Akasha or Space
Space or Akasha is the epitome of vastness. The potential that a healthy body has is vast, just like space. A healthy body has unlimited potential to tap into. Akasha or Ether governs the ears which are essential to process sounds in the environment. The organ of action when it comes to space is the vocal cords.
Vayu or Air
Vayu is where nature's movement comes from. Human beings just like others in the animal kingdom are impacted by air in all of their movements. The air element is crucial for the proper functioning of certain organs in the body, especially the skin–the largest sensory organ. Touch is the sense and the hands are the organ of action governed by movement facilitated by air.
Agni or Fire
Fire is essential for transformation. Similarly, the agni or digestive fire in our body is crucial for transforming the food that we consume into nutrients that can be beneficial to the body. Moreover, the agni is responsible for eliminating waste products and helping the body get rid of any toxins.
Water or Jal
Human bodies are made out of 70 percent water. Water helps the flow of nutrients and blood through the system. It is essential for the circulation of nutrients, blood, and the elimination of toxins. From the tears that well up in your eyes after hitting your little toe against the table to the heavy sweating that occurs after an intense workout–water inside the body is essential for regular excretion of toxins.
Earth or Prithvi
Just like the mother earth holds all the beings together and provides a structured place, the earth element in the body helps the body, mind, and spirit to stay grounded. That’s why doctors recommend you to walk barefoot on the grass. It gives you a sense of grounding and helps the nervous system to reset and rejuvenate.
The three Doshas are nothing but the product of nature and environment within our bodies.
Space and Air together make up the Vata Dosha.
Fire and Water together govern the Pitta Dosha
Water and Earth together govern the Kapha Dosha.
The general doshic qualities of each dosha are different. Each body has all three doshas.
Characteristics of Vata Dosha
Vata people, just like its governing elements of space and air, tend to run cold in their body temperature. They have a light lean body, tend to be quick on their feet, their skin tends to run dry, and they are quickly adaptable to different situations.
Sites of vata are in the hair, colon, lower abdomen, pelvic girdle, colon, skin, thighs, bones, and ears.
In a balanced state, a vata person is energetic, creative, adaptable, shows initiative, is a good communicator, is spontaneous, and has variable digestion and sleep patterns.
Characteristics of Pitta Dosha
Pitta dominant people tend to run hot, have a sharp quality, and have a strong pitta fire.
An imbalance in pitta energies leads to inflammation, indigestion, aggression, anger, irritability, skin rashes, and a higher degree of judgement.
Characteristics of Kapha Dosha
Kapha people have heavily pleated skin, well lubricated joints, have a stable personality, and are cooler in temperature.
An imbalance of Kapha leads to overweight, complacency, over protectiveness.
Knowing the physical and energetic characteristics of each of the mahabhutas is key to understanding Ayurveda because these elements combine in infinite variety to create our personal mind/body constitutions, and they are the building blocks for creating balance. When the body is out of balance, mahabhutas with opposite qualities are used to return that imbalance to balance (i.e., health and well-being) The panchamahabhutas are fundamental to Ayurvedic diagnosis and treatment.