In Ayurveda, the human body is considered to be made of five elements space,Air, Fire,Water and Earth.
Space (Akash) – The first of the Pancha Maha-Bhoota. It comes first because it is the most subtle of the elements. Often referred to as ‘space,’ it is the essence of emptiness. It is the space the other elements fill itself. Unrestrained, space awaits a propulsive force to assist it in moving outward from the center of oneness. As a result, its form is able to take shape and differences emerge. In the formation of the embryo, it is space that is responsible for allowing change and growth to take place. Space creates the space for the other elements to fill. That which is the most subtle and difficult to perceive is a function of the element space. The mind is composed of space. It is formless and nearly impossible to contain. While the mind becomes easily disturbed, space represents the substratum upon which thoughts and emotions ride like waves upon the ocean. The sattvic or undisturbed mind is an expression of the essence of space. In the body, space is expressed within the empty spaces. The hollow of the empty intestines, blood vessels, bladder, and the lungs are filled with space. Vitiation of space in the body results in an increase of space and a decrease in structure. The result is the destruction of tissue. Parkinson’s disease is an example of a condition where space is created in the body where once there was cellular structure. The loss of dopamine producing cells in the substantia nigra of the brain stem creates an increase in emptiness. A similar state is seen in the pancreas due to the destruction of islet cells. Understanding the space and its content, governs the principals of Ayurveda.
Air (Vayu) – It is the flow of gases on a large scale. On the surface of the Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. Air, a mix of oxygen and other gases, is inhaled. Blood carries the oxygen through the body to where it is needed. Red blood cells collect carbon dioxide from the body’s cells and transport it back to the lungs.
Fire (Agni) – It comes third because it evolves from space and air, containing the essence of these elements within it. Space provides fire the space to exist within, while air provides fire the capacity to burn. It is because of air that fire will never be still. The fire element represents the capacity for heat and light. Fire is the generator of energy in the body just as the sun is the generator of energy for the earth. Fire represents all sources of energy in the world including solar, hydroelectric, nuclear, fossil fuel and bio-diesel. Fire is the process of liberating energy from its source.
Water (Jal) – It is filled with life. The earliest life forms appeared in water. Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. Water is the protector of the body. It provides the body with its most basic nourishment. Water protects against the dissolution of the space element, the roughness and motion of the air element and the heat of the fire element. The water element soothe all pain and inflammation in the body.
Earth (Prithivi) – It is the only object in the Universe known to harbor life. The Earth element represents solid matter and the structure of the universe. Earth gives form to the human body, and to all of creation. The structure provided by earth is the conduit through which the other elements flow. All elements are born of space and contained within earth.