As we all grapple with the challenges of living in the post-pandemic world, having a strong toolkit of stress management tools has never been more important. For thousands of years, Ayurvedic practitioners have observed that our mental health is a function of the energies both around us and within us.
Ayurveda, the world's oldest medical science, believes that all matter—the entire universe, in fact—is made up of five distinct forms of energy, metaphorically known as the five elements.
"The five elements (earth, water, fire, air and space), soul, mind and time constitute physical matter, creating the material world and the body."
Caraka Samhita, c. 200 BC
These energies are found throughout the cosmos as well as inside our physical bodies, and are classified by the way they are perceived by the human senses:
- Fire - element of heat and earth. Perceived through our senses of sound, touch and vision
- Water - most predominant element on Earth. Perceived through sound, touch, vision and taste.
- Air - element of fast-moving transparent molecules. Perceived through our senses of touch and sound.
- Space - element of the empty space between molecules. Perceived through our sense of sound (when space moves, we perceive sound).
- Earth - the heaviest element. Perceived through sound, touch, vision, taste and smell.
According to Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya, a renowned integrative medicine MD, “these five elements convey subtle properties of energy translating into matter. Our five senses pick up the subtle energies and matter, and translate them into our consciousness through forms we can identify.”
These five elements, or different forms of energy, manifest both outside in our surroundings—oceans, forests, cities, mountains, rain—as well as in the human body. Within the physical body, these energies form three main metabolic processes, known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
- Kapha - Tissue Building - maintains structure, solidity and lubrication in the body, such as bones and connective tissues.
- Pitta - Tissue Fueling - maintains digestion, body heat and metabolism in the body
- Vata - Tissue Breakdown - maintains movement in the body, including respiration and joint mobility
When these processes function properly, or in balance, we feel healthy. When there is an imbalance, i.e. when one or more of these metabolic processes are not functioning properly, we experience discomfort or disease.
Based on these principles, any feelings of stress, anxiety or depression can be traced back to underlying energetic imbalances. To rebalance these energies, Ayurveda recommends personalized holistic tools based on the individual's unique energetic state, including plant-based superfoods, optimal diet, exercise and lifestyle.
To unlock the top holistic tools for your unique stress type, take our free Stress Quiz to receive your customized mental health plan.