To understand the body one must first understand the Five Great Elements – ether, air, water, fire, and earth. Ayurveda explains that all matter in the universe is made up of these five elemental, cosmic energies or building blocks. These elements are representative of states of matter. This concept of the five elements lies at the very heart of Ayurvedic science.
Ether (space) is the energy field that is simultaneously the source of all matter (pure consciousness) and the space in which it exists. Simplified, it is the space between all things.
Air is representative of the subtle movement of ether.
The movement of ether particles makes friction which creates heat. As particles of heat-energy combine, intense light is formed and from this light the fire element is born.
From the heat of the fire, certain ethereal elements are dissolved and liquefied, bringing about water. As these molecules solidify, the earth element is formed.
In the body the five elements appear as the individual constitution or personal make-up. A person’s constitution is determined at the moment of conception depending on the predominant combination of elements – ether, air, fire, water, and earth. While the structural aspect of the human body is made up of these five elements, the functional aspect of the body is governed by three biological humors, or a distinct combination of elements called vata, pitta, and kapha. Each of us is a unique combination of these three doshas.