When I first started sharing Ayurveda and self-healing, there was so much terminology involved that I often found my clients and audience getting lost and overwhelmed.

  • What’s my dosha type again?
  • What’s the difference between my constitution (prakruti) and my imbalance (vikruti)?
  • How does my dosha connect to my chakras?

These are questions I get constantly, and because I want to heal my clients (not make them experts), I now use a simpler way to understand the path to self-healing.

It starts with the 5 elements of nature – earth, water, fire, air, and ether – and understanding how each of these elements is present within the body and mind every moment of every day.

When I first began my self-healing journey, I remember the ‘aha’ moment I had when I understood that my burnout was happening as a result of too much fire within my system. I was experiencing heartburn daily, to the point where I couldn’t sleep because lying down was so uncomfortable. My eyes were bloodshot. I started getting adult acne, and I had a strange rash that wouldn’t go away and couldn’t be explained, despite numerous blood tests. All of these symptoms pointed to the same thing – too much fire.

Another common imbalance is anxiety, which can be understood from the perspective of the elements. Anxiety is a whirlwind of thoughts initiated by fear. Whirlwind is really the key phrase here, because anxiety is a symptom of excess air (or wind) in the mind. My anxious clients also tend to experience gas, bloating, insomnia, and a deep mistrust in systems, structures, and relationships. The air present here is seen physically (gas and bloating) as well as emotionally, as people with mistrust in structure tend to avoid it and become nomadic, either jumping from city to city, relationship to relationship, or job to job.

They key in this is to understand the element that is at play behind the symptoms that are presenting themselves. Then, self-healing can happen with the application of the Law of Opposites to find balance, harmony, equilibrium, and ultimately, greater health.

Using the burnout example, if there’s too much fire, that means there’s also too much heat, sharpness, and intensity. To balance this energy in myself, I had to bring in more coolness, softness, and compassion. I needed more of the Water element.

For those with anxiety, there is too much mobility, coldness, dryness, and lightness. To balance, these people need structure, stability, grounding. They need more Earth.

With practice, this can become intuitive. For now, use these guidelines to help you find which practices and foods make sense for balancing your body.

Using the Earth Element to Ground –

  • When It’s Used – to stabilize, ground, slow, and harden.
  • Invoking Earth Element in Lifestyle – walk barefoot, go for a hike, touch trees, place hands on body, or work within a garden.
  • Foods to Invoke Earth Element – root vegetables, nut butters, dates, and kitchari.

Using the Water Element to find Fluidity –

  • When It’s Used – to invite flow, intuition, and emotional depth.
  • Invoking Water Element in Lifestyle – freedom dancing in the rain, go swimming, ritual bath, create space to feel and express emotions, or visit a body of water.
  • Foods to Invoke Water Element – coconut, butternut squash, beets, watercress, and carrots.

Using the Fire Element to find Transformation –

  • When It’s Used – to invite willpower, motivation, and intensity.
  • Invoking Fire Element in Lifestyle – candle gazing, sunbathe, fire ceremony, breath of fire, or exercise.
  • Foods to Invoke Fire Element – ginger, lemon, lime, cinnamon, and cumin.

Using the Air Element to find Inspiration –

  • When It’s Used – to invite creativity, mobility, and lightheartedness.
  • Invoking Air Element in Lifestyle – breathwork, try something new, listen to wind instruments, or burn incense.
  • Foods to Invoke Air Element – raw vegetables, smoothies, rice cakes, and dried fruits.

Using the Ether Element to find Inspiration –

  • When It’s Used – to invite connectivity and expansiveness.
  • Invoking Ether Element in Lifestyle – mantra work, star gaze, stop to smell the roses, or day dream.
  • Foods to Invoke Ether Element – cardamom, rose, fennel, hemp seeds, and hibiscus.

This is common sense, right? If we feel scattered or airy, we ground. If we feel too fiery and intense, we cool down. If we feel heavy, uninspired, or stuck, we need inspiration and imagination. If we feel overly attached or emotional, we need light-heartedness and play.

The secret is to keep it simple. We often get so wrapped up in the millions of things we can do to get our health exactly right – supplements, vitamins, specific foods, blue light blocking glasses – but the truth is, like most things in life, the answer is simple. Plus, it’s already within us.

Now, the only thing to do is to start practicing by asking the body how it feels and why. Then, ask the body what it needs and respond accordingly. Use the elements as training wheels, and start bringing your health back to balance.