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Balancing the Elements

“Fat people are weak”.

It’s easy to talk a good talk, point out, patronize and criticize other people’s behaviours, responses to stimulus and non-achievements or achievements when one hasn’t gone through the process (or doesn’t know better). I would put the example of those who say that overweight people are weak. While this is a valid reason, that weakness might the product of something else. The process is much, much deeper, and it involves not only your will or your mind or your strength, but also your chemical (alchemical) balance of the basic elements in your body. Your food cravings and your predispositions since you were born (habits, emotional links, etc) are real, and they change throughout the course of your life depending on not only your choices or willpower, but also on your emotional circumstances (organs’ health and again, chemical changes), and your surroundings (culture, customs, environment, available resources). Change, change, change.

I am going to resort to ancient wisdom to explain what I describe in this article. What if I told you that by balancing your elements you can achieve a sustainable lifestyle that will lead to your own maximum optimal health? “What are you talking about – elements?” – you ask me.

Equilibrium

We know about the four elements of nature: Water, Fire, Earth and Air. You also might have heard of temperament types, all this stemming from ancient Egyptian medicine, and made a medical theory by Hippocrates, the greatest physician in history to my taste (Greece, s. IV BC). It basically states that we all have tendencies in our behaviours, moods and emotions, and they come defined by the amount of body fluids (humors) we have in our body. So when we eat food, our digestion breaks it down back into the four fluids. These fluids are: Blood (heart), Yellow bile (spleen), Black bile (liver) and Phlegm (lungs and brain). These fluids can have different proportions, making more than only four types of temperaments.

The elements tableThe ideal personality would have the perfect balance between these, whilst the less ideal types would have predominance of one element over the others. In the IIth century, another physician called Galen, named four personality types after these predominances: Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic and Melancholic.

This has also been recognized by Ayurvedic medicine (all ancient medicine had the same approach). And so they also viewed the four states of matter plus another one: Ether. Ayurveda declares that certain combinations of elements have unique physiological properties and functions in nature. They name these Vata (Ether + Air), Pita (Fire + Water) and Kapha (Water + Earth).

Ayurvedic Doshas

Doshas

I once visited a fabulous Ayurvedic doctor, Dr. Naram, coinciding with one of his London visits, who told me that I was of the Vata-Pitta type (Fire + Air) just by reading my pulse, putting his fingers on my wrist (this is how they do it). He recommended to refrain from eating tomatoes, beef and aubergines, aside from advising some Ayurvedic supplements.

Now. What we eat has a very strong influence in our personality, because if what you eat is predominant in one element, this will have a big effect on your tendencies. Likewise, what you do and see, the influences around you (the people, the air you breath), also effect your humors’ balance inside. If the mix of these four is in balance, then even if you have a predominance of one element, you are healthy and everything works well. So, if someone is predominantly Fire, and if their balance is right, that person will be warm, resilient to the cold, body resistant to anything which would be a negative influence of water, they will be full of drive and ambitious; if their mix is wrong, they will lose control and be angry, and the quality of being hot and dry will express itself in various ways such as: being prone to fevers or rashes in the skin, which might aggravate in the Summer or at midday. So by knowing when/where the humors express themselves more, we can find out what needs to be brought into balance.

elements

As we go through life, the balance of our elements changes (did I talk about change before?). Out of all the influencing factors in our changes, the most important one is FOOD. The food we eat and how we eat it reveals the way the elements express themselves. So someone fiery will prefer hot and spicy, dry food, they’ll eat fast and with vigour.

“You are what you eat – literally”

So to help balancing our elements, we will have to bring the opposite of our expression of appetite. Example: someone lacking energy, depressed and withdrawn from society, they might express a melancholic temperament (Earth element), perhaps they have dry eyes, perhaps they are always cold, and their symptoms get worse in the afternoon, perhaps their liver is overworking; they might be eating simple, plain earthy food. Maybe from time to time they have strong cravings of something opposite, something for example of the Air element (fizzy drinks, bread). What needs to be done is to design a meal plan that represents all the elements in a balanced way, with a predominance of foods of the opposing element, which in the case of Earth is Air. Analogically, we will look at bringing a quality of Warmth and Moist to everything else they do: influences that will inspire their heart, their mind. We would encourage them to be up in the morning and spending time in places of air and mix with others who are more of that airy nature. We would also recommend exercises related to the Air element: breathing, singing. But all this after the main influence, which is the diet: sweet, hot and moist foods, foods that grow in Spring, and foods with air quality in them. This would bring around that good mix within the person, balancing their mind, which would lead to better judgements and a better life.

So, let’s think twice before only looking at the external behaviours of people. There is always a deeper reason for things, most of which we are still learning about 🙂


Related links:

https://www.tibetanmedicine-edu.org/index.php/n-articles/the-phlegm-humor

http://www.greekmedicine.net/b_p/Four_Humors.html

https://www.ayurveda.com/resources/articles/doshas-their-elements-and-attributes

https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/learning-ayurveda/vata-pitta-and-kapha/

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