The Five Elements at Home
According to Ayurveda, the universe is made up of Five Great Elements. These are: Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. When are ready for a home makeover to create a healing home environment, it is helpful to look at our home in terms of the relationships of these elements.
Ether is the space that connects life together in all of its manifestations.
Air represents everything in a gaseous state, for example oxygen, vapor, and wind.
Fire is the transforming aspect of nature manifested through light, heat, and friction.
Water is the liquid form of nature found in everything fluid and flowing.
Earth is the solid form of nature found in all substances hard, heavy, and dense.
These five elements in their physical forms surround and interact with us in all aspects of our daily experience: what we smell, taste, see, feel, and hear. How we interact with these elements can have a profound effect on our overall well-being. Too much or too little of any element can create imbalances within our body, mind, and spirit.
Harmony and Healing at Home
To create harmony in our living space we can begin by observing each element in its current state, noting any excesses or deficiencies. We can then take steps to rebalance our home environment.
The following suggestions will explore some simple and practical ways to maximize the healing potential of any home environment:
Elemental Home Makeover: Space
ETHER (Akasha): How cluttered is your space? Do you need to clear space in your home in order to induce a sensation of freedom and expansion? Or does your space feel too open creating a sense of emptiness and insecurity?
Clutter often stifles creativity. Whenever possible, keep the center of a room empty. A room’s center is considered the place of Divine Consciousness (Bhramasthana). When kept free from material objects, this spiritual power is free to radiate in all directions.
Remove all unused and unwanted objects from your home.
- It’s best to focus on one room at a time.
- Start with clearing out closets to make room for things you decide to store.
- Consider how each item makes you feel. Does it add to the harmony you are creating?
- Keep it, throw it away, give it away, donate it, sell it, recycle it, or store it.
Elemental Home Makeover: Air
AIR (Vayu): What are the sources of air pollution in your environment? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, levels of indoor air pollutants often measure three to seven times higher than levels outdoors. Prana, the life-force energy, is directly absorbed through the air we breathe. Depending on the quality of air in our environment, this vital element may feed our wellbeing or our dis-ease.
Balance the Air Element
Identify sources of air pollution in your home.
- How many different household cleaners do you use?
- Are you exposed to vapors from paints or stains?
- Are you exposed to fumes from bedding? Polyester mattress pads, sheets, and pillows are typically treated with formaldehyde—an extremely potent carcinogen and respiratory irritant.
- Are you exposed to fumes from furniture? Furniture, cushions, and bookcases are also often treated with formaldehyde and may emit fumes for up to five years.
- Are you exposed to fumes from your clothes? Dry cleaned clothes can fill a home with toxic vapors for a week or more.
- Are you exposed to fumes from outside? Living on a busy street or near a freeway can expose you to car exhaust and airborne particles from rubber tires.
Clean your air!
- Switch to eco-friendly, all-purpose cleaners or make your own. Simple, natural ingredients can be prepared in a variety of ways to clean most everything in your home.
- Move toward eco-friendly paints, furniture, and natural fabrics for your next home upgrades.
- Use eco-friendly dry cleaning services. Hand wash clothing whenever possible.
- Keep a variety of houseplants throughout your home. Many species are known natural air purifiers. They also help offset electromagnetic field radiation from electronics.
- Consider cleaning your home’s vents or having them professionally cleaned annually.
- Invest in a quality air purifier and clean or change its filter regularly.
Elemental Home Makeover: Fire
FIRE (Tapas): How much natural light does your home receive? Are you chronically living in a dark, dim space or are you exposed to extreme doses of afternoon sun? Either end of the spectrum can create chronic imbalances in energy throughout the day and quality of sleep at night. Modern living removes us from direct sunlight, disconnecting us from the natural circadian rhythms. Artificial indoor lighting during evening hours also contributes to the disruption of our natural sleep cycles. Honoring the Fire element by maintaining a balance of natural light has a harmonizing effect on energy, mood, and immunity.
How does the temperature within your home suit you? Is it comfortable or a source of discomfort? Excessive cold or frequent shifts in temperature aggravates vata, the dynamic force of movement in the body. Vata imbalances can manifest as anxiety or digestive irregularity and are at the root of many chronic diseases. Excessive heat or sunlight exposure aggravates pitta, the metabolic force of heat and transformation in the body. A pitta imbalance may manifest as anger and irritability and is the source of many inflammatory conditions.
Balance the Fire Element
To balance excessive darkness:
- Remove any obstructions to natural light. Move plants or rearrange furniture in front of and around windows.
- Consider repainting walls with lighter colors to help reflect natural light. Pastel colors are particularly useful as they increase the qualities of lightness, purity and clarity.
- Change window coverings that are too dark, heavy or obstructing. Replace with sheer, light fabrics.
- Use full spectrum light bulbs throughout your home.
To balance excessive light:
- Use indoor or outdoor plants, drapes, shades and room dividers to buffer sharp sun exposure.
- Consider repainting walls with deep, rich colors. Earth tones absorb light and help create a stable, grounding sensation.
Make any necessary adjustment to the temperature of your home.
- Consider using a space heater or portable AC unit in the room where you spend most of your time.
- Utilize nature whenever possible. Often closing up windows and doors during the day and opening them at night can keep a space cool during hot seasons. Close your room off to drafts by installing thresholds below doors and draft guards at the base of windows during cold months.
Elemental Home Makeover: Water
WATER (Jala): Are you able to flow from space to space freely, or are there physical obstacles in the arrangement of your furniture and home accessories? Are there surfaces that perpetually collect excessive items, or are all of your shelves and bookcases completely filled? Is the balance of moisture in your home right for you? Does it create too much dryness or is it too moist or humid for you?
Moisture and flow provided by water is the basis of life itself. A proper amount of water element within the body (called rasa) is responsible for nourishment of all cells, proper absorption of prana, efficient elimination of waste and emotional contentment. Keeping the optimum quantity of moisture flowing in an environment contributes to a healthy amount of rasa flowing throughout one’s being. Creating fluidity in the structure of a living space allows for ease of mind and inspires the flow of creative juices. Visually representing the water element in a home induces a sense of softness and nourishment.
Balance the Water Element
Incorporate a balance of the physical and energetic representations of water throughout your home.
- Rearrange furniture to create more flow.
- Consider rearranging or removing books and décor on shelves and bookcases to allow for more space and visual fluidity.
- Bring the water element into your home through a simple water feature. Consider using a small fountain, a round vase with floating candles or flowers, or a fish bowl or aquarium.
- Decide if you need to invest in a humidifier or a dehumidifier to balance the moisture levels in your home.
Elemental Home Makeover: Earth
EARTH (Prithvi): What thoughts, feelings or emotions do the objects you surround yourself with evoke? Are you keeping anything because you feel like you have to, even if the items evoke negative memories? How much nature is represented in your home? Evaluate everything from furniture to décor, photos, and artwork. Earth is the grounding, stabilizing force of our natural world. Honoring this element throughout our home can provide us with a sense of protection, strength, and stability.
Balance the Earth Element
Surround yourself with objects that reflect the highest vision of you.
- Remove all things that are not contributing to the balance that you are now creating. Keep in mind the subtle impact that objects hold and mindfully choose what you keep.
- Incorporate aspects of nature that you find harmonious. Plants, clay pots, or décor made from glass, stone or wood can be excellent choices.
- Finish by decorating your home with symbols of Divinity and spirituality that resonate with you.
- Our senses are the gateway to consciousness. Our physical well-being and the evolution of consciousness depends on what we absorb and assimilate through each of our five senses. Clearing, cleaning, and arranging our home environment to reflect harmony and balance will enhance and expedite these aspirations. Honoring the five elements through an Ayurvedic home makeover is an inspiring and rewarding way to encourage positive change.
Mary-Alice Quinn, CAS is dedicated to spreading the practical benefits of living an Ayurvedic life. She conducts her private practice in Los Angeles and is an instructor for the California College of Ayurveda. MaryAliceQuinn.com