The 5 Elements of Nature & You (Part 1 – Ether & Air)

Published on 9 Jun, 2023

The 5 Elements of Nature & You (Part 1 – Ether & Air) [Show Notes – Ep 39]

According to the Ayurvedic worldview, everything in the universe including you, me, the rocks, our phones, and everything else is composed of the 5 elements of nature. These 5 elements are ether, air, fire, water, and earth. We are each born with a unique and perfect balance of the elements in our bodies. But as we go through life our experiences, jobs, relationships, and the climate we live in influence the balance of the elements in our body. We are constantly taking in the elements through our five senses, and this can cause an imbalance of the elements in our bodies. According to Ayurveda, these imbalances are the root of mental, physical, and emotional ailments. So in this week’s episode of the podcast (and next week), I give you some foundational information about the 5 elements of nature, how they express in our bodies, and how we can rebalance ourselves when we notice we have an imbalance. This series will help you to more deeply connect to your beautiful body and to the rest of nature. In this episode, I dive into the ether and air elements, and next week I explore fire, water, and earth. Below is a brief outline of Ep 39: The 5 Elements of Nature & You (Part 1 – Ether & Air). Please tune into the episode above or wherever you listen to your podcasts to hear the full discussion, a deeper explanation of each element and the balancing practices, and examples from my life.
This is a picture of a person standing under the night sky. You can see the milky way above. Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash.

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Why is balancing the 5 elements of nature important?

At any moment each of the 5 elements of nature is either (1) in balance in your body, (2) in excess, or (3) deficient. As we grow up and we’re exposed to different life experiences, environments, relationships, seasons, etc. the perfect balance of elements that we’re born with shifts and changes. And if we’re not aware of these shifts and consciously shifting our lifestyle to keep ourselves in balance, we might start to feel “off” or like we’re not ourselves anymore. Oftentimes we can’t really pinpoint what’s “off” but we know something doesn’t feel quite right. We feel disconnected from our inner self, our body, and the rest of nature. When left unchecked these imbalances can lead to physical, mental, and emotional ailments and disease. So the first step in keeping ourselves in balance is becoming aware of how the elements are expressing themselves in our bodies. Each element has certain physical and emotional qualities associated with it, and we can take note of these qualities in ourselves to determine how the 5 elements of nature are balanced (or out of balance) within us.

The Ether Element (Akasha)

First, let’s dive into the ether element. Ether is the first of the 5 elements of nature. In Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Indian sub-continent, ether is called akasha.

Ether is probably the most difficult element for us humans to wrap our heads around. It’s the stuff in between the stuff, and the most subtle element. It’s so subtle that it cannot be seen, heard, or felt, and yet it’s all-enclosing, all-pervading, and omnipresent.

In the words of my mentor Dr. Vasant Lad, “it serves as the common factor or “home” for all objects in the universe… it is the first expression of consciousness.” So there’s a relationship to creation and creativity here. The ether element is expansive, empty, and has no resistance. So it provides us with freedom in which we can move.

The qualities (or gunas in Sanskrit) of the ether element are clear, light, subtle, soft, immeasurable, still, and spacious.

This is an element that many of us have in excess in this technical, online day in age. So much of our lives are up in the cloud and online on our computers and phones. In the ether. Therefore, it can be quite easy for us to develop an excess of ether in our lives.

When in balance a person with high ether naturally occurring in their constitution is delicate, spiritual, wise, and creative. But when out of balance an excess of the ether element might cause us to feel “spaced out.” We have a hard time focusing our attention and actions.

When we’re lacking sufficient ether in our bodies we lack creativity and inspiration. Or we feel suffocated by the weight of life.

The Air Element (Vayu)

The next element is air – vayu in Sanskrit. Air is ether in movement, so some people refer to this element as wind. This element brings movement to our lives and our bodies. It’s closely related to prana which is the flow of consciousness and intelligence from one cell to another, AKA our vital life force. So all of the movement in our body, from the involuntary beating of our heart and each cycle of breath to voluntary movements like scratching your leg and running is governed by the air element. The qualities (gunas) of the air element are mobile, dry, light, cold, rough, and subtle. Someone with an excess of air in the body may have erratic or unpredictable behavior. They may feel like they’re all over the place, struggle with anxiety, and lack routine and structure in their life. Physically, an excess of the air or ether element may show up as dry, rough skin, and feeling cold all the time. An excess may also lead to constipation. This used to be me to a tee, so no judgment at all if you identify with one of the imbalances that I’m describing! And for those days when you can’t get your bare feet on the ground, try massaging your feet with a seasonally appropriate oil (see above) to draw the energy and heat in your body downward.

Ether + Air (Vata)

Air and ether are very much related, so much so that there is a Sanskrit word for the combination of these two elements – vata. In this day in age most air and ether imbalances, or vata imbalances are the result of excess vata. So almost everything that you’ll find online is going to be about how to reduce the ether and air elements. However, there have been times in my life when I’ve wanted to bring in more of these two elements. Times when I’ve felt stagnant, stifled, or stuck and I want to cultivate a greater sense of freedom in my life. And times when I’ve wanted to expand my creativity or deepen my spiritual practice. If you’re feeling intrigued by the ether and air elements let’s chat about some ways that you can bring more of these elements into your life.

How to Balance the 5 Elements of Nature in Your Body

Awareness & Intention

Our first step in creating personal change, as always, is awareness. We must first reconnect with our inner self and our body through increased awareness and intention. Just having an understanding of, “I’m lacking this element in my life,” and the intention of, “I want to nourish or bring more of this element into my life” is huge. This awareness is a bit difficult for ether because it is literally emptiness, but meditating on the qualities of this element – emptiness, space, expansive, no resistance – can be a way to get in touch with ether. Also looking up into the sky, especially the expanses of the night sky. The air element is a bit easier to connect with. We can go outside and feel the sensation of the breeze on our skin.

Nourish the Element in Your Life

What would it feel like to move like air? To walk like air? To dance like the wind? You can also bring the colors of the element into your life. Since both air and ether are completely clear you might decorate your space with transparent objects or objects that remind you of these elements like bird motifs or a picture of the clouds or the universe.


Lastly, you can use mudras to nourish a particular element in your life. A mudra is, simply put, a sacred hand gesture or position.

The next time you’re looking at a Buddhist or Hindu (and maybe even Christian) painting or sculpture, look at the hands. You’ll notice that the hands are depicted in a very specific way, with a specific gesture, these are mudras. Or maybe in a yoga class, your instructor invited you to place your hands in a prayer position at your heart, this too is a mudra.

Each gesture of the hand has a specific meaning, and the science of mudra is vast and deep. I am a student of mudra, not an expert, but I have experienced the very real shift that mudras can inspire in our bodies.

Balancing the 5 Elements of Nature with Mudras

This is a sketch of a hand with the 5 elements of nature superimposed on each finger. Image source: The Yoga Tree

This graphic from can help you visualize how your fingers connect to the 5 elements of nature.

Through mudra, we can work very directly with the balance of elements in our body. Each of our fingers represents an element. How cool is that? Ayurvedic wisdom tells us that we have a little access point or a “control” for each of the five elements in our fingers! So, you can nourish or pacify each of the 5 elements of nature by practicing certain mudras.

The pinky (little) finger represents water. The ring finger represents the earth. Ether is represented by the middle finger. Air by the index (pointer) finger. And last but not least, the thumb connects to the fire element.

In order to increase the presence of an element in your body you can touch the pad (not tip, but pad) of the figure associated with the element to the finger pad of your thumb. We’ll be chatting about the fire element next week, but for now, know that the fire element governs transformation. So if we want to bring a transformation in the amount of an element in our body we want to bring fire, our thumb, to the finger representing the element that we want to increase.

You can hold this mudra while sitting in a cross-legged position, meditative position. According to my mudra training with the one and only Indu Arora, the “therapeutic dose” of mudra is 5 – 45 minutes, three times a day.

These mudras are a direct and tangible way to shift the balance of elements in your body. Sometimes I notice a shift after just a few minutes, and sometimes it takes me days or weeks of practice before I start to notice a difference. So depending on the level of imbalance you’re working with you may start to feel a shift right away or after more practice.

This Week’s Invitation: Play With The 5 Elements of Nature

I want to invite you to play with these mudras or the other tips that I’ve mentioned today. Have fun thinking up creative ways to increase your awareness of the 5 elements of nature and create a greater sense of balance in your body! Next week I’ll be sharing more practical practices and techniques that you can use to connect to the five elements of nature. I’ll also be discussing the fire, water, and earth elements in detail so be sure to listen to part 2 of this series!

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Podcast music: “Bounce” by Coma-Media on Pixbay Featured image: Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash
This is a picture of Eva Peterson. She is the host of the Happy Me Happy Earth podcast and a life coach for changemakers and aspiring activists.

Welcome! I'm Eva, host of the Happy Me Happy Earth podcast and blog. This is a place for changemakers, advocates, and aspiring activists to learn, heal, and get inspired. As a certified Life Coach, Ayurvedic Health Counselor, and follow activist I'm here to support you in expanding your impact while thoroughly enjoying your life!

Self-care for Changemakers:
Be an Agent of Change Without Sacrificing Your Health