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Exploring the Vitality of Water Element: The Water Element (Jal)

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

In Ayurveda, the body comprises five fundamental elements known as Pancha tatva or Pancha Mahabhutas. Four of these elements - ether, fire, air, and water - form the physical fabric of both our bodies and the world around us. Ether, often referred to as the fifth element, holds a spiritual essence.

Water Element

When examining the sequence, the 'water' or hindi known as 'Jal' emerges as the fourth element, originating from ether, air, and fire. Ether provides space for existence, while air engenders the heat of fire through friction. As this fire cools, it transforms into a denser form, giving rise to the water element.

Known as 'apas' in Sanskrit, the water element holds profound significance for physical and mental well-being, transcending various cultures. This article delves deeper into the water element's essence and its pivotal role in maintaining harmony between the mind and body.

Unveiling the Symbolism of the Water Element

Water, both abundant on Earth and within our bodies, holds immense symbolism. Geographically, 71% of the Earth's surface is composed of water, encompassing vast oceans, lakes, streams, and rivers. Similarly, our bodies contain approximately 60-70% water.

This emphasizes the vital role that water plays not only in the functioning of our planet but also in our own bodies.

When exploring the qualities of the water element, we encounter its coolness, stability, heaviness, moisture, smoothness, grossness, fluidity, dullness, cloudiness, and softness. Moreover, water serves as a natural antidote to counteract the influences of various elements that seek to overpower our emotions and behaviour.

The Water Element in Various Traditions

Insights from Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, the Kapha Dosha holds the water element as its primary constituent. Comprised of both water and earth elements, the water element forms the foundation for the heavy and stable qualities of the earth element.

Within our bodies, the water element resides in five specific areas: the chest, stomach, head, mouth & tongue, and joints. These areas correspond to the five types of Kapha:

  1. Avalambaka Kapha (chest) - Protects the heart and lungs, and provides strength to the back and chest muscles.

  2. Kledaka Kapha (stomach) - Breaks down food into digestible portions and safeguards the stomach lining from acids.

  3. Tarpaka Kapha (head) - Preserves the sensory organs, lubricates the nerves, and promotes calmness, happiness, and stability.

  4. Bodhaka Kapha (mouth and tongue) - Facilitates taste perception and produces saliva to moisten and aid in food digestion.

  5. Sleshaka Kapha (joints) - Maintains joint moisture, protects them from wear and tear, and ensures stability and strength.

The water element predominantly manifests during the spring season, a time when life flourishes.

Interestingly, the pinky finger represents the water element on our hands. Practising specific hand mudras, like Varun mudra, can influence the water element by either increasing or decreasing its presence in the body.

Varun Mudra

Insights from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

In TCM, the water element is associated with qualities such as wisdom, stamina, endurance, modesty, and sensibility. Unlike Ayurveda, TCM theory designates the winter season as the time when the water element is most prominent.

The primary emotion linked to the water element is 'Fear.' This fear can manifest in various forms, such as fear of insects like spiders or snakes, fear of heights, fear of inadequacy, and other fears that trigger survival anxiety or a sense of extinction.

Within the body, the water element resides in the kidney and urinary bladder. The kidney is considered the powerhouse of energy, supporting digestion and reproduction. Imbalances in the water element can lead to kidney problems, resulting in reduced stamina, strength, fertility, and various digestive issues.

Spiritual, Historical, and Cultural Perspectives

Water is symbolically associated with feminine energy and the moon in various cultures. It represents emotions, healing, friendship, love, purity, mystery, dreaming, fluidity, stability, strength, change, fertility, devotion, and receptivity. Those with a water-dominant personality are often described as calm, compassionate, loving, and loyal.

In spiritual contexts, water symbolizes death and rebirth. Rain is considered life-giving, while floods and droughts can bring about destruction and death.

Historically, civilizations often settled near water sources. The Nile was known as the lifeline of Egypt, and the ancient Greeks worshipped the water god Poseidon.

In Hindu culture, the river Ganga holds spiritual significance, and people seek purification by bathing in its waters. Christians perform baptism with holy water, and ancient Jewish traditions involve spiritual cleansing through bathing. Muslims perform ablution or wudu with water before prayer.

Water has been used across cultures for cleansing and purification rituals due to its association with life-giving properties.

Given its importance, it's no surprise that water plays a vital role in maintaining our well-being. Whether through liquid diets or practices like Jal Neti (a nasal cleansing technique in yoga), water is used to restore balance in the body.

When the body lacks water, it quickly exhibits the effects. Proper water intake can partially alleviate many ailments, as it enables smooth bodily functions and activates essential hormones for maintaining good health.

Functions of the Water Element in the Body

Water serves numerous vital functions, including detoxification, temperature regulation, oxygen transport, and more. It can be obtained through drinking water, beverages, and food. Let's explore the functions of the water element in detail.

  1. Regulates Body Temperature: The water element, constituting a significant portion of our bodies, helps regulate temperature. The sweat produced during physical activity or fever prevents overheating. Replenishing lost water through drinking prevents dehydration.

  2. Produces Saliva: Water aids in saliva production, essential for digestion. It breaks down food and promotes oral health by containing enzymes and electrolytes. Dryness in the mouth or white tongue coating may indicate the need for more water.

  3. Aids in Digestion: Water facilitates nutrient absorption and digestion in the stomach and intestines. It helps absorb nutrients from food and soluble fibre, supporting optimal digestion.

  4. Lubricates Joints, Tissues, and Spinal Cord: Water contributes to joint lubrication, benefiting joint and bone health. Hydration keeps tissues moist and enables optimal spinal cord function.

  5. Detoxifies the Body: Water plays a vital role in natural detoxification. It assists the kidneys in filtering toxins from the blood and aids the digestive tract in eliminating waste. Proper hydration prevents constipation and kidney and bladder stones.

  6. Supports Brain Function: The brain contains a significant amount of water. Loss of water and electrolytes can impair brain function, leading to weakness, fatigue, and confusion. Replenishing water levels improve focus, and memory, and reduces anxiety and stress.

  7. Promotes a Healthy Cardiovascular System: Water present in the blood ensures continuous supply to the entire body through the heart. Adequate water intake prevents mineral imbalances and concentration of the blood, reducing the risk of muscle and heart-related issues.

  8. Boosts Energy and Physical Performance: Drinking water enhances metabolism and provides energy. This energy improves stamina, endurance, and physical performance during exercises and activities.

  9. Reduces Illness Symptoms: Insufficient water intake can contribute to various ailments such as constipation, low blood pressure, kidney issues, hyperthermia, and dehydration. Proper hydration helps reduce the occurrence of these conditions.

Water is crucial for maintaining overall well-being, and consuming adequate amounts can significantly impact our health and prevent the onset of certain illnesses.

Effects of Excess Water Element on the Body

While water is essential for our well-being, an excessive amount can have negative effects on our system. When water is retained excessively, it can lead to bloating, puffiness, and swelling. Water retention, also known as oedema, can occur due to various factors such as genetics, high sodium diet, menstrual cycle, medication, sedentary lifestyle, pregnancy, or certain medical conditions. Here are some symptoms associated with an excess water element in the body:

  1. Bloating

  2. Swollen legs, feet, and ankles

  3. Puffiness of the abdomen, face, and hips

  4. Stiff joints

  5. Weight fluctuations

  6. Excessive emotional or depressive feelings

  7. Slow digestion and lack of appetite

  8. Nausea

  9. Excess salivation

  10. The feeling of dullness and heaviness

  11. Sluggishness, laziness, lethargy

  12. Excessive sleep

  13. Excess urination

  14. Varicose veins

  15. Cough and congestion

  16. The nasal mucus and runny nose

Effects of Deficiency in the Water Element

When the water element in our body is insufficient, it can lead to various health issues. Neglecting water consumption and factors like excessive sweating, diarrhoea, vomiting, or certain medical conditions can contribute to a decrease in the water element.

Here are some signs of water element deficiency:

  1. Decreased urination with dark yellow colour and a strong odour

  2. Palpitations

  3. Dry and dull skin

  4. Dry mouth and tongue due to reduced saliva production

  5. Low blood pressure

  6. Fatigue, low energy, and brain fog

  7. Weight gain

  8. Abdominal pain and cramps

  9. Dizziness and headache

  10. Irritability

  11. Muscle weakness

  12. Crackling sounds in joints due to lack of lubrication

  13. Empty feeling in the heart and chest

  14. Constipation

  15. Frequent illness

Practices to Balance the Water Element

If you experience symptoms related to imbalances in the water element, there are various lifestyle practices you can adopt to restore balance and promote well-being. Here are some effective practices to connect with the water element:

For Excess Water Element:

  1. Reduce consumption of salty and processed foods that may contribute to bloating. Limit intake of carbohydrates.

  2. Avoid alcohol, excessive caffeine, and tea.

  3. Include potassium and magnesium-rich foods in your diet, such as dark green leafy vegetables, beans, bananas, avocados, tomatoes, parsley, garlic, fennel, dairy products, dark chocolate, nuts, and whole grains.

  4. Consider a detoxification diet to support the clearing of blockages in the digestive organs and kidneys.

  5. Manage stress levels to maintain a balance in stress hormones.

  6. Ensure adequate sleep to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.

  7. Engage in regular exercise to reduce water weight through sweat. Intense yoga exercises like Sun Salutation, Chair Pose (Utkatasana), Boat Pose (Navasana), and Wind Relieving Pose (Pawanmuktasana) are recommended.

  8. Maintain proper hydration to prevent the body from retaining excess water.

  9. Incorporate regular movement throughout the day to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.

  10. Consult your doctor if you are taking any medication that may contribute to water retention.

  11. Practice meditation using Jal Shamak Mudra for 15 minutes, three times a day for 10 days. This mudra involves placing the tip of the pinky finger at the base of the thumb and gently pressing the pinky finger with the thumb.

  12. Ujjayi Breath, a yogic breathing technique, can generate internal heat and help reduce excess water elements.

Chair Pose

Boat Pose

For Deficient Water Element:

  1. Increase water consumption by drinking more water or beverages like juice or milk with every meal. Aim for a minimum of 8-10 cups of water per day to maintain water balance.

  2. Observe the colour of your urine as a hydration indicator. Darker urine indicates lower water content, so adjust your water intake accordingly.

  3. Pay attention to any dryness in the mouth, as it may be a sign to increase water consumption.

  4. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, as they can contribute to dehydration.

  5. Consider taking electrolytes to replenish essential minerals lost from the body.

  6. Include water-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, watermelons, muskmelons, lettuce, peaches, apples, citrus fruits, and zucchini.

  7. Consume naturally sweet foods like dates, fresh fruits, milk, cashews, and rice, as they have a soothing and relaxing effect on the mind.

  8. Include broths, soups, flavoured water, or juices for variety and hydration.

  9. Keep a water journal to track your water intake if you tend to drink less water.

  10. Incorporate warm, fermented, and salty foods into your diet to aid in water retention. Foods like seaweed, brown rice, walnuts, parsley, kidney beans, mushrooms, and leafy greens can be beneficial.

  11. Engage in light exercises such as walking or yoga to avoid excessive sweating.

  12. Carry a water bottle with you during exercise, when travelling to hot places, during work, or when prone to dehydration. Increase your water intake during periods of illness.

  13. Practice meditation using Jal Vardhak Mudra for 15 minutes, three times a day for 10 days. This mudra involves joining the tip of the pinky finger and the thumb together.

  14. Practice Moon Salutation to tap into the energy of the moon,

Understanding the various forms of water can help you better comprehend the internal changes occurring within your body and respond accordingly. In many instances, consuming water emerges as the optimal solution due to its abundant essential nutrients. The cooling properties of water can uplift your spirits when you're feeling down or help calm your emotions.

Continuously nurturing this element will lead to a sense of fulfilment, improved relationships, and a harmonious connection between your mind and body.

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About the Author

Namaste! My name is Pooja Chauhan

I am a Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher and a practitioner. Diving deep into the realm of my own heritage to create a significant impact in preserving and sharing my culture with the world.

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