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Qualities in Nature- 10 Pairs of Opposites

Qualities in Nature- Elements - 10 Pairs of Opposites

The Qualities in Nature

New to Ayurveda? Confused by all the Sanskrit terms like Vata, Pitta, Kapha, or Dosha, Dhatu, Mala, Agni? Then this is the post for you! The 20 qualities in Nature, or 10 Pairs of Opposites, make up the world we live and describe the qualities of anything in Creation. This includes describing the seasons, food, drinks, objects and YOU! Each of the Five Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether) that make up the three Dosha (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) consist of these qualities. One of the best ways to begin your Ayurvedic studies is to memorize these expressions of Creation and when you notice they are out of balance, cultivate the opposite!

Once in form everything in Creation becomes a part of Nature and takes on some aspect of these qualities (gunas)–the 10 pairs of opposites–defining the world as we know it.

These qualities help us understand how our bodies are reacting to the experience with Nature. We can look at the seasons as an example. In the summertime the quality of heat is present, which increases heat in the body. To find balance we can cultivate the opposite through use of cooling herbs, cool swims and spending more time in the moonlight than the Sun. In the wintertime the quality of coldness is present, which increases coldness in the body. To balance this we can wear warm clothes, do warm oil massage, steams, baths, sit near a fire or increase our exercise regimen to warm the body up and build strength.

Suggestions like these form the foundation of Rutacharya, Seasonal Regimen. Over time these practices become intuitive and support health year-round.



The 10 Pairs of Opposites













How to utilize the Qualities of Nature for healing

Take a look at the foods and flowers below. Notice the difference in qualities within them. Which look heavy or light? Rough or smooth? Now let’s think about the effects that they have on the body. Through digestion and assimilation do these plants nourish the body through heaviness, moistness, density or stability to strengthen the system? Do they lighten the body through detoxification, dryness, roughness or stimulation of mobility? Step one is to be able to acknowledge these qualities through the five senses. The next step is to be able to identify the effects on the body and mind.

This is how we begin to understand Ayurvedic Dietetics and Herbal studies.

Qualities in Nature - 10 Pairs of Opposites  Qualities in Nature - 10 Pairs of Opposites  Qualities in Nature - 10 Pairs of Opposites

20 Qualities of Nature – 10 Pairs of Opposites

Let’s dig deeper into how the qualities were discussed in the ancient Ayurvedic texts and how that is applicable in daily self-study and practice. We listed examples of common herbs or foods, but there are many more! In our Ayurvedic Programs we offer detailed information on how to understand Ayurvedic herbs and foods which occur in the texts, alongside practical implementation of these practices into your local environment through local foods. It is also useful to scan through theses qualities in consideration of the five senses. Think of things that are soft or rough to touch. Sounds that are smooth or sharp. Colors that are hot or cold. Smells that are subtle or clear.

This helps paint the picture of how our environment effects the system as a whole and how you can use Five-Sense Therapies in conjunction with the 10 pairs of opposites, to create balance by studying your inner and outer world.


Heavy- Guru

Action- Something which makes the body heavy, adding bulk, weight and nourishment. In excess can be difficult to digest and can create tiredness.

Effect on Dosha: VP- K+

Elements- Earth & Water

Examples- Ashwagandha, meat


Light- Laghu

Action- Something that creates lightness in the body and mind, easy to digest and reduces accumulation.

Effect on Dosha: VP+ K-

Elements- Air, Space & Fire

Examples- Gotu Kola, popcorn


Hot- Usna

Action- Something that creates heat in the body. Increases digestion, moves up and out, induces sweating.

Effect on Dosha: VK-P+

Elements- Fire

Examples- Ginger, garlic, chilies


Cold- Sita

Action- Something that makes the body feel cool. Slows Digestion, creates contraction, moves in and down

Effect on Dosha: VK+ P-

Elements- Water

Examples- Neem, mint, wheat


Dry- Ruksa

Action- Something that creates dryness in the body. Dehydrates, constipating and astringent.

Effect on Dosha: VP+K-

Elements- Earth and Air

Examples- Guggul, honey, millet


Oily- Snigdha

Action- Something which increases oiliness or unctuousness in the body. Lubricating, nourishing, moistening, increases love, difficult to digest

Effect on Dosha: V- PK+

Elements- Water

Examples- Shatavari, oils, nuts


Rough- Khara

Action- Something that creates roughness in the body. Reduces lubrication, causes dry skin, brittle bones, inflexibility and has a scraping action.

Effect on Dosha: V+P+K-

Elements- Air

Examples- Bibhitaki, popcorn


Smooth- Slaksna

Action- Something that creates smoothness in the body and mind. Eases tension, brings things together, reduces roughness.

Effect on Dosha: V-PK+

Elements- Water

Examples- Sesame oil, ghee


Static/ Stable- Sthira

Action- Something that creates stability. Encourages relaxation. In excess can create sluggishness.

Effect on Dosha: VP-K+

Elements- Earth

Examples- Yogurt, sweets


Mobile- Cala

Action- Something that encourages movement in the body and its actions. Creates change.

Effect on Dosha: VP+K-

Elements- Air

Examples- Spices


Liquid- Drava

Action- Something that lubricates, moistens and holds things together.

Effect on Dosha: V-PK+

Elements- Fire & Water

Examples- Aloe, water, juicy fruits


Dense- Sandra

Action-  Something that creates solidity in the body and its systems. Difficult to digest, increases structural strength and mental fortitude.

Effect on Dosha: VP-K+

Elements- Earth

Examples- Roots, cheese


Gross- Sthula

Action- Something that creates bulk in body. Difficult to digest, can create obstruction.

Effect on Dosha: VP-K+

Elements- Earth

Examples- Bala, meats


Subtle- Suksma

Action- Something that creates a subtle expansion in the body and mind. Penetrates into tissues, increases awarenss

Effect on Dosha: VP+K-

Elements- Air & Ether

Examples- Brahmi, ghee, honey


Sharp- Tikshna

Action- Something that penetrates into the body and mind. Enters deeply.

Effect on Dosha: VP+K-

Elements- Fire

Examples- Calamus, chilis, salt


Dull/ Sluggish- Manda

Action- Something that creates dullness in the body, senses and mind. Increases tissue, causes stagnation and slowness.

Effect on Dosha: VP-K+

Elements- Earth & Water

Examples- Nutmeg, tofu


Soft- Mrdu

Action- Something that makes the body soft. Eases tension, increases tenderness, reduces harshness

Effect on Dosha: V-PK+

Elements- Water

Examples- Ghee, avocado, oats


Hard- Kathina

Action- Something that makes the body hard. Difficult to digest. Gives strength

Effect on Dosha: VK+ P-

Elements- Earth

Examples- Sesame seeds, nuts, coconut


Cloudy/ Slimy- Piccila

Action- Something that creates cloudiness or sliminess in the body. Heals broken bones, soothes, plasters. In excess can create lack of clarity.

Effect on Dosha: V-PK+

Elements- Water

Examples- Oil, oats


Clear- Visada

Action- Something that creates clarity in the body and mind.

Effect on Dosha: VP+K-

Elements- Air & Space

Examples- Sprouts


This is one of the MOST important foundations of theory to begin with in the study of Ayurveda.

Put this list on your fridge or mirror and see if you can begin to connect the dots between the influence of the external world in correspondence with your internal experience.  If you have studied Dosha Theory and know the qualities that make up Vata, Pitta and Kapha Dosha, this list can become the springboard for treatment. Instead of thinking “Pitta is high”, consider which qualities of Pitta are provoked. This will help you get right to the source of accumulation. The process starts here.

Now it’s your turn to try this in daily practice!

Considering these qualities, we challenge you to utilize all five of your senses in your healing journey. Play around and get creative with how you find ways to cultivate a different experience in times of discomfort.


If you are feeling heavy you could:

  1. Taste- Eat light, easy to digest foods;
  2. Smell- Use light and bright essential oils like: lemon, wild orange, mint;
  3. Touch- Stimulate the body with an invigorating movement practice, body scrub or a brisk walk;
  4. Sight- Change your visual experience; take a walk in nature; find something that makes you feel uplifted;
  5. Sound- Play music that makes you dance, laugh, smile or feel the beat in your soul;

or lets try a different example–

If you are feeling sharp (short tempered, critical or quick to react) you could:

  1. Taste- Eat foods that are sweet, nourishing and cooling;
  2. Smell- Take a breath outside, breath in the ocean, flowers or calming scents like lavender;
  3. Touch- Take a cool shower, swim, do a gentle massage, wear light soft clothes, experience a soft cool breeze;
  4. Sight- Take in things pleasing to the eyes, watch puppy reels, observe nature, find something that makes you slow down;
  5. Sound- Calm music, nature sounds, something that makes you feel beautiful and gentle;

Every person, food, place, experience, and thing in Creation takes on a unique balance of these qualities or properties. Finding ways to navigate your daily experience by considering them can help you create the life you love. Each moment offers a unique gift for us to truly feel, be receptive and make steps towards positive change in our present and in our future. Let’s go!

Looking to learn more in class or self-study? Join us for individual consultations or check out our online course offerings.

Ayurveda offers a beautiful roadmap to intuitive self-healing and simple solutions to preventative care for you, your family and community. Now is the time to start. See you there!

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