The 20 Attributes or Qualities

by | May 9, 2021


Heavy–Light   Cold–Hot

Oily– Dry   Slow–Sharp

Stable–Mobile   Soft–Hard

Slimy–Rough   Dense–Liquid

Gross–Subtle   Cloudy–Clear


These qualities are found both in the world around us and within our marvelous bodies. The weather may feel light or heavy and it may be liquid or dry, mobile (windy) or stable, hot or cold, cloudy or clear. Food we eat can partake any of these qualities. Ice cream for example, is heavy, oily, cold, soft and liquid. Our skin may be oily or dry, rough or smooth. Our moods can be heavy or light, cloudy or clear, our thinking  may be slow or sharp, our mind quiet and stable or mobile and hyperactive, clear or cloudy. We are constantly affected by changes in these qualities in the external and internal environments.


Each of these paired qualities represents the extreme on a continuum. The two qualities in each pair influence or affect one another according to two fundamental principles of Ayurveda:

Like increases like.

Opposites decrease each other.


These principles are a key to healing with Ayurveda. When an imbalance has manifested, successful treatment requires increasing opposite qualities. For example, if there is too much heat (excess pitta), a cool drink, a swim, or some herbs with cooling properties will greatly help pacify pitta and reduce heat. A person suffering from too much heat will not be helped by playing tennis in the sun, eating spicy foods, or taking a sauna. Similarly, if you are cold and shivering from exposure to cold windy weather, wrap up in a blanket, have a bowl of warm soup or take a hot bath. These simple remedies immediately make sense when we hear them because they are so natural.