The five elements are earth, water, fire, air, and space. The five elements and yoga dictate that they have a location in our body and they also have a location in the universe.
Integrating the five elements and yoga into our life is important for our mind, body and verbal wellbeing as the elements are the framework for just about everything and especially our body.
Seasons correlate to the elements, doshas, (constitutional types), even times a day, food, activities, the way in which we practice yoga, how we practice yoga, even how we practice a certain pose pertains to the elements and poses themselves are easily categorized to the elements.
It is also said that our deepest personal issues and personal challenges are tied to the elements, so by learning to identify the various element-related ailments we can bring more awareness to our imbalances.
The earth element is all about getting grounded. One of the key pieces to help balance one’s busy life is to integrate the earth element. The physical location in the body is at the base of the spine, the root, the Muladhara chakra. The Earth energy represents stability, heaviness, rootedness. To channel the earth element we practice exhalations and a lot of standing poses because the lower body is all part of the earth element.
Connect more layers of the earth element into your busy life: consider cutting a couple of things off of your to-do list. Stay home and have quiet time. Take a walk in nature or have a seated meditation Get your feet on the Earth.
You will become more stable, solid, reliable human being who can be more present and focused.
Suggested foods: meat, protein, nuts, beans, root vegetables, warm foods, oatmeal, grains.
Not as dense and light as Earth but not as subtle as the other elements. Heavy cool, liquid, brings in movement, cleansing and clearing. Associated with the second chakra, the Svadistana. The sacrum is the region of the body. As far as the ideal yoga poses, anything that pertains to the sacrum or hip opening brings water. We encourage deep hip opening practices that create mobility and ease.
Water pertains to the hips and the sacrum and the water functions of the body, bladder, kidneys, emotions and boundaries.
In our everyday life, we want to be more aware of our emotions. Let them flow through. How do you handle emotions? Do you squash them? Do you give yourself permission to feel? Do you let them take over? Ideally, we want to strike the middle ground between the two.
Being around water brings cooling and calming qualities.
To balance out this element, drink a lot of water, eat foods that are high in water content, watermelon, cucumber, mango, anything very moisturizing. We also go inside water bodies to swim or near water.
We become more fluid and find boundaries and sense of control. We watch our behaviors: Are you overly controlling and when something doesn’t go as planned you freak out? Are you too fluid and lack structure? We want the middle ground.
Meditation: alternate nostril breathing, and sit tall, observe the breath, bring your awareness to the sacrum (orange) and image orange spinning discs and imagine the coolness of water.
We can’t survive without water. In pitta season, in hot summer, balance out the heat with water.
It is the source of light and creates and destroys, symbolizing the soul in many beliefs. The fire element deals with digestion, assimilation, spiritual growth. Physically it governs how we process our food and turn it into nourishment. Mentally it shows how we break down and process life experiences and turn them into knowledge, wisdom and maturity over the course of our lives. Building fire is one of the keys to creating change.
Indigestion is an issue related to the fire element: it shows there is a disruption of the intelligence of the fire element. Bloating, gas and burning sensation will manifest when agni (fire) is out of balance. Mentally and emotionally when we are unable to process something we start to have a nagging sense of fear that we can’t let go of, or our minds get suck in repetitive thought patterns.
Fear related to fire imbalance comes up in a variety of ways- the yoga practice is to slowly break the fear down and be able to move forward with love and confidence and joy to live the life of our dreams.
Fear is a limiting factor, and fire is cleansing and it purifies all in its path. It cleanses the yoga of all karmic impurities and cleans the slate allowing a new story to be written in its place.
The greatest gift a student can give their teacher is a bundle of sticks. In giving them this gift, you are asking the teacher to burn all the aspects of yourself you no longer need. The fire helps you to shine brighter and become a greater force for good in this world.
Fire is the element representing the 3rd solar plexus chakra. Fire in the body is generated in certain postures, especially standing postures, and provides energy and “will” power. In our yoga practice fire is a particular focus in vinyasa flows, or in any posture where we wish to generate heat, power and resolve.
Air is the element related to the heart or fourth chakra. It has a lot of power and a lot of potential. The air element is the source of all mobility. It feels light and clear. It is the place of spirit and unconditional love, compassion, friendliness and well-being. Air refers to both the breath and creating space in the body.
The breath is the basis of all yoga, since without breath life does not exist. Air is what carries the vital energy or “prana” throughout the body and the universe. In your yoga practice focus on practicing pranayama, or breath control, prolonging or restraining breath with mindful awareness.
Breathing techniques initiate change psychologically and physically and will strengthen your willpower and steady your mind.
Space or ether is the place from which our consciousness arises. Space is also the element that represents the mind. Our mind has no form and cannot be contained, seen, or experienced. Our ability to experience those qualities is related to what we do with our minds and, ultimately, with the space element.
Curiosity is a characteristic associated to the space element. Curiosity is a quality of being open, available, and full of wonder. It does not assume anything, nor is it attached to anything. It’s free, open, and innocent.
In our physical yoga practice, we may bring the ether element into the postures by focusing our awareness into very specific aspects of the posture or the body in the asana (posture). Bringing a focused awareness to, for instance, the internal massage of organs and glands deep inside the body that yoga helps to stimulate. Ether is the element representing the 5th/Throat Chakra.
With the space element, we become aware of our true thoughts, motivations and perceptions.
This level of higher consciousness is practiced in savasana, during seated meditation and also off our mat in an inward journey.