It is said that everything in nature is made up of five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. These elements form the world we live in and exist within our body and mind.
I’ve just returned from 10 glorious days in the Canadian Rockies. Days were spent inhaling the crisp, mountain air, hiking through canyons and around lakes, spotting animals in their natural habitat, even eating peanut butter sandwiches next to waterfalls. This world truly is magnificent. And there’s something so wonderfully healing and humbling about being amongst the trees, touching rock formations that expand millennia, pressing your feet into the soil and becoming the stillest you’ve ever been at the sight of a bear just a few yards away. It’s absolutely WILD. But the rhythm and life of creation does not exist “out there.” It exists within each of us.
And each of the 5 elements offers unique qualities to our lives. Together, they make up our connection with all of creation. We share these same components with our fellow human beings, the food we eat and the environment we live in. Each of the elements informs and supports everything about our lives.
One way to honor our connection with everything around us is to explore the 5 elements in our practice of yoga and life.
- EARTH- The earth is our home. It is centered, grounded, authentic. It is the place we want to return to, a place of physical stillness that creates emotional and mental stillness.
In yoga, cultivating the earth element is all about establishing your foundation (feet, hands, sit bones, etc.) and maintaining an awareness of how our postures contribute to our overall experiences of stability and ease. Every pose is an opportunity to return home.
- WATER- Water is fluid, moving, changing, adapting. It offers connection. It shows up in our ability to consciously hold on and let go at the same time.
In yoga the water element helps cultivate a softness in our practice and nurtures a sensitivity to being responsive rather than reactive.
- FIRE- Heat, energy, transformation. Fire is experienced as intensity and abundance and ultimately delivers purification.
In yoga, fire lives in the belly, our center of power, intuition and freedom. Therefore it is critical to engage our core muscles, connecting to the spark at the center of who we are.
- AIR- Air fuels the body through breath. Movement, expansion and lightness are all qualities of the air element. It gives us rhythm, mobility, the sensation of openness. It is the very essence of life.
In yoga, air brings awareness to the breath. Breath control can be a great way to open and tap into the subtle channels of the body, clearing the way for energy to flow. Notice how the breath feeds the body and the mind, creating a sensation of lightness and openness.
- SPACE- It’s the container for everything. It is pure possibility and potential. It often feels like stillness, freedom, awareness. Creating space requires discipline but experiencing it is pure freedom.
Creating space in a yoga practice is a matter of being present and aware. Being able to discern what you’re holding in or holding onto, whether it’s a form of physical tension or a thought or emotion and then….allowing yourself to let it go.
While it is wonderful to connect with the elements in nature and if you can, I hope you will. However, regardless of the environment it is possible to connect with the elements within ourselves and in so doing, promoting health, life and vitality.