THE FIVE ELEMENTS IN YOGA

Everything and everyone is composed of the five elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Collectively they are known as ‘Panchmahabhuta’ or the ‘great elements’. The rishis believed that in the beginning the world existed in an unmanifested state of consciousness. From that state, the subtle vibrations of the cosmic soundless sound ‘OM’
began to manifest. Out of the vibration of OM appeared the Ether element. This ethereal element then began to move: its subtle movements created the Air, which is Ether in action.

“Learn to live more holistically within yourself and with  everything around you so that you find in the peace and harmony that comes from living with and  understanding the five great elements.”

The movement of Ether produced friction, and through  that friction heat was generated. Particles of heat energy combined to form intense light and from this light the Fire element manifested. So, Ether manifested into Air, and the same Ether then further manifested into Fire. Through the heat of the Fire, certain ethereal elements dissolved and liquefied, becoming the Water element, which then solidified to form the Earth.

In this way, Ether manifested into the four elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. From Earth, all organic living bodies, all vegetation, animals and even man, are created. So,
we can see that it is from the Five Elements that all matter, all living things and all energy is created. The five elements exist in all things. Everything in the universe is made up of these five elements and most complementary medicines realize that these five elements not only form everything around us but they also affect everything around us. They represent the five qualities of energy that we experience daily in our physical, mental and emotional lives. These five elements are everywhere and are always together in all things but in various different proportions.

Life is ever changing, so the five elements also change and vary according to what is going on each day and as each element changes, they also affect changes in each of the other elements. We need to learn how to keep all the elements in balance so that we create and maintain harmony within both ourselves and the environment. The key to harmony is to honor the ancient wisdom of wellness and healing through understating ourselves and the elements and how each impact on the other. Every decision we make should be done through an awareness of how everything is  and how the elements of the outer world are mirrored in our own bodies. When elements are balanced, we are in harmony within ourselves, we feel stable and energized, and are then able to maintain high levels of health and  wellness. When our elements are out of balance, everything within ourselves and the natural world is disrupted and out of balance.

The path of yoga and the path to balance require that we learn to bring harmony to our outer and also our inner worlds, by learning and understanding each of the five elements and how they affect us, only then can we can start to tailor our yoga practice and our daily lives in such a way that they nurture ourselves and the environment.

The element of Ether or ‘Akasa’, is the subtlest of the five elements, it is always present and part of every practice. It is the space in which everything exists and acts. All sound is transmitted through space, so Ether is related to the Vishuddha chakra which is located in the area of the throat and is directly related to the sense of hearing and sound. To bring more of the Ether element into your practice, you need to do long expanding asanas and sequences that give you the space and freedom to move with the breath with ease. The power of sound and the use of mantras, especially the mantra OM from which the element of Ether was produced will help you connect with and maintain balance with this first element. Try chanting the mantra OM at the beginning and the end of your daily practice so that you begin and end with the element of Ether as a way of reminding yourself that all came from the powerful vibration of this mantra.

The second element is Air or ‘Vayu’. The Air element is hugely significant in yoga as it is related to our prana, our life force, it is fundamental to our lives. Air flows freely throughout the body, controls breathing, feeds the cells with oxygen and helps to give movement to biological functions. To do a yoga practice focused on the air element, you need to incorporate a great deal of attention on the breath integrating the breath into your practice. A Vinyasa flow will help you learn to move with the breath through the asanas. You should also include a longer pranayama practice, noticing the effects controlling your breath has on your body and your mind. The Air element corresponds to the Anahata chakra and the sense of touch.

So, incorporating more mudras into your daily practice will help you balance the Air element and bring more air into your practice. Air is also the key element needed for fire to
burn so balance both elements by placing your thumb (representing Fire) on your index finger (representing Air) in Jnana Mudra. This will balance both elements and help bring everything more into balance.

The Element of Water, ‘Jala’ or  ‘Apas’ reminds us of the everconstant changes within ourselves and our environment. The human body is made up of around 60% water, the fluids in our bodies move between cells and through vessels of the body carrying nutrients, wastes, antibodies, and hormones. Water is vital to our very existence. The element of Water is connected to the Svadhistana chakra as this is the main area of the body that is concerned with fluidity and liquid. Therefore, to balance the element of Water in your practice, you need to learn to flow with grace and fluidity through the asanas and focus on postures related to the sacral area. Incorporate more hip opening asanas into your practice and spend  some time in Sukhasna or Padmasana at the end of your practice, allowing your hips to open and all the shifts and changes in your body assimilate as
you sit in an easy comfortable position.

The element of Fire, ‘Tejas’ or  ‘Agni’ is found in the heat and energy of the body. Fire exists in all metabolic processes and chemical reactions in our bodies. It is a  transformational force; it promotes appetite, digestion and metabolism converting food to energy, creates thought processes and bodily impulses. It is related to the Manipura chakra and the area around the solar plexus. Connecting with the element of Fire requires care and devotion as you need to feed a fire but also make sure that it does not get out of control, so you need to learn to become more conscious of your inner fire and how to keep it balanced. A fire-based practice should include a more dynamic practice focusing
on the area of the solar plexus, so incorporate lost of twists and Plank and Navasana to help activate your inner fire and leave you feeling warm and radiant.

The final element is Earth or ‘Prithvi’. Earth represents the solid state of matter. Earth is heavy, hard, stable, compact and rigid. It is connected to the Muladhara chakra and our connection to the earth, giving us stability connect and ground with the Earth, you need to establish a slow, steady practice, focus on a nice long exhale to help pull you down towards the Earth. Use more standing asanas in your practice and use the Bandhas to help you establish a solid foundation allowing you to really root and ground
into to the Earth element. Try incorporating some balances into your practice to improve your focus and concentration and to help you find even greater balance upon this Earth.

Becoming more aware of the five great elements and how they influence you will help you lead healthier and more balance lives. So, try taking your yoga practice and meditation outside every now and then, feel the Earth beneath your feet, look up to the sky, watch the clouds go by and become more connected to all and everything
around you, nurturing body, mind and soul. Learn to live more holistically within yourself and with everything around you so that you find the peace and harmony that comes from living with and understanding the five great elements.

WRITTEN BY

JULIA WHITE
JULIA IS A YOGA TEACHER AND AROMATHERAPIST WHO PASSIONATELY BELIEVES IN A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO LIFE AND INCORPORATES SEVERAL DIFFERENT THERAPIES INTO HER PRACTICE FOR THE ULTIMATE IN WELLBEING. WWW.JWHITELONDON.COM

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