Yoga and the Elements


As creatures of the natural world, we are surrounded by, subject to and even composed of five basic elements. These elements are recognised by many schools of philosophy and are referred to by various names. Within the philosophical schools from which yoga as I teach it arose, the elements are known as Mahabhutas. The Mahabhutas are Earth (Prithivi), Water (Apas), Fire (Agni), Air (Vayu) and Space or Ether (Akasha).

As we deepen into yoga practice, we become increasingly aware of the power and influence that aligning with these natural elements can yield, both on the yoga mat as well as in our daily lives. Yoga practice can help us more fully understand these elements as they affect us physically, mentally and spiritually.

The Earth element (Prithivi). Earth is the very ground upon which we live. The particles of energy in Earth are tightly packed and vibrate at a low frequency, thus we experience earth as dense, solid and heavy. Within our own bodies, the Earth element is experienced as the solid cellular structures of our bones and organs. Our sense of smell is associated with Earth. Within our minds, Prithivi brings qualities of steadfast commitment, patience and humility. Spiritually, our Earth experiences will relate to annamaya kosha, or the physical body. The chakra associated with Earth is the Root Chakra (Mooladhara). Continue reading “Yoga and the Elements”

Keepers of the flame

Fire is an amazing thing. We human beings are fascinated by its beauty and energy. When a fire is burning well, we can contentedly stare into the flames for hours on end. More often than not though, a fire needs constant tending to keep it from dying out or raging out of control. Our personal internal fire is no different.

Manipura chakra is the energy centre that governs the manifestation of our personal power. It is located at the level of the solar plexus, between the navel and the sternum and is thought to rule our will and autonomy, as well as our metabolism. The element associated with this chakra is fire and many of the practices we do to boost the energy at this centre are heating. Conversely, when our internal fires are a little too hot and this energy centre needs pacification, cooling practices are more appropriate.

As Anodea Judith states:

“When healthy, [Manipura] chakra brings us energy, effectiveness, spontaneity, and non-dominating power”.

When it’s excessive, we can become overbearing and aggressive. When this chakra is deficient, we can lack confidence. Maintaining a steady flame requires consistent care and attention. It is well worth the effort though, because a fully functional Manipura Chakra is a useful thing to have at your disposal when you’re pursuing a goal and trying to maintain good, solid relationships at the same time!

As an ambitious, driven sort of individual, I’ve never suffered from deficient energy at Manipura Chakra for any length of time. Oh sure, every now and then I fizzle out and need a confidence boost but generally speaking, my Manipura chakra blazes with all of the fire it’s meant to. And yes, sometimes the fire burns hotter than is sustainable…my apologies to anyone whose eyebrows have been singed. Continue reading “Keepers of the flame”