Yoga and the Elements

Mahabhutas

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”

Fluid potential

pigeonIn honour of spring and inspired by a conversation with Auckland yogini Karla Brodie, as well as my study of tantric philosophy, I am reconnecting with my own internal experience of potentiality. I am delving deeper into the idea of connecting with my natural inner buoyancy as a way to allow the poses to emerge from the inside out, to breathe, to live, to be animated with my unique expression of prana – life force. Consciously tapping into the water element in my body has been crucial to that exploration.

Water is a powerful element. It changes form, depending on the temperature of its surroundings, without changing its composition. It changes attitudes – from calm and gentle to wild and raging and everything in between. It gets into small spaces, cleans them out and opens up more room for itself and other things to flow. It patiently rubs up against rock over centuries to create entirely new forms. It blasts through barriers to destroy existing formations in a heartbeat. Water can soothe and it can destroy. It is responsive and potent.

Being that adult humans are comprised of about 70-90% water, the ability to connect with our fluid nature helps us connect with the life force and the resilience that are our birthright. Within many studies of ancient and modern philosophies, water is seen as the element that nourishes, purifies and heals. Water carries nutrients, vibration and subtle information to every cell of our bodies. We can cultivate healing in our bodies by opening to the wave movement that already exists internally. The modern science of quantum physics and the ancient art of yoga both tell us that wave motion is the underlying movement of all creation. Our entire being experiences more ease when we step into the flow of wave motion, rather than resisting it with rigidity and overemphasis on outer form.

In my practice, I’ve been experiencing a remembrance of the power available to me when I balance creating the structure of a posture with allowing my body to express itself from the inside out. There is the potential to channel so much energy, and thereby tap into so much potential, by creating good physical alignment. The power, however, seems to be subdued if I become overly concerned with the outer form and alignment of a pose. There is no authenticity or life visible when I rigidly perform perfect postures. In contrast, when I use what I know about alignment to set my foundation intelligently and then allow myself to experience that internal current of fluidity, the pose becomes a joyous expression of who I am and how I am at a given moment. It becomes a jubilant flow of breath and body that nourishes my muscles, joints and organs and also buoys my spirit and soothes my mind.

In my life, although I’ve still got quite a lot to learn, I’ve been experiencing a greater ease in my internal response to challenging situations by consciously cultivating this self-liquefaction. When I am clear on my boundaries and needs, the potential to be happy, safe and effective is increased. I thwart myself and my relationships with others, however, if I become too unyielding or demanding. In contrast, when I know my needs and limits but stay open to possibilities, my heart and mind stay more buoyant and responsive. I become a surfer of life’s waves, rather than a victim of them.

In my classes this week, we will be reconnecting more consciously with this fluid element, inviting more ease in the organs and joints. The hips and lower back will derive particular benefit from this type of practice. The water element is associated with the sacral chakra. The sacral chakra governs these areas of our bodies as well as our emotions and our sexuality. Learning to flow on the yoga mat can free up all sorts of possibilities in the relationships in our lives as well as in our bodies.

This spring, I invite you to explore your own potential by reconnecting with the flow of your body, breath and mind. Whether you do that on a yoga mat, on the dance floor or in the ocean, you will experience the joy that comes with riding the waves. I hope to see you in the flow soon!

~Kelly Fisher