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).
The Water element (Apas). Water is the cool, flowing, accommodating juice of life. The particles or energy in water are looser and more mobile than those in Earth. Within our bodies, the Water element is experienced as the vast collection of fluids (blood, mucus, lymphatic fluid, bile, semen, etc) that is vital to our life and creativity. Our sense of taste is associated with Water. Within our minds Apas brings qualities of sensitivity, receptivity and creativity. Spiritually, our Water experiences will relate to pranamaya kosha, or the vital energetic body. The chakra associated with Water is the Sacral Chakra (Swadhisthana).
The Fire element (Agni). Fire is the hot, sharp, transformative force of the physical world. Due to the vibration of the energy particles of fire, we perceive this element as light. Fire is the catalyst behind any change, growth or evolution. Within our bodies, the Fire element is experienced as the governor of digestion, appetite, thirst and sleep. Our sense of sight is associated with Fire. Within our minds Agni brings qualities of initiative, drive, passion and confidence. Spiritually, our Fire experiences will relate to mannomaya kosha, or the mental body. The chakra associated with Fire is the Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura).
The Air element (Vayu). Air is the dry, changeable, kinetic energy of the universe. Characteristically, air moves in contractive and expansive patterns and is incredibly dynamic. Within our bodies, the Air element is experienced as the pulsation of the breath as well as muscular expansion and contraction. Our sense of touch is associated with Air. Within our minds Vayu brings qualities of intellectual dexterity, perspective and mental flexibility. Spiritually, our Air experiences will relate to vijnanamaya kosha, or the intuitive body. The chakra associated with Air is the Heart Chakra (Anahata).
The Space/Ether element (Akasha). Ether is the vast open spaciousness within which all of the matter of the universe becomes existent. Ether is formless and limitless. Within our bodies, the Ether element is experienced as the space between the internal organs and structures of the skeleton. Our sense of hearing is associated with Ether. Within our minds, Ether is thought to govern our emotions and passions. Spiritually, our Ether experiences will relate to anadamaya kosha, or the bliss body. The chakra associated with Ether is the Throat Chakra (Visshuda).
As you can see, there is so much to explore. The practice of yoga can bring us to an intimate understanding of the Mahabhutas (elements) that surpasses rational, intellectual understanding. Combining practices that engage the body, the mind and the spirit, you can experience the embodied reality of our intrinsic connection with one another and the entire universe at once through these elements.