An introduction to Elemental Yoga

July 31, 2020

 

On my channel, I love to sequence classes themed around the elements.  Not only is it a nice way to remind ourselves of our connection to nature but there is also a significance in yogic philosophy.  In yogic teachings, there are five elements in nature; earth, water, fire, air, and ether (or space) and they are each linked to five of the seven chakras.  The chakras are the energy centres in the body and are associated with states of consciousness, physical areas of the body and aspects of our lives.  The lower chakras are associated with more practical matters in our lives such as survival, movement, and action whereas the higher chakras are associated with the mind and more symbolic concepts.  Whether you take the idea of the chakras metaphorically or literally, aligning your yoga practice with the elements is a lovely way to be more reflective about yourself and your life in a comprehensive way.  If you are practising at home, you could even close your yoga practice by journaling on the concepts of one element and/or chakra and how it relates to your life.  In this article, I will give you a brief overview of each element and its related chakra.

 

1.The Earth Element

Muladhara (Root) Chakra

 

The Earth Element is associated with your stability, security, and sense of prosperity in life.  It is concerned with your basic needs for survival.  When the element is balanced, you feel confident, grounded, flexible, safe, resilient, and strong.  A yoga class themed around the Earth Element focuses on cultivating a sense of grounding in the body and you can expect yoga poses that have an emphasis on feeling connected to the earth underneath you (for example standing balances and child’s pose). 

 

2. The Water Element

Svadhisthana (Sacral) Chakra

 

The Water Element is associate with your sexuality, emotions, creativity, passion, pleasure, and fluidity.  When the element is balanced, you can connect easily to others, feel content and calm, let things go, you are open to joy and pleasure, and express creativity.  A yoga class themed around the Water Element focuses on stretching and releasing tension in the hips and the legs and you can expect a sense of fluidity to the sequence and flowing movement between poses.   

 

3. The Fire Element

Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra

 

The Fire Element is associated with your confidence, your enthusiasm for life, the ‘fire in your belly’, your passion, your inner strength, heat, power and transformation.  It is also associated with digestion both physically but also in how you process (or digest) your life.  When the element is unbalanced you can become depressed, lazy, withdrawn, irritable, angry and aggressive.  A yoga class themed around the Fire Element will incorporate poses to build strength and heat in the core as well as twists to improve the health and mobility of the spine.    

 

4. The Air Element

Anahata (Heart) Chakra

 

The Air Element is associated with love, freedom, openness, compassion, self-acceptance, intellect, frivolity, and positivity.  When the element is balanced, you can freely give and receive love, feel light and open, you are compassionate, feel motivated and innovative, and express mental agility.  A yoga class themed around the Air Element will incorporate poses to build strength and flexibility in the chest, shoulders and upper back and will also incorporate invigorating and energising backbends, all with the aim of opening the heart center.

 

5. The Ether Element

Vissuddha (Throat) Chakra

 

The Ether Element is associated with spirituality, intuition, connection, stillness, openness, freedom, communication, expansiveness, consciousness, and truth.  When the element is balanced, you can freely communicate, express yourself, feel connected with world around you, feel connected to your higher purpose and you feel physically and emotionally nourished.  A yoga class themed around the Ether Element will focus on cultivating a sense of spaciousness to your practice.  Can you notice the space between the inhales and exhales, the space between the poses you practice, the space in your thoughts and the physical space you practice in?  The sequence might incorporate pranayama (breath work) savasana and meditation and take time to pause between pose as well as focus on being in the present moment.  Poses will also focus on stretching the front of the throat. 

 

References

  • Prana and Pranayama by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

  • Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith

 

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