GROUNDED TO EARTH
The roots of Hatha Yoga
Feel GROUNDED and SECURE: The Earth Element (Prithvi) in the body refers to our connection with the earth, the place where the raw elements for our bodies came from. We may bring more “earth” awareness into our yoga practice when we focus on grounding, building a firm base of support, connecting with the earth beneath us. Many times in our lives we become too “lofty” in our thoughts and need to come down to Earth to feel grounded and secure. In balancing postures, for instance, our stability is facilitated through deepening our connection with the Earth. Sometimes the Earth also refers to the Planet that we call home…exploring our connection with our Planet and the beauty and wonders that it holds… which we are all responsible to preserve. The Earth element is represented in the 1st/Root Chakra of the body. This style of yoga is suitable for beginners. Encourage proper alignment of the body and bring balance, strength, and calmness to the practitioner.
FLOW WITH WATER
DYNAMIC and FLUID practice of yoga poses: The Water Element (Apah, Jala) in the body refers to the water that flows through our veins, or the circulatory system in the body. Health is only possible as the water element remains flowing in the body. While in our yoga postures (asanas) we may need to consciously increase the flow of blood into a particular area of the body. Sometimes the practice also takes on a flowing action, with one movement fluidly moving into the next. Water has almost magical properties and is essential to life (our bodies are 70% water), with incredible healing and cleansing powers. It is a universal symbol for the soul and is the element representing the 2nd/Sacral Chakra, the area where new life is generated.
POWER OF FIRE
Core Strength & Balance
STRENGTH is the focus and BALANCE is the key: The Fire Element (Agni) in the body refers to the internal warmth and heat that is generated in certain postures, especially standing postures, and provides the energy and “will” to go on even when we want to quit. It is the source of light and creates and destroys, symbolizing the soul in many beliefs. In our yoga practice, fire is of particular focus in standing postures and in our vinyasa flows, or in any posture where we wish to generate heat, power and resolve. Sometimes your hand (or your mental focus) may need to be placed in specific areas on your body to generate heat in those areas (i.e. your sacrum). It is the element representing the 3rd/Solar Plexus Chakra…the brain for our body.
ENERGY IN THE AIR
The Chi and Pranayama
Yogic BREATHING and CONCENTRATION: The Air Element (Vayu) in the body refers to both the breath and creating space in the body. The breath is the basis of all yoga, since without breath; yoga (or life, for that matter) does not exist. Air is what carries the vital energy or “prana” (“chi” in Chinese philosophy) throughout the body and the universe. It is the essence of all life and can be focused on in yoga practice by literally bringing space or air into specific areas of the body in the postures (such as increasing the spaces between the vertebrae of the spine…lengthening). Pranayama, or breath control, sometimes means prolonging or restraining breath, but always requires a mindful awareness and all-encompassing focus on the breath. To practice breathing techniques is to initiate changes in the psychological, physical, neural and cerebral areas, increasing memory and creativity. It will strengthen your willpower and steady your mind. Air is the element representing the 4th/Heart Chakra.
THE UNION ETHER
AWARENESS and CONSCIOUSNESS. The Ether Element (Akasha) is most interesting! Lots to explore! Some describe it as a “hypothetical medium supposed to fill all space”. Its adjective is “ethereal”, meaning: “light, airy, spiritual”. Usually in yogic realms we refer to is as “consciousness”. As we progress in our yoga practice, we become increasingly conscious. Conscious of our true self, our connection or honesty with our thought patterns and motivations. Sometimes it is achieved by bringing a keen awareness on a particular aspect that we need to become mindful of, conscious or enlightened about. Bringing light where there was darkness. This is when we take our yoga practice “off the mat” and begin to live our yoga practice in everything we do. We become aware of our true selves in all situations, not just “on the mat”. Internalizing the Yamas and Niyamas and making them part of our life and lifestyle. This is not a destination, but rather a life-long process of progress and evolution. In our physical yoga practice we may bring the Ether element into the postures through focusing our awareness into very specific aspects of the posture or the body in the asana (posture). Bringing a focused awareness to, for instance, the internal massage of organs and glands deep inside the body that yoga helps to produce. Like a massage from the inside out. Ether is the element representing the 5th/Throat Chakra.