Practical ways to get in touch with the 5 elements
In Ayurveda, there are 5 elements - Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether (also known as Space).....
By Katie LaFerriere
There’s an expression that goes: “As is the human body, so is the cosmic body. As is the human mind, so is the cosmic mind.” According to this philosophy, we are made up of the same stuff as everything else found in nature and the universe. But because of our modern lifestyles, we can sometimes feel disconnected or separate from nature, causing us to forget. Taking the time to invite these elements into our physical and/or spiritual practice is an important way to remind ourselves that we are intrinsically connected to the natural world; we are a part of the whole.
Below are a few of the many practices you could incorporate into your life to help you connect to the elements and to create balance when you feel disconnected in a particular area. For example, if you’re feeling scattered, restless, or directionless, work on grounding. If you’re feeling stuck, resistant, or are having a hard time trusting and releasing control, let water teach you how to go with the flow. If you feel lethargic, unmotivated, or dull, bring in some heat with fire and/or movement with air to rejuvenate. If you’re feeling constrained or foggy, incorporate some space practices.
Consume: Grounding foods, such as cooked root vegetables.
Move: Focus on slow, purposeful movements that are low to the ground if possible. Think reclined poses, seated poses, etc. Notice where your body is connected to the ground below you in each moment. Be extra conscious of your foundation in poses and even when standing/walking, actively rooting into the ground.
Lifestyle: Spend some time in nature, e.g. take a walk in a forest or park. Do it barefoot if you can, depending on location and season! Some at home grounding options are to grow plants, burn sage, or diffuse grounding essential oils (think woody, herbal).
Affirmation: e.g. I am grounded and centered.
Consume: Water! Lots of it. As well as foods with high water content (like fruits and vegetables).
Move: Make your movements/practice fluid and intuitive. Try closing your eyes and checking in with what would feel good in your body, thinking outside the box of traditional alignment and transitions. See where you can smooth out your movements. Spinal waves and soft and flowy movements are especially effective.
Lifestyle: Go swimming if you have the opportunity, go for a walk in the rain, or take a bath or shower if that’s your best option. Water in any form tends to have a calming effect on most people. Be conscious of how much water you take in throughout the day.
Affirmation: e.g. I adapt and go with the flow.
Consume: Warming spices, chai tea, fermented foods, anything spicy.
Move: Incorporate core strengtheners into your movement practice, like reclined core work, planks, etc. Notice how you engage your core in various poses and in general throughout your day. Consider practicing in a heated room if that works for you, or bringing a little more heat into your practice with anything fast, fiery, challenging.
Lifestyle: Do something that inspires you, something that gets you stoked (even if it doesn’t seem immediately relevant) in order to to “stoke your inner flame.” Light a candle. Create a fire ritual (e.g. write down an intention or a goal, or something you want to release, and burn it to let it go).
Affirmation: e.g. I am strong and courageous.
Consume: Light foods, such as crisp vegetables. Try to incorporate some simple whole foods that aren’t overly heavy or rich into your meals.
Move: Breathwork is the main Yoga-related practice that helps us connect to air (see more on that below), but you can also incorporate heart-openers into your practice, since air is the element that is associated with the Heart Chakra. Active or passive heart-openers, as well as any any stretches or movements that make it easier to breathe more deeply, are great options.
Lifestyle: Pranayama, aka breathing exercises (prana = life force in Sanskrit). Depending on what you need, try more stimulating practices like kapalabhati (breath of fire), or more soothing practices like nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing). You can also focus on your breath throughout the day, checking in often to deepen and slow your breathing. Try opening your windows to air out your home.
Affirmation: e.g. I am connected to the universal life force.
Consume: I’m not really one for fasting during the day, but I’ll sometimes go from dinner in the evening until breakfast the next morning (i.e. no after-dinner snacks), eating dinner 3-4 hours before bedtime (not too early, so I don’t go to bed hungry). For an extra mindful start, have a full glass of water first thing in the morning, and spend a few minutes in meditation or moving gently before you sit down to eat. Eat your breakfast slowly and consciously, with no distractions (no phone, email, or tv). Try putting your spoon or fork down between bites, giving yourself space to fully chew and swallow each bite.
Meditate: There are lots of apps where you can find guided meditations (you can even look for a spacious awareness meditation), or you can do it on your own. Set yourself up so that you’re comfortable, close your eyes, and settle in. Instead of trying to block out all thoughts and stimuli, strive to stay present to whatever arises in your mind, body, and physical surroundings. As things grab your attention, instead of thinking of them as distractions try to let them serve as anchors to the present moment, exactly as it is. Allow them to float into and out of your awareness, without judging or clinging to them.
Lifestyle: Embrace minimalism, to whatever degree works for you! Keep your home clean, tidy, and uncluttered. You can start small, just clearing out one drawer or room at a time. Donate items that you no longer use and/or love, so they can serve someone else. Consider creating a sacred space. Designate an area – this can be as small as a shelf or as big as an entire room – where you can go to foster a sense of calm, perhaps placing a few meaningful items on an altar or setting up your yoga mat and/or meditation spot.
Affirmation: e.g. I am present.
Katie LaFerriere is a teacher at Pure Yoga Ottawa. View her page to see when her upcoming classes are: https://www.pureyogaottawa.com/team/katie-laferriere
If you’re interested in learning more about the 5 elements, join Katie for her Urban Day Retreat: Exploring the Chakras, coming up on Saturday, February 29th at Pure Yoga Ottawa (Downtown). Each of the elements is associated with one of the first 5 chakras. In this full-day workshop, you’ll learn about the chakras and experience their magic through nourishing practices (including movement, breathwork, and meditation).