Perhaps because I spent most of my childhood floating in tributaries of the Amazon river, I have always seen humans as part of nature, and I cannot understand arguments that invalidate the Gaia hypothesis. My perception of Earth as a complex system—in which all beings are interdependent and equally important—has guided most of my life choices.
As I try to take care of the natural world, I trust it looks after me. Whenever possible, I escape to the woods or the sea, and I prioritize natural products in my self-care routine. However, for a long time, I have been unable to harness the power of nature that flows within each of us.
Like for most people, 2020 was challenging for me. As I was entering the last year of my PhD program, COVID-19 came like a tsunami. I remember waking up in the middle of the night in March feeling like I had swallowed loads of cotton balls. From that night onwards, I felt like my normal self was trapped under a languid, strange being. Desperately fearing the last phases of the PhD and the new coronavirus, my organism entered a “shock mode.” By early June, I had almost burned out.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, I could not see my family, nor spend time in a quiet place in nature to reconnect with myself. I did not go for leveling up my baking skills nor invented new projects besides cutting my bangs. I was too lazy to exercise, but I started to listen to guided meditations every day. Because of that, I began to get rid of the terror—of COVID-19, of not being good enough, of collapsing from stress—that was consuming me.
I was feeling better each day, but as my thesis defense approached, my nails, hair, and ability to digest started to disappear. One summer day, I was paralyzed in bed and could not think about anything other than bathing in a river or feeling the sea breeze while digging my toes in the sand. Incapable of doing any of these, I decided to look for meditations that would make me feel more connected to nature. I found an Elemental Yoga course, which promised to harness the power of nature’s elements of matter (earth, water, air, and fire) and ether—also referred to as space or Akasha.
I rushed to the course description and found that one of its principles is “there is no separation between you and the source of all abundance, health, and balance that governs the universe.” I felt an immediate connection. From July 2020 until now, I have been practicing Elemental Yoga meditations, asanas, or pranayamas.
A stronger connection with these five elements has been of utmost importance. Even if I cannot be immersed in nature, I can feel its power within me. That helps me to endure critical situations, get to the root of my fears and learn how to break free from them, awaken my creativity and inner strength, and accept my imperfections. Above all, I have learned to feel and appreciate the constant renovation taking place in and outside me. Embracing the power of transformation and cycles, I am more apt to get rid of what does not serve me. Besides practicing flows, breathing exercises, and meditations, I have been turning daily activities into rituals for channeling the power of the elements. Here are the principles guiding me:
Yogis refer to the earth element as the point of departure. The practices connected to this element help us to reflect on and overcome fears, limiting beliefs, childhood traumas, feelings associated with scarcity, and unhealthy family relationships. A stronger connection with the earth helps to revitalize the body and releases blockages, promoting grounding, a boost in confidence and endurance, balance, and abundance. Kassandra has made a beautiful and free video demonstrating an earth-themed flow.
Bringing crystals and plants to the yoga practice enhances our connection to the earth element. Meditations and asana flows can be much more powerful in a space filled with flora and minerals. Our plant care routines can also become a mindful, grounding ritual, as well as drinking tea from ceramic mugs.
This element is closely linked with flexibility. It awakens our ability to surmount obstacles, adapt to new circumstances, and activate our creativity. Water-themed meditations and flows also address guilt and the incapacity to express our desires and feelings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for adaptation. It has also put us more deeply in touch with feelings we tend to neglect. Guided meditations and practices like this one support us in expressing emotions and desires, as well as overcoming rigidity. Water moreover brings renovation—or a sense of freshness—while washing away tension and negative feelings. Any of our daily activities involving this element can become a renewal moment.
The air element is all about love. It awakens our sense of forgiveness (towards ourselves and others), acceptance, freedom, and lightness. Practices teach how to step away from past issues that imprison us, thus improving our futures. The air helps us to overcome fury, pain, and other negative feelings—we have all learned to take deep breathes when facing any difficulty.
The pranayamas are of special importance when it comes to (re)connecting with this element, and it is important to keep in mind that each time we inhale and exhale, we have the chance to access an endless source of serenity and love.
Fire has long been associated with transmutation and light. This element evokes our ability to illuminate and purify our lives and selves, awakening the full potential that resides in us. They help us to recognize and use our inner strength to change and improve any aspect of our lives, reminding us that nobody else should have control over paths.
This element reconnects us with the abundant energy source that we can always access. Like water, it renews us, transforming what hampers our well-being into fuel for self-improvement. This element furthermore celebrates individuality and facilitates the understanding that every obstacle reveals lessons and opportunities. For me, candle meditations are so powerful and humbling.
Ether is an expansive place where everything is created and helps to keep us open and still. It is associated with consciousness, instincts, receptivity, and spirituality. The sense of transcending the limits of the physical body is associated with this element. It evokes the power of words and silence, truthful and gentle communication, and the balance between the ability to listen and speak.
Seated meditations lead to the contemplation of ether, as well as the lion, star, camel, fish, shoulder stand, legs up the wall, and corpse poses.
Would you try elemental yoga?
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Photo: Wikipedia Commons; Mor Shani via Unsplash