The five elements of Ayurveda (India’s system of holistic mind-body medicine) are earth, water, fire, air and space. Keeping them in balance, or connecting to the qualities of an element you feel you are lacking in, can help to keep you healthy, in both body and mind.
The earth element is associated with the root chakra (energy centre) – muladhara. When this element is out of balance, you might feel scattered, anxious, or lacking in focus. You need a slower, grounding practice (with fewer or no vinyasas – think slow flow) with a long shavasana (final relaxation).
Asana (physical postures)
By focusing on a strong foundation in each pose – the feet, the hands, the sitting bones – we create a sense of feeling grounded, anchored, and stable. Starting the practice in tadasana the mountain pose can help with this as we feel the whole of the sole of the foot having contact with the mat. In adho mukha svanasana downward-facing dog pose, focus on the contact between the hands and feet and the mat, pressing the whole hand into the floor.
Towards the end of the practice, instead of shoulderstand, headstand and other inversions, doing viparita karani or legs up the wall pose is a nice way to ground the body, whilst still getting all the benefits of an inverted posture.
A longer shavasana (final relaxation) is needed, 10 minutes or longer. Focus initially on all the points of contact between the body and the mat, and then releasing the weight of the body into the earth below.
Pranayama (breath control)
To end the practice, the brahmari or humming bee breath – using the thumbs in the ears to block out sounds, and the fingers over the eyes, inhale and then on the out breath, make a humming sound. Feel the sound resonating throughout the bones of the head. repeat this five times, and sit for a few minutes after the practice to notice the effects. The humming bee breath is a great way to achieve sense withdrawal (pratyahara), one of the eight limbs of yoga.
We can connect with the earth element in meditation, through firstly contemplating that element within our physical body – our bones, teeth, organs, etc. Then think about the earth element outside the body, starting with the floor beneath us, the walls around us, the building we are in, the structures beyond.
Having the realization that these two are no different – the earth element within us and outside ourselves is one and the same, ever-changing parts of a greater whole.