How to connect with the water element in yoga

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 water element is associated with the second chakra, svadhisthana, approximately located at the sacrum, which is associated with creative and sexual energy. An imbalance in this chakra or energy centre can lead to feeling stuck, resistant to change, sexual dysfunction and depression. To reset the balance, you need a fluid, playful practice – lots of sun salutations and flowing movements whilst in the poses.

Asana (physical postures)

Keep things moving when you would normally hold a pose, for example in utthita trikonasana rather than holding the top arm straight up, bring it down on the exhale and back up on the inhale.

In prasarita padottonasana, with both hands on the floor beneath the shoulders, inhale one arm up, twisting the torso, exhale it down, then repeat with the other arm.

Flowing through a series of poses such as the dancing warrior series, building up to one breath per pose.

Pranayama (breath control)

Three part breathing: deeply inhale through the nostrils first into the upper chest, then feeling the ribs flare out, then feel the breath moving deep down into the lower abdomen. Reverse this on the exhalation.

Meditation

Call to mind the water element within the body by thinking of all the liquids, such as the saliva, mucus, the blood, sweat.

Then move the attention to imagining other fluids in the body – fluid in the joints and the spine, all of the liquid that surrounds the cells of the body.

Then move on to think about the water element outside ourselves – the rain, streams, rivers and seas.

Have a sense that all of the water within the body, which we tend to think of as ‘ours’ is simply borrowed from the outside world. There is only one water element, both within and without. We are all made of the same stuff.

Meditation 101 – benefits, techniques, how to get started

Apparently today is world meditation day. But why do we need to meditate? What benefits does it have? And how can you get started today?

Why meditate?

People have been meditating for over 2500 years. Now neuroscience is now proving what those ancient people knew all along – that meditation is highly beneficial. It can improve memory and concentration, and can help us regulate our emotions.

Personally speaking, I am a much nicer person to be around since I started meditating about 7yrs ago. I am more aware of my emotional response to people and things around me, and it also gives me space before I respond, rather than just reacting out of habit. It also allows me a greater amount of self-care as I can see when things are becoming stressful and I can consciously choose how to respond to things in a way that is kind to myself.

Types of meditation

“Meditation” is an umbrella term for many different practices. A common one for beginners and experienced meditators is mindfulness of breathing, where the attention is focused on the breath.

Metta or loving kindness meditation is where you try to cultivate kind feelings towards yourself, a friend, someone neutral, someone you’re having difficulty with and then all beings.

Just sitting meditation is just that – sitting with no agenda, just an open awareness of everything that’s going on (thoughts, feelings, sensations, sounds etc) without getting caught up in the story of those things.

How to get started today

Sitting upright on a chair or on a cushion on the floor, have a clock nearby. The posture should be upright but comfortable. Consider having a cushion or blanket in your lap to rest your hands on.

Close your eyes and just focus on the sensation of breath flowing in and out at the nostrils. Notice the temperature, the texture, the quality of the breath – really be curious. If it is easier to stay with the breath by counting then you can do that. Every time you notice the mind has wandered, just gently guide it back to the breath. Aim for five minutes and you can build it up over time.

There are lots of great guided meditations on various apps and websites. I like Insight Timer, it has thousands of guided meditations (I like the ones by Bodhipaksa) but also a simple timer to use unguided. Headspace is also popular.