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.

Utthita Trikonasana

Trikonasana or triangle pose is one of the more common standing poses, and everyone from complete beginners to advanced yogis will practice it (“Utthita” just means extended).

To get into the pose:

With the feet apart, turn the right foot out, and the left foot in about 45 degrees. Inhale to float the arms to the sides, and then exhale to reach forward with the right armpit, then lowering the right hand on to the right shin, knee or holding the big toe.

Spiral the torso open to the sky, extending the left arm up. Stay for at least 5 breaths, inhaling to come up and then repeat on the other side.

Benefits:

* the spinal twist makes this a good pose for backache (be sure to engage the abdominals)

* tones and stretches the leg, hip and ankle muscles

* the twist simulates the abdominal organs, aiding digestion

To modify:

Have the hand resting on the shin or even the thigh (not on the knee). The top hand could rest on the hip if there are any shoulder issues. Keep the gaze down or forwards if there are any problems with the neck.