In ayurvedic medicine, it is believed that the universe is composed of five special elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Each of these elements corresponds to certain qualities we have in our life. Altogether, they are the foundation of yourself and everything that surrounds you.
These elements may be shared with the people you love, your food intake, and the conditions and surroundings you live into since it informs and sustains everything about our lives— together with the practice of yoga.
In this guide, let us talk about the 5 elements, the relationship between them, how they can influence you, and of course, several yoga practices suitable for each element, which can help you with your day-to-day needs.
The 5 Elements & Yoga: Everything You Need to Know
Yoga is a practice that shifts from the subtle thought or feeling to create a body movement or physical activity and then back to the subtle freedom or enlightenment, which influences our overall consciousness.
The five elements do the same way: shifting from the subtle space and air to create or sustain the fire, earth, and water. The 5 elements are responsible for upholding your daily needs, the yoga practice, and everything that is happening in your lives.
So to bring honor to this connection, it is time to explore each of the special 5 elements for a better lifestyle and yoga practice:
Space is the basin for everything. It stores your potential, awareness, peacefulness, and liberation. It helps the transformation become easy by affirming that you can achieve your goals no matter the circumstances. Building space may require patience, but to achieve it is genuine freedom.
In yoga, building space is like being present and being aware of whatever you are doing, what you are up to, or what you have been doing, may it be a thought, an action, a feeling, or any form of stress that you can let go any minute.
Air is all about your movement, development, and ability to become light. It is responsible for the inhaling and exhaling of the body, plus the opening and compression of the muscles and the mind. The air element gives you rhythm, gracefulness, extra mobility, and a sensation of physical and mental wellness. It also fuels the body and flares up the fire of passion.
In yoga, the air plays a huge role in breathing awareness. Prana or the breathing technique is an excellent way to awaken the sleeping energies, removing negativity and doubt to reach your full potential. As you progress in life and to your yoga practice, you will see that breathing enriches the mind and body. Breathe easily into the expansion and compression of your muscles and all other vital organs to build a sensation of lightness.
The fire element influences your passion, discipline, and eagerness to transform. It represents the intensity and the abundance of your life’s experiences.
The heat energy is the result of physical activity, dedication, and focus you put into something. In the end, the fire helps to purify the irrelevant—it encourages you to focus on what is essential and burn the rest.
In yoga, igniting the fire is engaging through the bandhas or “body lock.” The fire resides in the belly, which is the source of power, intuition, and liberation. Using the core muscles helps you connect with your true self, and engaging through the bandhas can keep the fire burning.
The water element has something to do with your connection, adaptability, and fluidity. It fuels your compassion and resilience, which enriches your movements as well as your muscles, joints, and agile mind.
In yoga, the water represents the softness of your practice, which also a key element that nurtures the physical and mental aspects.
The movements in asanas, the breathing techniques, and patterns will become more fluid and powerful than before.
As we all know, the earth is our home and the very foundation of everything. It is the center for grounding and allows you to show your true self by cultivating your sense of expression.
The earth element makes you feel you want to return to your roots, increasing your physical awareness, strengthening your mental and spiritual life.
In yoga, cultivating the earth element refines your grounding. It boosts your stability – each of the yogic poses – as the practice goes deeper. And remind yourself that every pose you make is an opportunity to listen and to return to yourself.
Understanding the Forms of Matter
Each of the special five elements corresponds to a particular form of matter. Earth is not just about the ground, but everything around us that is solid, and that water for liquid, and air for gas.
Fire is anything in nature that converts one state of matter into more. For example, fire converts the solid form of water – ice crystal – into liquid water and then to steam (gaseous state). Without fire, it will turn back into its solid form.
Fire is an essential element for many yogic and tantric practices because it is believed that we can purify, delegate, and command the other forms of matter.
Space or ether is the origin of other elements. It is viewed as empty luminous, which is the basis of all spiritual customs.
Connections Between the Elements
Every element has a distinct connection with the other elements, depending on their nature. These connections make up the laws of nature.
Some elements have their antis, and they block each other’s expression. Water and fire, for example, are against each other; thus, they need to be separated for them to co-exist. Excessive exposure to fire will encourage inflammation, and too much water can block fire which upsets your stomach.
Some elements live harmoniously, and that they support each other. Earth and water, for example, love to meet each other, while the air and fire amplify each other.
Other elements are purely supportive and friendly. For example, the air element and water can live in unison without issues, like soda water. However, if they have an opportunity to separate, they will do— the same thing with the fire and earth.
Using the Elements in the Body
Every element has its different functions in the body. The earth represents the solid structures: the bones, flesh, skin, nails, hairs, and tissues. Water: the blood, saliva, semen, urine, and sweat. Fire: thirst, hunger, and sleep. Air: all the physical movements, including the muscles expansion, compression, suppressions. Space: fear, attraction, and repulsion.
When a single element is imbalanced with another, illness and agitation may arise. The practice of yoga helps us restore the balance of these elements to promote wellness and discover the element’s potential and abilities.
Moreover, yoga is a powerful way to repair health because it offers us the practice to make even those elements that can not live together peaceful and harmonious.
You can use the 5 elements to purify the body. The fire and air elements are most widely used to heal the mind-body. The water element is also used as cleansing for hatha yoga practice, the shatkarmas, to withdraw too much water and recover the digestive acid.
Fire for Purification
Fire is a potent cleanser or purifier, efficiently burning up impurities. Yogic poses can control the fire element. Yoga styles with dynamic movement can amplify fire in the body.
This will burn off toxins from other elements like water, air, and earth. For example, in Hatha flow, some poses can help improve the digestive fire, removing illnesses. Some stable yoga flow is suitable for cooling and stabilizing, reducing the metabolic fire.
A balanced routine of yogic poses that comprises a bit of movement and immobility can help control the fire and harmonize the earth and air elements in the process. Yogic poses can promote firmness of mind and body, the body’s flexibility, and help prevent the disease from happening. When you use a pose correctly, it can influence your practice as firm as the earth element and light as the air element.
Air for Realignment
Above all elements, the air is understandably the most powerful tool for realigning and removing toxins in the body. It is because it helps relieve the pressure in your mind-body. Plus, because the “life force” is associated with “air,” it circulates together with the remaining elements, cleansing and realigning your body in the process.
When you learn the proper usage of breath work, applying them into your daily routines makes your way of life more light and impactful. Breathing techniques are also suitable for locating the imbalances in the elements throughout the body.
One of the effective ways of achieving this is to tap into the element’s natural order in the body. Water and earth – being the base, below the belly button – fire in the center of the torso – and space and air for the higher self.
Preserving mindfulness when we practice yoga, breathwork, and meditation helps properly circulate the chakra system with the elements. When the life force goes up and down throughout the body, we awaken our deeper self, harmonizing the chakra system and elements altogether.
Best Yogic Poses for Each Element
In ancient ayurvedic medicine, balancing the 5 elements can be done through your food intake, herbal supplements, meditation, and practicing yoga to become healthy inside and out.
Any yoga style can help balance the five elements in the body. Plus, understanding each element on a deeper level will help your body to adapt to what is needed at that moment naturally.
For example, whenever you feel unmotivated and anxious, that might be a sign of an imbalanced air element in the body. A slow-paced yoga practice can help balance the air element rather than undergoing an intensive yoga class with many transitions required.
Vinyasa yoga supports the air and space element, Ashtanga, and Power yoga keeps the fire burning and water flowing smoothly in the body. That said, below are the best yogic poses to help you get started, balancing each element in the process.
Balancing the Earth Element
To achieve a balanced earth element, you must start with your grounding and stability. Each physical movement should feel secured, safe, and natural.
Yogic poses that balance the earth element include the Mountain Pose, Standing Forward Bend, Warrior I and Warrior II, and the famous Child’s pose.
As you go deeper through these poses, you will notice the growing connection with the earth and appreciate more how the ground always supports you. As your feet put pressure on the floor beneath you, you will feel an equal force coming from the ground that supports you.
In the Corpse pose, for example, the weight of your arms is building up with the force of the earth element, which raises bit by bit and supports you all the way. In Warrior I, and other standing poses, you can feel the earth’s connection with your feet, creating a strong foundation.
Each breathwork you make can ground you more through your legs, supporting you and extending your spine a little bit more. This will allow you to feel safe, stable, and focused on the practice.
Balancing the Water Element
Some yogic poses that support fluidity and easiness are the Seated Forward Bend Pose, Garland Pose, and the Master Goddess Pose, which are best for balancing the water element.
Just like water, you can make each of your movements flow into another effortlessly. With that, you can smoothly feel the pleasure of expansion, growth, and the challenge itself.
Each pose is a chance to feel comfortable, heightening your feeling that you can achieve everything without making too much effort.
For example, the pigeon pose allows you to have a sense of expansion in your hip area. As you rest into this pose, a different space will arise. You will then begin to appreciate anything that gives you the pleasure of growth and tribulations.
To make the water element at full potential, you should continue paying attention even at the stage of ending the pose. You should find pleasure as you transpose into another asana, making the transition more accessible and powerful.
Balancing the Fire Element
Yogic poses that focus on your core, like the Plank pose, Warrior III, Bow pose, and the Boat pose, are suitable for igniting the fire in the body.
You can tap into the strength and positiveness caused by bodily movements and balance the comfort to maximize its mind-body benefits.
As you continually challenge yourself, you will begin to notice that your inner sense of self-assurance will grow.
For example, in the Handstand pose, the pressure of your fingers into the floor, the tension in your arms, and the involvement of your lower body pull all the gravity into your core.
As you progress into self-efficacy, you will achieve a sense of comfort through your pose, appreciating the hard work you have put.
All the fire-stoking poses can sharp your thoughts more and boosts your self-confidence.
In the end, you will realize that in every case, you have full control of your body and lessen the activity of the ever-wandering mind.
Balancing the Air Element
Breathing techniques such as Ujjayi, diaphragmatic, and channel-cleaning breathing patterns are excellent for amplifying the air.
For yogic poses, the Camel pose, Cobra pose, Bridge pose, Wheel pose, and the Mountain pose can help refine the air element.
It is best to make the poses sway, like the rocking back and forth of the body, improves your foundation or balance by making it firmer and stronger.
Whatever yogic poses you do, may it be agility-focused, mobility, or contains many breathing patterns, you should remember not to rush or to move sluggishly.
Maintaining a light and slow pace makes your practice easier to engage in the transitions and physical movements.
Balancing the Space Element
The best way to balance the space or ether element is through meditation. Through meditation, it can help you connect to both your sense of inner greatness and nothingness. Meditation can help us remind us that the space that we all have is an identical space that all other beings have and the same space that makes everything possible.
Some yogic poses that can balance the space element include the Cow pose, Fish pose, and other side-neck openers, targeting the throat chakra. It is essential to put your attention to structural stability and alignment. Also, prevent yourself from collapsing to feel maximum openness, spaciousness, and vastness. Like the Extended Triangle pose, it can promote spaciousness through both sides of your body, opening the chest area and torso.
In a yoga practice, no matter what the poses or routines we take, we all have the chance to reconnect and balance all the 5 elements for them to co-exist and harmonize inside our body— like moving our awareness from the mass of the earth to the endless possibility of the space.
Thus, we are kept track of many dimensions of our human frame to our connection to everything and the rest of the universe that makes up the elements of space, air, fire, water, and earth.