A Natural Approach

5 natural elements

According to yogic philosophy as listed in the Taitiriya Upanishad, each human being has 5 koshas, or layers of being, that encase the soul, layer by layer. These sheaths encase, interact, & interpenetrate each other. In order to achieve harmonic homeostasis, what yogi’s refer to as spiritual enlightenment, all 5 sheaths must be in syncopated balance & supporting one another fully without gap, interruption, or conflict. In our practice, we approach through the 5 natural elements of earth, water, fire, air, & space, with each element corresponding to a kosha:

  1. Annamaya Kosha (Physical Body): Earth Element
  2. Pranamaya Kosha (Mental Body): Water Element
  3. Manomaya Kosha (Mental Body): Fire Element
  4. Vijnanamay Kosha (Wisdom Body): Air Element
  5. Anandamaya Kosha (Bliss Body): Space Element

As I have said, we human beings live between the two realities of earth & sky. The earth stands for all that is practical, material, tangible, & incarnate. It is the knowable world, objectively knowable through voyages of discovery & observation. We all partake of this world & its knowledge through the vast store of accumulated collective experience. There is one word for all this. It is Nature.

B.K.S. Iyengar

finding the flow: No judgement, no fear

*I mean no disrespect to the OGs of yoga in applying the 5 natural elements to the 5 koshas & 8 limbs of yoga. Rather, in organizing by the 5 natural elements, I express my truth of aligning with nature in harmony with the 5 koshas & 8 limbs. It is my hope to encourage others to seek their truths as it relates to the wellbeing & authenticity of their own practice. 

Energy & flow

sensuality & sexuality

Traditionally, the elements of earth, water, fire, air, & space would correspond only to the physical body & practice of asana. We have expanded this application to not only express the physical body through these natural elements, but have also included the entirety of the 8 limbs, as listed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, within this structure. We have also aligned our ropes practice with the varying anatomical practices as they correspond to each element. 

Patanjali was a grandfather of yoga & thought to have lived somewhere between 200-500 B.C. He gave us Ashtanga Yoga, an eightfold path designed to train the mind, breath, & body to attain self-realization through spiritual enlightenment. 

In his work, he details the eight limbs of yoga:

  1. Yama (Ethics)
  2. Niyama (Disciplines)
  3. Asana (Physical Postures)
  4. Pranayama (Breath Training)
  5. Pratyahara (Sensory Withdrawal)
  6. Dharana (Concentration)
  7. Dhyana (Meditation)
  8. Samadhi (Fusion with Source Energy)
 

The Yamas & Niyamas are the spiritual groundwork upon which all other limbs are filtered through. Asana, Pranayama, & Pratyahara primarily deal with the inward flow of source energy, our interpretations & digestions of reality, & how these perceptions effect our internal landscape. Through these practices, we develop an internal awareness & connection to our physical & energetic bodies & hopefully better understand how we allow our ego mind, associated attachments, & the energy surrounding us to influence us. 

In Dharana, Dhyana, & Samadhi, we reverse the flow of energy & practice using our discernment through our intelligent mind & willpower to align our authentic expression in a way that allows us to speak, think, & act from a place of kindness, compassion, & most importantly, truth, without attachment or possession.  

If used responsibly, our senses allow us to connect with what is true & authentic to our internal realities instead of attempting to match the many possible attachments & constructs as offered in our external realities. Through the work & sustained practice of yoga, we begin to see ourselves as a vessel capable of transforming the energies & inside of ourselves & with that, capable of influencing the energies surrounding ourselves, permitting us an increased understanding of the fluidity & interplay of our sensual & source energy.  

e

a

r

t

h

A balanced earth element allows you to feel solidity in connection with yourself & your surroundings. When in balance, you may feel safe, grounded, resilient, & confident. Anatomically, the root chakra is located at the base of the spine. We engage the perineum to activate root energy, or mula bandha, which prevents the downward escape of energy. A deficit in this chakra occurs when we do not feel grounded. An overly active root chakra occurs when we feel too heavy, or lethargic. In order to balance this chakra, we practice grounding through the bottoms our feet or by allowing our entire body to touch the earth through yoga postures such as mountain, corpse, & child’s. By integrating ties from our ropes practice that focus on the feet or entire body, such as the heel tie, or full-body harness, we are able to further emphasize this connection. Here, we come into our bodies as we notice the interplay of the three gunas in all experience & postures of Asana. 

W

a

T

E

R

A balanced water element allows you to feel creative, fluid, calm, & open to experience joy. Anatomically, it is located in the pelvic region of your body. A deficit in the sacral chakra occurs when we have low passion, energy, or libido. An overly active sacral chakra occurs when we feel overly sexual or emotional. In order to balance this chakra, we practice hip-focused postures such as butterfly, low-lunge, & pigeon. By integrating pelvic-focused ties such as the simple hip harness we are able to further emphasize this connection. Here, we examine the power of the breath to explore our sensual & sexual selves as it relates to our Pranayama practice.

F

I

R

E

A balanced fire element allows you to feel strong & powerful. Anatomically, it is located deep within your abdomen. A deficit in the solar plexus chakra occurs when we have low confidence, depression, feel withdrawn, or carry shame. An overly active solar plexus chakra occurs when we are overly confident, aggressive, or angry. In order to balance this chakra, we practice hot yoga flows & core-focused postures such as twists, plank, boat, & chair. By integrating abdomen-focused ties such as the hishi karada, we are able to further emphasize this connection. Here, we bust through the bullshit that so readily attaches itself to our thoughts & emotions as it relates to our Pratyahara practice. ​

A

I

R

A balanced air element allows you to experience mental agility with feelings of lightness & compassion. Anatomically, it is located in the center of your chest, just over the sternum. Energetically, it is associated with uddiyana bandha, or “upward lifting” lock, which encourages loving feelings of lightness & compassion. A deficit in the heart chakra occurs when we feel lonely, unloved, unfocused, or unproductive. An overly active heart chakra occurs when we are carried away by racing thoughts, or feel overly attached. In order to balance this chakra, we emphasize the power of the hearth through chest-focused postures such as cobra, bridge, & bow. By integrating chest-focused ties such as the star harness, we are able to further emphasize this connection. Here, we begin to practice our rope floorwork as it relates to Dharana & Dhyana. ​

S

P

A

C

E

A balanced space element allows you to feel nourished & connected by & with the world & those around you while freely communicating & expressing yourself. Anatomically, it is located in your neck. We contract the throat by engaging jalandhara bandha, or “chin lock”, which may reduce stress & anxiety. A deficit in the throat chakra occurs when we feel isolated, misunderstood, or are have difficulties expressing ourselves. An overly active throat chakra occurs when we have difficulty listening to others or interrupt when someone else is talking. Within the space element, we overcome our perceived duality & associated fears through arm balance postures. By integrating arm & hand focused ties such as the prayer tie or server’s hand, we are able to further emphasize this connection. Here, we bring it all together & practice our rope suspension as it relates to the practice of Samadhi.​