Choose A Yoga Practice To Complement Your Elemental Personality
Earth, water, air, and fire — these four substances were regarded as the fundamental building blocks of the world in ancient and medieval philosophies. In tandem, human societies have long been preoccupied with the balance of elemental forces inside the body and in our environment — from ancient Ayurvedic science to interior design!
Nowadays, the elements provide a compass for the human personality. A capacity to go in all directions makes us more well-adapted to face the journey of life. Dependent on the situation, we all need to be earthy (steady and grounded), fiery (passionate and bold), watery (fluid and empathetic), or airy (creative and spiritual) at different times. If you have a wider elemental “vocabulary”, then you can grow your creativity, organization, motivation, and connectedness with others.
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Step 1. Recognize Your Elemental Personality
Our elements are expressed at the unconscious level of our being, where habits are built. You can experience this first-hand by doing a small experiment, initially with the breath, and then with movement. Without thinking about it too much, try breathing in an earthy way, steady and regulated. Then move on to breathing in a fiery way (forceful and powerful), watery (flowing and cleansing), and airy (spontaneously and lightly). In addition to breathing, you can also try walking in an earthy, watery, fiery, or airy way. If you have space, why not give it a go? Notice what mode feels familiar to you — this indicates your default element(s). Notice also what feels uncomfortable or yearned for — these are the elements you may need to work on. (This exercise is inspired by Embodied Yoga Principles.)
Step 2. Practice an Alternative Way of Being
Once you have observed and identified which element(s) you wish to explore more deeply, you can begin practicing alternative ways of being through yoga. I’ve found that, to some extent, each type of yoga corresponds to one or two elements.
Question: What is true?
Physicality: Belly breathing, slow and steady movement, grounding activities such as organizing and gardening
Chakra: Muladhara — Root Chakra — located at the base of the spine
Yoga Style: Yin Yoga for self-care grounding, Ashtanga or Iyengar yoga for structure and order
Do you seek more stability, regularity, and practicality? If you are yearning to reconnect with the mother of all mothers, there are several styles of yoga that can help. Yin Yoga is perfect for feeling more grounded — in each pose feel the weight of the body melting down into the eternal support of earth. Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga with an earth focus will bring out your earthy virtues, including temperance, justice, wisdom, timeliness, and steadfastness.
Question: What needs to be accepted?
Physicality: Fluid, sensual movement, mobile hips, relaxed jaw, streamlined swimming technique
Chakra: Svadhishsthana — Sacral Chakra — located in the lower abdomen
Yoga Style: Vinyasa Flow or any Flow style allows the sensual, relational qualities of water to seep through the body
Water is also grounded but in a more flowing and adaptable way. Water carves a deep path over time, but it doesn’t put down such deep roots. If you feel the need to embrace change and journeys, to connect and empathize with others freely, then water is the element for you to practice. Flowing styles of yoga will help you on your mission to wash away old debris and allow fresh relationship channels to open up.
Question: What needs to be done?
Physicality: Dynamic, strong, passionate, intense glare, emphatic gestures
Chakra: Manipura — Solar Plexus Chakra — located in the upper abdomen
Yoga Style: Some forms of Hot Yoga, Power Yoga
Fire is mobile like water, but generally with more purpose and determination. It’s to do with taking action and getting results. If you need to stoke your fiery vitality, then try a course in hot or power yoga. A natural anti-depressant, fire will help you to get your project off the ground.
Question: What is possible?
Physicality: spontaneous, light and expansive movement, open body, floaty
Chakra: Anahata — Heart Chakra — located in the centre of the chest
Yoga Style: Pranayama, improv!
We associate air with lightness, like fire, but in a creative sense. Airy people have a certain vision, and connection with joy. Air is the most flexible of the elements. It likes change and has a quasi-spirituality that stems from an ability to detach from material things. To embrace air, practise breathing exercises (pranayama) that expand the heart region (try not to take it too seriously). Turn your yoga session into a fun experiment and improvise, with your intuition to inspire and guide you like a changing wind.
Question: What is…?
Physicality: no concrete physicality per se, empty space, hollows in the body
Chakra: Vishuddhi — Throat Chakra — located in the throat region
Yoga Style: Kundalini, chanting
Last but not least, we include ether, the fifth element in yogic philosophy. Ether is a subtle element; it allows for the expression of the other elements. If you are interested in clearly communicating your truth, you can try Kundalini yoga, to cleanse yourself of any psychosomatic energy blocks. Then become proficient at externalizing your essence and expressing who you truly are with chanting.
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