In my last article, I talked about the types of yoga mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which form the basis of yoga philosophy. At the end of the article, I touched upon the connection between yoga philosophy and movement practice. In this article, I will talk about the importance of elements in yoga movement practice.
In Hatha Yoga practice, “Ha” represents the sun, that is, masculine energy with its shine, and “Tha” represents the moon, that is, feminine energy with its reflectivity. Therefore, we can look at Hatha Yoga practice as a practice in which these two energies come together (Yoga = Yuj = Union). These energies are used in a balanced way.
Yang and Yin
“Yang”, masculine energy, as in the wind and fire elements, refers to the flying, goal-oriented nature of the mind. We can look at the nature of the body, which is always here and produces sensations, as “Yin”, feminine energy, as in the earth and water elements. Yoga practice, which means union, is performed with the unity of the “Yang and Yin” elements.
We begin to re-establish the bond with our body that we have lost perhaps over the years. I find it very healthy that the elements of nature are considered as metaphors. In establishing this bond. and that they find a physical response in the movement practice.
Thus, not only for better understanding what to do and how to do it, but also take a step towards realizing that the human body is a part of nature. In this context, I will talk about the four main elements that we use: earth, water, wind and fire.
Conditions Necessary for Life
When the elements of earth, water, wind and fire are in balance, the conditions necessary for life are created. These elements must be applied in a balanced way during yoga movement practice to have an understanding that nourishes, revitalizes and gives us life.
To better understand the cooperation between them, we can divide the elements into two separate groups, Yin and Yang. As I mentioned above, we can look at the reflecting elements as “Yin”, feminine, and the flying-shining elements as “Yang”, masculine elements.
We can explain the properties of these elements and their physical counterparts in movement practice as follows:
As we all know, soil is the most positive, easy to see and obvious element in nature. When we open the window and look outside, we can easily see the mountains or trees in front of us. We can look at the equivalent of the earth element in movement practice as the awareness of being here. Thanks to the earth element, we establish our relationship with the ground and setting our foundation in movement. We understand the relationship and alignment of body parts with each other. We begin to see the shape of the body.
Just as the soil softens when it meets water, doing the alignment in a soft manner makes yoga practice more efficient. Otherwise, the soil alone may lead to an understanding which is very solid, lifeless and dry.
The water, another reflecting, easily noticed element like the earth element. Due to the reflectivity of water, we can easily see seas, lakes and rivers. The light and weather conditions of that day are reflected from their surfaces. We can see the equivalent of the water element in movement practice as feeling, finding softness and fluidity. “Vinyasa” means flow in movement practice.
As I said while explaining the earth element, the value of the water element is better understood together with the earth element. Water alone would be too fluid. The earth element brings solidity to the practice. These two “Yin” elements strengthen each other.
Due to its volatile nature, wind is an element that is more difficult to detect than earth and water. Its basis is air. Because I want to emphasize the bond we establish through movement in yoga practice, I define the air element as wind.
We can consider the practical equivalent of the wind element as “pranayama”, that is, breath awareness. When the weather conditions are compatible with the geography in which it is located, it supports life in that region. The equivalent of this in the yoga asana practice, is to allow the body to take the breath it needs during the movements.
Thus, we surrender control of the breath to the intelligence of the body. This is the breath we take as a child. With a practice of this understanding, the body’s intelligence begins to awaken.
The wind is another yang element and works in cooperation with the fire element. The wind makes the fire shine.
Fire is known for its brightness and burning. Its practical equivalent is the use of energy in movements. We do this by using “Bandha”. In this way, we find body integrity in the movements by making the necessary lenghtenings and broadenings during the practice.
Thus, the joints do not get stuck; There will be no crashes or overload on some body parts. As each part of the body takes its own responsibility, the whole body becomes lighter.
The fire element works effectively together with the wind element. When it is compatible with earth and water, it revitalizes that area. It gives life. Otherwise the practice becomes dangerous. It causes injuries.
For this reason, just like the wind element, the fire element must be compatible with earth and water. Then the fire transforms that area. It revitalizes.
A practice that is Yin or Yang alone, does not confirm the meaning of the word Yoga, which means “Union”. Wind and fire are as valuable as earth and water. They bring body integrity and safety to the practice. Sometimes thematically, Yin or Yang values may be emphasized a little more. Even in this case, the elements should be used in a balanced way in the general flow.
Practicing the wind and fire elements dominantly before understanding the earth and water elements leads to a scattered understanding in which concepts float in the air.
Therefore, especially for beginners, proceeding in the form of earth-water-wind-fire during the practice of the elements, will lead us towards a basis and thus gradually revives and bears fruit.
If you would like to experience what I have explained in practice, you can attend our classes on weekdays or weekends. Thus, what you read becomes not only a concept, but also begins to come into embodiment.