Connecting with the Five Elements: Yoga Asanas for Balance, Strength, Safety and Self-CompassionOct 01, 2020 09:30AM ● By Sheila Ewers
The sequence below is helpful to sense and balance all five elements through traditional yoga asana.
Asana: Thunderbolt PoseKneel on the floor with your lower legs folded beneath you and your hands resting gently on your thighs. Keep your big toes and knees close together. Use the support of a block beneath the buttocks or blanket beneath the heels to relieve any tension. Elongate your spine, reaching through the crown of your head. Close your eyes or keep the gaze softly focused on the floor in front of you as you direct your awareness to your breath. Visualize the breath moving through the steady container of the outer body as you practice sama vritti, or balanced breathing, by inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of four.
Breath: Victorious Breath
As you breathe in and out through the nose, gently constrict the back of your throat to narrow the glottis, creating a vibration in the throat. The friction will sound like the rhythmic waves of the ocean. Keep the breath long, smooth and effortless as you begin to initiate movement while maintaining the breathing.
Asana: Cat/Cow Pose
From Thunderbolt, transition to hands and knees. Linking breath to movement, inhale and create an anterior tilt in the pelvis. Slowly extend the spine and feel the movement roll through until the chest and head are lifted and forward for Cow Pose. Then exhale as you create a posterior tilt in the pelvis and roll the spine into flexion for a Cat tuck. Continue moving with the breath for four to five rounds until the movement feels fluid and the spine feels supple.
Asana: Mountain Pose
Transition from hands and knees to standing upright in Mountain Pose at the front of your mat. Then warm your body with three to five rounds of Sun Salutations as you continue to link breath and movement.
Asana: Plank Pose
From Mountain Pose, fold forward and bring your hands to your mat directly beneath your shoulders. Step one foot at a time towards the back of your mat until your body forms one long straight line. Wrap your abdominal muscles towards the center of your body and isometrically lift through the inner thighs, squeezing everything toward the midline of the body. Reach through the crown of the head and the heels and hold for at least five breaths, then drop your knees to the floor and rest.
Asana: Dolphin Pose
Come on to all fours, aligning shoulders over hands and hips over knees. Keeping your arms parallel and shoulder-width apart, slowly lower your forearms to the ground. Press your palms and forearms firmly into the mat. Curl your toes under, then begin to lift your hips toward the sky. Keep your knees bent slightly at first to lengthen your spine; then engage your core and extend your legs. Continue pressing the forearms down and firm your shoulder blades against your back. Gaze slightly forward and down between your arms. Hold for at least five breaths. Then lower your knees to the floor and rest.
Optional Challenge: Feathered Peacock Pose
From Dolphin Pose, walk your feet towards your elbows until your hips are above your shoulders. Lift one leg towards the ceiling as you continue to press down through your forearms and engage your abdominal muscles. Bend the knee of the leg that remains on the floor, then exhale and kick up through both legs, straightening as much as possible. Keep pressing down into the forearms as you wrap the abdominal muscles towards the center of the body and reach through both legs. Hold as long as you feel safe, then return to Dolphin Pose and lower your knees to the mat to rest.
Asana: Mountain PoseOnce you feel rested from Dolphin Pose, return to standing in Mountain Pose at the front of your mat.
Asana: Open Tree Pose
Root your right foot into the mat as you flex your left hip and float your left knee forward, then open the left knee wide, abducting to the left. Keep the foot floating as you point the left toes and balance on your right leg. Lift your right arm softly overhead with the palm facing inward, and float your left arm out by your side with your palm facing up. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged for stability and focus your gaze on an unmoving point ahead of you.
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In every yoga practice, regardless of the poses we choose, we have the opportunity to connect with all five elements and to harmonize them within our bodies, moving our awareness from the density of earth to the infinite possibility of space. In so doing, we are reminded of the many dimensions of our own human form and possibility as well as our connection to everything in the Universe that derives from the same elements.