Using the Elements to Purify and Rebalance the body
We can use the water, fire, and air elements to purify all the elements of the body.
Fire and air are the most commonly used elements to purify the body-mind. Water is also used in some of the cleansing practices of hatha yoga, the shatkarmas, to remove excessive mucous (water) and digestive acid (fire).
Using fire to purify and balance
Fire is a powerful cleanser, burning up impurities. asanas can be used to regulate the fire element. Dynamic asanas invoking movement, grace, and flow tend to increase fire in the body. This will burn out toxins from the other elements: earth, water and air. For example, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP) states that Matsyendrasana and Paschimottanasana can increase the digestive fire to such an incredible capacity that they can remove diseases. Static poses tend to be more cooling and stabilizing, slowing the metabolic fire.
A balanced sequence of asana that includes some movement and some stillness allows us to regulate fire as well as to harmonize the earth and air elements, two natural enemies. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states in Chapter 1, Sutra 17, that “Asana gives one steadiness (firmness) of body and mind, lightness (flexibility) of the limbs, and absence of disease.” That is, the steadiness of earth and the lightness of air can be alchemically blended through proper use of asana, even though they are natural enemies.
Using air to purify and balance
Of all the elements, air is perhaps the most powerful to cleanse the body of toxins. This is partially because it fans the fire in our body-mind. It is also because air is prana, the life force. When it is made to circulate through the body and the other elements, it automatically purifies us. Teaching the proper use of breath during asana and incorporating Pranayama practice into our daily routine increases both our lightness and our inner power.
Certain pranayama techniques can be used to identify where imbalances lie in the elements of the body, and to consciously rebalance these.
One of the best ways of doing this is to learn the natural order of the elements in the body. Earth and water are at the base, below the navel, fire is in the middle of the torso; air and space reside in the upper body. Maintaining awareness of this when we practice asana, pranayama and meditation aids the proper distribution of the energy into the elements. As the prana moves up and down in the body, we awaken certain parts of the body with consciousness and energy, coaxing the elements into balance.
Learn the process
The practices of how to balance the 5 elements through pranayama is taught systematically on the double CD entitled “Introduction to Prana and Pranic Healing”, available from www.bigshakti.com.
Knowledge of the five elements is the essential to higher yogic and tantric practices. Tattwa Shuddhi, by Swami Satyananda from the Bihar School of Yoga, is a good resource.
Dr. Swami Shankardev is a yogacharya, medical doctor, psychotherapist, author, and lecturer. He lived and studied with his guru, Swami Satyananda, for ten years in India (1974-1985). He lectures all over the world. Contact him at www.bigshakti.com.