Purifying the Five Elements of Our Being
Using the Elements to Purify and Rebalance 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
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
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
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.
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