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  • Writer's pictureSavira Gupta

Yin and the Four Elements

Our Universe is made up four elements and each of these elements contain their own individual properties which compliment one another as a whole. These qualities are neither positive nor negative.

All four of these elements are present everywhere and within us. They each work off each other to create harmony and balance not only within nature but within us and in our yoga practice.

Our personality contains a mix of all 4 elements but in different ratio. It is a combination of these elements that determine our outlook on life and how we express ourselves. These elements make up our nature and personality.

Water flows and takes the shape of its container, similarly the practice of yin emphasises on relaxing or softening the muscular system so as to safely stress, compress the joints and ligaments, while maintaining breath awareness and moving our attention inward. Taking the time to connect with our intuition and to listen to what our bodies are saying.

Slowing down and finding a comfortable way into a posture is important. When practicing Yin postures we want to build a pool of energy into the joints so that when we do release from the postures there is an effect similar to that of a dam releasing a gush of water or in this case releasing the flow of chi to those blocked areas within the body. For Water to take on the form of its container, it requires help from the earth to do so.

Our pelvic area which is strong, supports the weight of the upper body, so when practicing Yin, it is important to be close to the Earth so it can be a container and bring stability while drawing from the earth’s energy.

When we invite movement into a posture, we are using the earth’s energy. Decision-making comes into effect. It is up to the individual, to use judgement or discernment when moving in/out of a pose – a process of self-enquiry emerges. We begin to inquire if the shape we are in is comfortable, safe or needs adjustments. The nature of Earth is both grounding and flexible both mentally/ physically and is a crucial element in the practice.

Fire represents renewal and transformation and through every inhale/exhale we take, there is an expansion and release action. With each breath comes change - we use our breath to breathe through the intense sensations that the body radiates through the practice. Fire brings up emotions that have been suppressed within the body and can agitate the mind. To quench the fire… Air is important.

The Lungs which filters prana, supports the breathing function while nourishing the body with fresh oxygenated blood and nutrients. Air /Wind has the responsibility to move these nutrients to rest of the body. Air represents our breath. As we exhale, we release carbon dioxide and impurities that are no longer needed. It is the breathe that guides us into moving deeper into a pose or to step back.

By cultivating the qualities of all four elements, we build a practice that invites stillness into the body while observing deeper layers of our breath, mind and heart.

Yin and the Four Elements
Artwork by L Z Yang

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