Earth Element in Yoga:

The Bones, Safety and Grounding

The Elements are within and around us.  When we tune into the elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air within us, we more easily align with the external environment.  In addition, recognizing any imbalances of each of these elements within us, will naturally present options to tweak or embrace variations of practices of self-care.  Here, I focus on ideas of how to adjust approaches of yoga practices.

Regular yoga practitioners notice how postures/asana creates stronger, more flexible muscles and  improved balance. An underlying benefit is that yoga postures also condition the skeletal system.  Yoga maintains bone strength, realigns structural imbalances and decompresses joints.

Your skeletal system is comprised of 206 bones; the size, shape and how they join combine to create a 3 dimensional structure unique to you.

The bones reach their maximum strength at around the age of 30, and typically begin to decline in density as one ages.  Women are more prone to develop osteoporosis; thinning bones are connected to lower estrogen levels as we age.  Osteoporosis can result in bones breaking more easily, and healing slower.  Bone strength can be improved by engaging postures that use your weight & muscle power to effectively bring pressure into the bones. Plank pose, inversions and holding standing poses with the muscles actively contracted, all signal your bones to become denser in response to the increased pressure.

Structural imbalances arise from poor postural habits, including little things, like a chronic head tilt, shoulder drop, or leaning to one side as you stand or sit. They also result from repetitive actions that are one-sided (like a golf swing).  Yoga brings about awareness of your unique habits, especially if you engage in alignment based yoga.  Iyengar, Viniyoga, Astangha, Anusara (and many other offshoots)  focus upon proper alignment, from feet to crown of head, in all poses.   This approach balances muscles and tendon length and strength along the planes of the body: front to back, side to side, top and bottom. Once aligned, yoga postures maintain structural balance.

The third essential aspect of caring for the skeletal system is decompressing the joints; over time, gravity tends to have its way, and much pain in the body is a result of joint compression.  Injury, postural idiosyncrasies, injuries and a sedentary lifestyle all contribute to shrinking joint spaces, which pinch nerves and create pain.   Engaging yoga poses with a sense of internal lift. is essential in countering gravity.  Another vital tool is the wall rope system, which decompresses the spine, relieving pain resulting from compressed discs/vertebrae.  Click on the link to read and watch a video of how it works. 

To care for your body within the environment is an obvious way to promote pain free longevity as well. When I was hit by a car when riding my bike 30 years ago, I was glad I had my helmet on.  Common sense goes a long way to taking care of your internal Earth element. Bones may heal, but with every injury, there are long term repercussions.  I urge you to choose Safety when the option is there.

The Subtler Aspects:

If, through your yoga practice, you learn to connect to the earth under your feet, you know how to ‘root’ to the physical world, allowing your psyche to aid Earthly connection.  This sense of embodiment ‘Grounds’ you to the Earth Plane.  However, emotional and mental imbalances are still epidemic in our society, due to the privilege of the mental realm (as evidenced by an educational system that primarily develops the thinking mind). So ‘Grounding’ and a sense of ‘Safety’ can be enhanced by engaging your emotional-mental realm in re-balancing tendencies towards depression and/or anxiety.
Subtler practices, like deep abdominal breathing and guided meditations (focused upon creating a safe space and/or touching into the physical body), can be a profoundly healing and a fantastic way to promote a sense of ease in your life.

A Subtle Practice:  5 minute Grounding Practice

Below is an image of Prithvi Mudra... a hand gesture to facilitate a connection to the Earth ElementTouch the tip of 4th finger to tip of thumb; on both hands. Rest hands, palm up on lap/thighs.  Breathe and feel into your physical body.  Bring your awareness to the Earth, and how your body is physically resting on the earth (even if through a chair).  Then connect to your bones, scanning through the entirety of your skeletal system.  Bring the wholeness of your physical form, bones and earth into a sense of energetic connection and alignment.  If it helps, rest your awareness at the sit-bones and pelvic floor. As soon as you notice you are distracted, return your focus to your body, bones and earth all connected as one.  Notice before and after 5 minutes of this internal focus.  Are you more grounded, focused and connected to your body?

 Are you Interested in more aspects of the Earth Element?  Click here to explore how I affirm the Earth through visual imagery in my Art creations.

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