Designing Your Home Practice Using The Five Elements
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
If you’re anything like me, maintaining a home practice is the most challenging part of yoga! Half of the time your mat lives rolled up in the corner of the living room and the most use it gets these days is from your cat. #EveryoneNeedsSelfCare
The moment you DO bust out your mat for a little movement you realize you have no idea where to start. Without a teacher's guidance it’s easy to get lost in what seems like the never-ending list of asanas and existential questions to ask ourselves before we begin.
How do I feel? Do I hop right into a handstand? Should I start slow? When do I introduce balancing poses? What about breathing? Shouldn’t I be sweating by now?
Whether you’re new to yoga or a seasoned practitioner, these are all very valid questions! Below you’ll find my approach to building a home practice based off the five Universal elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water & Earth. We find these elements in our external world as well as within our emotions and thoughts. By utilizing their individual properties, we can curate a home practice that feels both challenging and nurturing for our individual needs. Read on for more or click here for a quick guide to your new home practice.
Perhaps more commonly known as space, Ether is the energetic field that hosts all manifestation and presence. For that reason, we always start by setting our space and declaring an intention for our practice. Roll out your mat in a clean and clear environment, use your favorite essential oil to ground yourself and align with your intention. Keep it simple, direct and to the point. The clearer the intention, the greater response we receive from the Universe. Observe the body as you are.
Responsible for movement, Air – or wind – can be harnessed through controlled breathing practices called Pranayama. Once you’ve arrived on your mat and set an intention, begin to deepen the breath. Notice it circulating within, slowly helping to awaken the body from the inside out. As you continue to breathe, begin incorporating small movements in the body such as gentle twists, cat/cow and neck rolls. This is where we start linking the breath to the movement.
The transformational element of Fire helps to build heat in the body, cleanse the monkey mind and refocus our intention. Dynamic sequences such as Surya Namaskara A & B (Sun Salutations) and challenging asanas like Utkatasana (chair pose), Chaturanga (four-limbed staff pose), and standing/balancing poses are great ways to embody the Fire element in our practice. Typically, this is the most physically challenging part of our practice and often energizes dormant emotions that we’ve buried deep and far away.
After building all that heat and uncovering sleepy feelings, we can cool ourselves with the element of Water. This includes adding slower, more circular movements and fluid breath back into our sequence. Think forward folds, neck releases, supine abdominal work or inversions to release any tension the body is holding onto from the Fire poses. Don’t be surprised if the physical water works come up here (yes, I mean tears!); It’s a completely normal response after giving ourselves permission to uncover some sticky emotions.
As you can guess, the Earth element is all about grounding. Seated or supine poses, such as Pigeon or Figure 4 on your back, spinal twists and forward folds are all great ways to bring your energy back to the Earth, rooting down and returning to intention. For a traditional practice, end in Savasana, but poses like Vipariti Kirani (legs up the wall) and Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined bound angle pose) are excellent ways to seal your practice, too!
Using these guidelines to create your personalized home practice will help to invite balance and awareness into your poses and sequence. When we can turn our attention to the qualities we want to embrace as opposed to the shapes we want make we can more accurately design a practice that nourishes and supports our everyday lives.
We hope these tips help as you continue to tune into the elemental world and build your home practice. Remember, the possibilities are endless. And have FUN!
With love and light,
500 Hour Certified Yoga Teacher