Dharma Talk

For the past four months we’ve looked at what the Vedas identified as the basic elements of creation and how they relate to the practice of yoga. We started with the most subtle element, Space and progressed on through Air, Fire and Water. This month we will complete the study by addressing the fifth and final element, Earth. As with the previous four elements we will see how the Earth element relates to a sensory field, Asana, a Kosha or body sheath, Yama, Niyama and Pranayama.

The sensory field associated with Earth is that of smell. It makes sense when you think about it. When bloodhounds track people they put “their noses to the ground”. The state of the Earth element in the body and the capacity to smell are deeply connected.

In our Asana practice the standing poses are reflected in the Earth element; think Mountain Pose or Tadasana. Standing poses represent stability and groundedness. 

The body sheath or Kosha identified with Earth is the Anamaya Kosha, or our physical body. Anamaya Kosha translates as “the body made of food”, thus giving rise to the old adage “you are what you eat”.

The Yama (sometimes called restraint) that is aligned with Earth is Ahimsa or non-violence. 

The Niyama (observance or practice) thought of in relationship with Earth is purity or clarity (Shaucha)

And finally, the Pranayama practice for the Earth element is either Ujayii Pranayama or Bhaya Kumbhaka Pranayama. Most of us are familiar with Ujayii breathing but Bhaya Kumbhaka is one some may not be familiar with. It is the practice of breath retention when the exhalation is complete. It is the opposite of Antar Kumbhaka that is breath retention when the inhalation is complete. Both of these practices are thought of as advanced Pranayama practices and should be done only under the instruction of a qualified teacher.

Most of us have had the experience of feeling strong sensations in our bodies the day after a strenuous yoga practice. Those feelings leave little doubt that yoga can be challenging for the body. However, when we look at yoga through the eyes of the Vedic scholars it comes clear to us that the complete practice of yoga involves our entire consciousness. Through this five-month study we have gotten a glimpse of how our entire world can be reflected through this ancient and mysterious art. 

March will open up a new area of study for us. When it is revealed to us we will reveal it to all of you. With unbounded gratitude we thank all of you so much for your continuing support of this little yoga studio “in the forest”. 

Namaste. Richard and Scotti

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