“If we consider that the human body is a universe within itself, it is only natural to conclude that we carry within us all the elements.” – Masaru Emoto, Hidden Messages in Water
One of the things that we have in common as human beings is the overwhelming presence of water. Our physical bodies are made up of up to 70% water which fortifies and intensifies our connection to this element in particular. Water is an ultimate neutralizing force that can return harmony to our space.
Water is a powerful and graceful element — taking on countless forms and responsible for sustaining life at all levels. This element is able to carry vessels that weigh over 200,000 tons, yet slips through our fingers when we try to scoop it into our hands. Our oceans gently house some of the most delicate ecosystems on the planet and still, the force of flowing water is responsible for carving valleys into unimaginably hard granite surfaces. We witness adaptability in its truest form when we observe water and all that it is capable of.
Sacred Symbolism of Water
In many ancient cultures, water was considered the centre of life and held a divine energy. From bathing, fishing, travelling and drinking, to worship, mystery and power.
In the East, the Ganges river is still thought of as holy. Water deities such as Ganga, Sarasvati and Yami all govern the rivers flowing through India, with Apam Napat representing the god of fresh water, such as lakes, too.
In Egypt, the river Nile translates as ‘great water’, and is said to have been the lifeline of civilisations in Egypt since the Stone Age in a period known as Prehistoric Egypt, long before the pyramid-building Egyptians we know of today arrived.
Wherever water flows, life seems to spring up within and around it. The Greek’s also saw water significant enough to worship its god Poseidon, with the Romans revering his counterpart Neptune.
Chinese Taoist thought considers water a representation of intelligence and wisdom, softness and flexibility, whilst also symbolising the transitions of birth and death, and a more feminine or ‘yin’ energy.
Water and the Svadhisthana chakra
As ancient Eastern wisdom teaches us too, water is linked to the Svadhisthana chakra. This second or sacral chakra is located around the lower belly and represents fluidity, femininity, sensuality, joy, an ability to ‘go with the flow’, freedom, as well as the power of creativity. Every time we connect to water and raise its energy within us, we also enhance these qualities in our minds and bodies.
Practices to tune into the Water Element
Touch: Cold Water Therapy
Humans have immersed themselves in cold water since the beginning of time, and by doing it regularly we get to experience reduced anxiety, improved circulation, more energy, a stronger immune system, greater emotional and physical resilience, and a mood boost like no other. Begin with a few seconds of cold, revitalising water whilst you’re in the shower to see how it feels.
Taste: Sweet and Salty
The water element is linked to the tastes of sweet and salty. When we consume naturally sweet foods, this tends to have a nourishing, calming, soothing and relaxing effect on the body and mind. Salty foods awaken the taste buds, encourage the flow of digestive juices, and aid in strengthening agni – the digestive fire.
Enhance the water element within you by consuming naturally sweet foods like dates, fresh fruits, milk, cashews and rice, as well as naturally salty foods like seaweed, celery, tamari, miso, and of course good quality salt itself.
Described as an ‘earthy’ scent, petrichor is the aroma that arises when rain falls on previously dry earth, and it’s said to be one of the most pleasing scents humans enjoy. The sense of smell in itself is incredibly powerful, and when we spend time in nature after rainfall, our ability to smell certain beneficial scents can be heightened. When you’re next out walking after rainfall, take a moment to smell the trees, leaves and earth. Trees and plants also produce beneficial natural chemicals called phytoncides too, which have a positive impact on our immune system and mood levels.
Sound: Waves Against The Shore
If you’ve listened to enough guided relaxations or meditations, its likely at least one of them has been accompanied by the sound of waves lapping against the shore.
Whilst you may or may not personally find it relaxing, our brains enjoy gentle bubbling, waving or flowing water sounds, as it perceives them as non-threatening. Listening to the soothing sounds of water for a prolonged amount of time allows the mind to ‘tune out’ and can even help with sleep. Scientists liken the sounds of waves to a soothing voice telling us ‘not to worry.
Pranayama: Ocean Breath
Ujjayi breath is often taught in yoga classes as a way to bring more heat and strength into the body, but it can also be used to cultivate a state of relaxation. Max Strom – teacher, speaker and author of A Life Worth Breathing calls this type of breath ‘ocean breath’ as it sounds a little like waves on the sea. Ujjayi breath can help to stimulate the vagus nerve, linking the brain and the gut, and also serving as a key component in relaxing the nervous system. Whilst practicing this breath, visualise waves gently lapping against the shore.
Yoga Postures and Movements
There are endless ways to access this element, yoga asana is one opportunity to deeply explore how to invite the element of water into your life. This physical practice of yoga, from yin to vinyasa, offers us so much in the exploration of adaptability. In all expressions of yoga asana we have an opportunity to connect deeply to ourselves and our breath. The breath is a vehicle for Prana, life-force energy, to move with fluidity through our bodies. As water flows, similarly so does the energy within our bodies.
To encourage a sense of watery ease and flow, practice hip-opening postures like Pigeon pose, Baddha Konasana, or a simple figure-four stretch. Move through hip circles, and practice a yoga sequence that involves flowing, circular movements and continuous movement. Notice where you tend to hold tension or tightness in your body, and visualise water flowing freely through it to encourage relaxation and release.
Written by Emma Newlyn, “Journey through the 5 elements: Water” and published on www.ekhartyoga.com/