Everything that exists is an intricate part of the whole, all life is intertwined. This unifying principle can be observed everywhere we look. It’s raining outside as I’m writing this - the rain came from the vapour lifted up from the earth by the air after the sun has warmed Earth’s rivers, seas and oceans. The rain brings water back to the earth to nourish the plants and help seeds grow. Seeds which were planted into the Earth with the help of gravity, wind, water or animals. Animals feed on the plants nourishing themselves and fertilise the earth with what remains. Animals and humans breathe in oxygen provided by plants, while giving back carbon dioxide plants need to live, thus creating yet another cycle. Everything has its role, everything has its place, everything is in perfect balance.
Nature indeed is the greatest teacher. It teaches us about interconnectedness of everything, about the laws of cause and effect, about the complexity of balance. Nature’s constant cycles reveal a rhythm of death and rebirth like day and night, moon cycles and seasons. It teaches us about the necessity of change how change brings about balance and renewal. Nature teaches us about co-dependency; everything is connected and us, humans are nothing more or less than a part of the whole. It teaches us the importance of every drop of rain in this ocean we call life. “Each one of us, not only human beings but every leaf, every weed, exists in the way it does, only because everything else around it does. The individual and the universe are inseparable.” ~Alan Watts
All we need to do is become observant, tune in and see that, these laws which existed long before we have, still apply to everything around us as well as to ourselves. And all the knowledge is already within each and every one of us. It is just covered under a pile of illusion and delusion. We forgot, but if we silence the noise, it is possible to remember.
The five great elements
Ayurvedic and yogic sages understood these profound truths and looked to the nature for answers and inspiration. In their quest to understand the complexity of nature’s ways, they observed the nature, learned from it and developed theories inspired by it. One of them is the theory of Pancha Mahabhutas, or five great elements. The theory of five elements states that all existence is comprised of five elements: Akash (Ether or Space), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire), Jala (Water) and Prithvi (Earth), and that everything is a manifestation of the interplay of those elements or rather qualities they represent. As human is a part of the whole, a microcosm within a macrocosm, this applies to our own existence too.
According to Ayurveda, a disruption in balance of elements causes disease and imbalance on all levels of our being, so understanding the qualities of each element, the fragile balance between them, what happens when a quality is missing etc, can give us profound insight into ourselves and help us find equilibrium on all levels.
Integral Vinyasa yoga I teach is very much rooted in the theory of Pancha Mahabhutas, in nature and its cycles. Everything I teach is inspired by organic, natural, fluid qualities of nature, and in this, what is intended to be a four-part blog, I will try to unveil the qualities of each element, as I see them myself, as I have learned from it myself, hopefully inspiring you to integrate this understanding in your daily life and in yoga practice, on and off the mat.
Cover photo: Sanjin Kastelan