From a very early age, I recognised a special connection with Nature that would deeply touch my heart and bring stillness to my being.
I was that kid who could walk aimlessly in a forest for hours, sit atop a lone boulder and watch hawks glide, become entranced by the skate of a water spider, hear whispers from the Universe through the wind, and melt into an overwhelming feeling of bliss under the summer sun. In these perfect moments, poetry often spilled from my heart onto scraps of papers long forgotten, leaving behind an emotional imprint that I still carry to this day. Nature has always been my greatest teacher, the force which reflects my innermost Truth. It seemed so fitting then that the practice of Yoga, which found me in 1999, resonated similarly within my heart as a life practice - connecting with my inner Nature as a means to attain freedom, perfect unity.
In the late 90’s, a friend introduced me to Ayurveda, the Science of Life, and I developed an even deeper vocabulary and appreciation of the classical 5-Elemental System: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Space - which inspired a more than two decade love affair with the Elements, still lasting to this day (and led into an Ayurvedic apprenticeship, and more than 1400 hours of study in Ayurveda courses). I started to see the Elements in everything - in my own physiology, my nutrition, my temperament, my choice of asana practice, the effects of pranayama, the way my mind was functioning, my relationships and even my dreams and lifestyle habits. The Elements are pervasive! It is more than just an aesthetic system - it is a code, an embedded universal language, that contains so much wisdom of how everything functions, of natural laws, of life itself.
When I found the Swara Yoga School in Portugal 2013, I was overjoyed and in awe to find an Elemental Yoga (Therapy) Training. Here was an in-depth training that combined everything I had been inspired by up to this point in my self-discovery: Ayurveda, TCM, Tantra, Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Meditation, Holistic Nutrition and Nature, all in one. Elemental Yoga infuses the knowledge of the Elements with an in depth anatomical and biomechanical understanding of yoga, deepening your yoga practice with intention and a therapeutic approach to yoga. This practice uses asana, pranayama, meditation and diet to bring one’s entire system into balance using the qualities of each Element.
I had long recognised the different forms and styles of yoga practices, as well as the incredible benefits of each style of practice. Also, I have found it so interesting that the practitioners of specific constitutions are attracted to specific styles of yoga. Viewing these practices with an Elemental lens, I now I have a greater understanding of how asanas and breathwork affect energy channels within the body (meridians / nadis) and how we might be drawn to certain styles of practice.
Understanding that each Element corresponds to an organ energy (yin/yang) and this energy can be affected by strengthening or stretching the meridian lines through asanas and moving energy with breathwork and visualisation, I see how intentionally curated yoga practices are therapeutic. As an example, if one wants to invoke qualities of being more grounded, centered, aware, safe and belonging, then include asanas that stimulate the spleen and stomach meridians through Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Virabhadrasanas, Supta Vajrasana, traditional Hatha Yoga asanas, static and rooted. If one wants to invoke qualities of flow, adaptability, equilibrium and deep knowing, then include asanas that stimulate the kidney and bladder meridians through backward and forward bending, vinyasa flows, sacral chakra asanas, cooling and balanced pranayamas.
The Elements are as vast as they appear in Nature, and my journey of understanding them through yoga, meditation, diet, rhythms and life, really feels as though it is just beginning. The depth of this art form is endless, and one that inspires every aspect of my life. I love to share this practice with my family, friends and fellow yogis. It can be difficult in modern day, fast paced lives and urban settings to connect to the power of Nature - but the moment one does, the reflection of that Truth is indescribable. To me, this relationship should be a part of every yoga practitioner’s daily practice.
By Amber Sawyer