In working our way through the five elements, their qualities, how they present as balanced and imbalanced in our bodies and how we make them work for us, we begin by looking at Earth – the densest of elements. Our solid foundation – our home.
1. Earth - Find Your Center, Know Who You Are
When I think “Mother Earth”, I think place of safety, nourishment, home. “Mother Earth” has the qualities I associate with my own mother and so -lucky for me – the earth element’s qualities make sense to me. The Earth gives to us, her inhabitants, without asking for anything and without any judgement – completely selfless. Even when we treat her with disrespect or disregard – she just keeps on giving. She gives us a place to be – a center – a place where we belong in space. The strength and solidity of the earth comes from her very core, her center. It is from this center that she is able to hold us, nourish us and provide for us.
Brining the qualities of earth into our bodies we think about our core, our center. This is a concept we often hear about in yoga and if you weren’t ever really sure if the teacher meant your abdominals or maybe something more…now you know. Our own center is our bit of ‘earthness’ When we connect to our own center, we connect to our ability to nourish ourselves and others, from a selfless and centerd place, where we don’t ‘run out’ or ‘need something in return’. We draw personal strength and self-reliance from our core. Being able to be ‘centered’ so we can connect to the earth qualities within us, requires us knowing who we really are and that is the exact question that Earth asks us to come to terms with: Who are you?
The organs in our bodies that we associate with the Earth Element are the stomach and the spleen and the earth energy meridians run down our legs and feet – our physical foundation. Earth imbalances manifest through physical symptoms in the stomach or spleen, or along these meridians and common health conditions associated with an earth imbalance are diabetes and food/eating disorders, such as obesity, anorexia or bulimia. An Earth imbalance can also be identified on a personal and emotional level. If you find yourself to be a bit of a people pleaser, perhaps compromising yourself in an attempt to gain a sense of belonging or value, that points to an earth element imbalance. Often times we feel depleted from giving so much to others and in that case it is because we’re giving from a place of loneliness or fear. This results in feeling resentful when we feel our kindness is not being returned. Rigidity is another sign of an earth imbalance. The incessant need to control everything and everyone, and persistent attempts to keep things in a consistent and predictable pattern are all actions aimed at maintaining the sense of safety that has so carefully been constructed. It’s a false sense of safety because the real sense of safety and security, coming from the earth in our core is weak or not even present. It is a lonely place to be.
We are balanced in earth when we have a strong sense of belonging – just within ourselves. Earth’s strongest babies ooze strength and solidity, but will balance this well with softness, care and support. They know their boundaries – when to say no and they don’t need others to agree or approve of what they decide. It’s simple – when you know who you are, and you are honest and loyal to that connection with yourself (your core/center), you will know how to care for yourself. In so doing you are in a much better place to care for those around you.
You will agree – earth in balance sounds great, earth imbalance – not so much! So how do we get our earth on!
God bless YOGA!
The success of just about every yoga posture is dependent on a strong foundation to the earth (through your feet or whichever part of the body is connected to the earth) and your core. Bringing your awareness to that strong foundation, strengthens your connection to the earth and earth energy in your body.
Most importantly though, is your awareness of your center. We generally refer to our center as being in the center of our bellies. We bring our awareness to the center of our bellies through our breath through pranayama techniques but can do so simply by focusing on our belly expanding on the inhale and falling on the exhale. All the qualities of the earth: the strength and support, care, self-honesty, loyalty, boundaries, self-less giving – are right there – inside us. When we connect to this part of ourselves we connect to our true selves and when we respond and act from this center, we do so in a congruent way. We do so on the mat by realising our amazing strength and not crossing our own boundaries and hurting ourselves, and off the mat by being honest about who we are. We increase our awareness of our earth qualities and cultivate them. We begin to understand which people or situations ‘take our center away’, i.e. have us lose who we are and start behaving from some frame of reference born our of fear. If we can become aware of situations that have us responding from somewhere outside of our center, we learn something about ourselves right there and then. We can take the learning and practice holding our center in those situations or taking ourselves out or away from those places or people. Our breath and focus in yoga connects us to our center and this is the best place to practice recognising and then holding on to that connection.
Strong earth postures in Yoga that will make you feel grounded when you focus on connecting to your center and the earth energy are:
· Warriors(Virabhidrasana 1 and 2) = focusing on the foundation – feet (squeezing the big toe into the ground activates earth meridians), legs, hips
· Chair (Utkatasana)
· Camel (Ustrasana)
· Low Bridge (Setu Bhandasana) – form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders – lifting hips by pushing into the feet, drawing energy from the earth and squeezing the big toe. (To intensify raise one leg at a time with soles of raised foot facing the ceiling and hold for 5 minutes)
· Mountain Pose (Tadasana) – feeling all four corners of the feet connected to the earth, thighs are engaged and strong, tailbone tucked, stomach in.
· Hero Pose (Virasana)
· Core work – focus on a connection with both your front body as well as the back body – this is more than an ab work out!
Lifestyle and Eating Habits
You can balance your earth element with your diet and also with day-to-day activities. Focus on eating root vegetables like carrots, yams and beets. Corn and Peas are also strong earthy type foods, as are wholegrains, quinoa, pumpkin, apricots and pears. Think ‘yellow’ foods that create a sense of satisfaction. Help the spleen to function even better by lowering your fluid intake during meals.
You can further connect to earth energy by having daily practices of connecting with your center. Do this in one or more of the following three ways:
· Ritualistic practice – decide on a ritual for you to remember to practice connecting with your core – I try to tie it in with my meals – so every time before I eat I take a moment to stop, breathe and center myself.
· Dedicated practice – set aside a time of day when you stop to center – 6am when you wake up, 3 pm when you usually fall asleep at your desk. Have a certain time of day and set an alarm to remind you
· Spontaneous practice – center whenever you think about it!!
If you regularly practice centering yourself like this you will soon find that you find it much easier to center in situations when you need to be strong to be true to yourself, and knowing when you have been ‘knocked off’ your center.
Further connect with the earth element by simple things such as walking barefoot (and noticing it), cooking whole foods (and appreciating the goodness from the earth), taking a mud bath, doing pottery, and engaging in gardening or permaculture.
Connect to the earth element in you – the Earth needs you to.