The Earth Element is the Mother of all the Elements, it provides nourishment for all the other elements and nourishes our entire system.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the Earth Element is unique in the sense that it doesn't just correspond to a traditional season but is associated with a shorter season of late Summer or "Indian Summer" just before weather starts to become cooler, it is also associated to the change of seasons; Autumn into Winter, Winter into Spring, Spring into Summer, Summer into Autumn. The Earth Element is also relevant during life changes, moving house, new job, becoming a parent, so it's really a constant presence in our lives.
The Earth element is a grounding, stabilizing force during these times of change.
The energy of the Earth Element is a sense of coming home and re-centering yourself. Mother Earth nurtures and nourishes you, loving you unconditionally. It really brings a sense of being grounded, calm and clear, knowing that this is where you belong.
The Characteristics of the Earth Element
The mother, provider, nurturing.
Grounded, caring and supportive.
Nourishment to take care of yourself so you can take care of others.
Peacemaker, considerate, attentive, sympathetic.
When this element is balance we feel a great sense of satisfaction and gratitude. It's closely related to the concepts of the 3rd and 5th Yama's Asteya (Non Stealing) and Apriagrapha (Non Grasping). The feeling of I am Enough and I have Enough just as I am. Connecting with that kindness and compassion that is deep within us all, when the Earth Element is in balance it's easier to feel that connection. A gratitude practice is a wonderful way to find balance in the Earth Element.
The emotion related to the Earth Element is Worry. We often think of worry as a negative emotion but a healthy amount of worry keeps us smart and attentive, it enables us pay attention to things in our lives so we don't forget pay a bill or make an appointment or to remain safe. It's when we worry too much that we start to over think, and become obsessive. Too much worry can take over our minds and our lives by worrying about things that may never happen or have no control over, causing us to feel stressed.
When the Earth Element is out of balance we tend to worry to much, we become obsessive and we don't take care of ourselves. We tend to have difficulty with change, poor concentration and have difficulty being independent. Physically it can affect our muscles, slowing our metabolism down and craving sweet food, we may suffer poor digestion and have difficulty balancing fluid so we might experience swelling or bloating. Out of balance means that we could have an excessive or deficient amount of an element.
The signs that we may have an excess amount of the Earth Element:
We become over protective,
A busy body always poking your nose in,
We might be little over bearing.
The signs that we have too little Earth could be that:
We become clingy,
Lack of clarity
We might waver between different opinions and actions,
We might feel scattered.
THE EARTH ELEMENT IN OUR YOGA PRACTICE
The Organs related to the Earth Element:
Spleen - Yin Organ. In TCM the spleen is the powerhouse of digestion and it is believed to be responsible for extracting the essence from our food and transforms it into Qi (Lifeforce energy)
Stomach - Yang Organ. Associated with receiving and ripening, the place where things (food and emotions) get churned around, preparing the food and thoughts so it's essence can be extracted.
On a very basic level the meridian lines for the spleen runs along the the big toes, to the inner arch of the foot, the medial calves, through the inner knee, medial quads (muscle on the front of the thigh), through the groin, to the outer sides of abdomen, outer chest to the collar bones, then moves down below the armpit to the side ribs.
The stomach meridian runs below the eyes, zig zags over the face, down the front sides of the neck, down the centre of the chest, runs down the belly, through the groin to the outer quads, over the outer part of the knee, runs laterally down the front of the shin, over the top of the foot to the outer edge of the second toe.
In our yoga practice, we can focus on stretching the quads, the groin (hip flexors), the abdomen, the top of the foot and perhaps even the front of the neck, by focusing on poses that lengthen and squeeze and tone these areas we are stimulating and encouraging circulation along these meridian lines helping to bring a healthy balance back into the system.
When we come onto our mat it can be really helpful to think of your Yoga Practice as a source of nourishment. Asking questions like; "What is that I really need today?", "What can I be grateful for in this moment?". Understanding that when we look after and nourish ourselves, we are replenishing our system so we have the strength and the ability to think clearly so we are in the best place to look after and nourish those around us. Try not to get hung up on the physical shape of the poses but pay attention to the perspective you are taking in your practice. We want to find the best alignment that we can for our own unique bodies so be mindful that my Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) may look very different to your Trikonasana. While focusing on the Earth Element in a yoga practice we want to aim feel grounded, stable and supported in both the standing and seated poses.
A FEW POSES THAT STIMULATE THE SPLEEN AND STOMACH
Balasansa - Child's Pose
Virasana - Hero Pose
Bhujangasna - Cobra Pose
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana - Upward Facing Dog Pose
Anjaneyasana - Low Lunge / Crescent Lunge
Baddha Konasana - Butterfly (seated and reclined)
Ananda Balasana - Happy Baby Pose
Twists to help digestion
POSE OF THE MONTH
Ashta Chandrasana - Crescent High Lunge
Ashta - Eight
Chandra - Moon
Asana - Pose
Level - 1 (Beginner)
Crescent high lunge is a great pose for the Earth Element as it really lengthens and opens up the quads, the hip flexors and the stomach and at the same time we have the ability to feel really grounded and supported by the Earth beneath you. You can easily add a twist here also helping to support and stimulate the digestive system.
MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL BENEFITS
Develops stamina and endurance of the legs
Improves self confidence
The extending of the arms helps to opens the chest and lungs
Stretches and strengthens the glutes, quads, and adductors (inner thighs)
Lengthens the entire spine and waist
Strengthens ankle and knee joints
Opens and stretches hip flexors
CAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS
High Blood Pressure
Recent knee or spinal injuries
HINTS AND TIPS
If you feel wobbly, step your feet wider apart for a more stable base.
You can always place your back knee on the floor for more stability.
Be careful not to over-arch the back, keep a sense of length in the lower back by lifting the front rim of the pelvis up.
Find a focal point for the eyes (dristi) to help keep you focused, calm and steady.