Spring Detox with 5 Element Form Yoga
Five Element Form Yoga is also known as Tattwa Shuddhi Sadhana. It is a Tantric Anahata Yoga purification practice that was created to make the five senses evolve to become subtler so that they heighten the life experiences of the practitioner and create greater conscious awareness and self-realizations. Tattwa Shuddhi Sadhana has been practiced in Assam, in the north of India for over 15,000 years and it is considered to be a dynamic form of meditation and self-reflection.
In the Tantric Anahata Yoga tradition, Lord Shiva who is known as Adinath (the first yogi) expounded the knowledge of Tattwas to his disciple Shakti who is also known as Parvati or Devi. The roots of the Five Element Form are lost in the ancient history of India but an ancient Vedic text called the Shiva Swarodaya concerning a conversation between Shiva and Shakti explains the relevance of the Five Elements to life.
According to ancient texts everything on this planet is made of the five elements and the properties of these elements can be found in all matter. If you understand the elements within you and in nature, and you practice the Five Element form, the practice will support you both physically and psychologically.
You will become more grounded, confident and strong like the qualities of the Earth. Whenever you are feeling stuck, you will be able to flow gracefully like Water and when your life feels boring, you can become more creative by connecting to the element of Fire. When you are feeling tired or lethargic, engaging with the properties of the Air element will give you more energy and vitality. Moreover, whenever you feel disconnected and alone you can connect with Akasha (ether) to feel connected in pure consciousness with all beings in the universe.
Spring is a time to cleanse and detox the body after accumulating heaviness/dullness in the winter. To reduce the heaviness and become lighter and suppler for the summer, you want to practice postures that support the natural detox process in the body. These postures works on massaging the internal organs and in particular the liver.
In the Five Element Form, the ether element is physically represented in the human body from the throat to the crown of the head. The Ether element represents the qualities of energy and vitality. The practice of these postures in the Five Element Form presents an opportunity to enhance the qualities and characteristics of the ether element in our bodies. The characteristic of the ether element represents our ability to stay connected to pure consciousness. A practice focused on the ether element can help to let go of feelings of loneliness, and enhance the feeling of being connected to all beings in the universe.
The intention when practicing the ether element postures in the Five Element form is to manifest the attributes of the ether element, i.e. the attributes of infinite connection, consciousness, and conscious awareness. By contemplating on the color Green while at the same time, mentally chanting the sound SHHHHHHHHHH you can connect with the properties of the ether element while practicing the postures. The sound SHHHHHHHHHH, is associated with the Liver while the corresponding sense is the sight and the taste is sour. Ujjayi breath is recommended during all the postures.
The practice is most effective during dusk or dawn but it can also be practiced during the day. The positive emotions associated with the ether element are kindness, self-expansion, and identity while the negative emotions are anger and aggression. This means that when your ether element is in balance you tend to exhibit the positive emotions, while when out of balance, the negative emotions manifest.
1. Shiva Acknowledges the Five Elements
We always start The Five Element form by acknowledging all the five elements in our bodies and in nature. Stand with the feet well grounded, a little wider than hip width. Extend the arms forwards about shoulder length, with both arms parallel and the palms facing down. In this position, take a deep exhalation as you squat down reaching for the earth swinging the arms along the sides of the knees as you squat down. When coming up from the squat you start to inhale, keeping the arms parallel and extended forwards and lift up, bringing the arms back to shoulder length and then open the arms wide to the sides while inhaling, continue with one more inhalation as you raise the arms above the head and bring the palms together above the head. While the palms are together, bring them down to the heart and exhale while continuing in the squat back down with arms next to the body. Repeat this sequence 5 to 10 times.
2. Shiva and Shakti’s Dance of Love
Stepping to the front of your mat. Bring the feet together and then take a big step back with the right leg and come into a warrior one pose where your hips are squared forwards and the back foot is at about a 45-degree angle. Starting with a straight front leg, as you inhale bend the front knee and extend the arms forwards about shoulder length; with both arms parallel and the palms facing down. Make sure the front knee never goes beyond the ankle when it is bent. With the arms stretched out, open the arms wide to the sides while inhaling. As you exhale, bring the palms together with the arms stretched out in front of the face. Then inhale bending the elbows and bringing the palms to heart in Namaste. As you exhale straighten the leg and push the hands downwards with the palms facing down. Repeat the sequence on each leg 5 to 10 times.
3. Shiva and Shakti Dance like clouds
Standing with the feet a little wider than hip width, bring the left arm forwards so that the inside of your left palm is right in front of your face. The right arm is bent at the elbow on the side leveled with the pelvis, with the palms facing down. As you exhale twist the upper body to the left and look back over the shoulder. Once you can’t twist any further, switch hands, bringing the right palm in front of the face and the left facing down and twist to the opposite side. Continue the movement in both directions completing 5 to 10 on each side.
4. Shiva Spins the Water Wheel
Standing with the feet a little wider than hip width, extend the arms forwards, with the arms parallel and strong. Swing both arms around in big circular movements as though you are trying to turn a heavy wheel. Inhaling as the arms come up and exhaling as the arms come down. Makes sure you roll in both directions about 5 to 10 times.
5. Shiva dances like a flying goose
Stand with the feet well grounded, a little wider than hip width. As you inhale, extend the arms above the head and bring the palms together above the head. As you bring the palms together above the head, look up and lengthen the spine. With the exhalation, swing the arms sideways and come done into a squat. As you squat down, cross the hands in front of the chest giving yourself a hug of appreciation. As you lift up from the squat, inhaling, extend the arms up to the sky, and continue the same movement for 5 to 10 times.
6. Shiva Scoops Water
Standing with the feet next to each other take a big step back with the right leg into a warrior one pose. Bring the palms together in front of the heart and as you exhale bring the chest down towards the front thigh, bending the knee while swinging the arms back along the sides of the body. As you inhale swing the arms forwards as though you are about to scoop water from a lake moving the arms over the head as you lift the chest up into a vertical position bringing the arms next the ears above the head with the palms together performing a slight back bend. With the palms together above the head, bend the elbows and drop the thumbs to the spine. Draw the arms through the side of the ears and push the hands with the palms face down as you bring the chest towards the front thigh. Continue repeating the flow of movements for 5 to 10 times on each leg.
7. Shiva Dances like a Swaying Tree
Standing with the feet a little wider than hip width, extend the arms forwards and interlace the fingers keeping roundness in the arms like you are hugging a tree. Lift the arms above the head with the fingers interlaced keeping roundness. Sway the arms sideways to the right as you exhale while stretching the left side of the body. Inhale and bring the arms back to center and exhale to the opposite side. You are swinging side to side with the breath like a pendulum. Repeat on each side for 5 to 10 rounds.
8. Shiva watches the full moon
Stand with the feet well grounded, a little wider than hip width. Interlace the fingers below the waist creating roundness in the arms in shape of a moon. As you inhale, swing the arms over the head while keep this shape and twist in the upper body. With the exhale drop the back elbow down towards the floor and twist even deeper looking back at the heels and feeling a stretch in the front shoulder blade. With the inhale return to center with the interlaced arms above the head. With the next exhale swing the arms back to the starting position with fingers interlaced below the waist. Repeat the same movements on the other side. Repeat on each side for 5 to 10 rounds.
9. Shiva Simhasana
A cleansing breath, also known as lion’s breath is used to cleanse the throat. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. As you exhale through the mouth, open your mouth very wide to stretch the jaw and stick your tongue out as far as you can. As the tongue sticks out, the eyes are crossed with the gazed focused in between the eyebrows (also known as shambawi mudra). Repeat lion’s breath 5 to 10 times.
10. Shiva unites Sun and Moon
To close this energetic practice, we acknowledge and unite the masculine and feminine energies in the body. Standing with the feet about hip width, with the arms along the sides of the body, bend the elbows so that you are looking down into your palms, which are placed in front of the pelvis. The fingers are pointed towards each other but not touching. As you inhale lift both hand up as though you are bringing the energy up along the spinal cord from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Once the hands reach the crown of the head, turn the palms to face down and start exhaling as you bring the energy back down to the base of the spine. Move the arms back and forth from the base of the spine to the crown for 5 to 10 rounds. Perform this movement with the eyes closed to connect to the subtle energies. Once done, keep the eyes closed and allow both arms to come along the sides of the body with the palms facing forwards. Take a few moments with the eyes closed to feel the sensations in the palms and to acknowledge the intension of the practice.
This is the English version of the article written by Deola Opeifa, for the Dutch Yoga Magazine. A video with the above poses will be posted on Deola's website soon. Subscribe and get inspired at www.deola.org.
Deola is a Ayurvedic Practioner and Yoga Instructor. She studied The Five Element Form with Peter Clifford. Peter studied the form in the 1960s in India, with a Yogi named Swami Shankara at the Kamankhya Temple in Ghuwati in Assam, India. Peter and Deola organize Five Element Form workshops and teacher trainings around Europe.