Five Element Series Part 7: Water Element

The Water Element

Click here to listen to Water Element Music

The water element is represented by the sacral chakra.  It is related to the genitourinary system and the adrenals.  The key issues of this chakra relate to basic emotional needs: pleasure and longing.  Because the water element represents desire, it has been located in the genital region.  It is not just about excreting water through urination, but it is also about our capacity to procreate.  In many ways, yoga is about sublimating the desire to form new life outside of ourselves through this act.  It doesn't mean yogis shouldn't have children.  It's just to say that the work of the yogi is to become 'twice born,' which means to completely cease living and responding from our conditioning, which is the same thing as samsara.  That which we become when we're no longer operating from this place is called dwija (dwi-two, ja-born).  So working with the water element is really the path of learning how to transform our longing and desire into compassion and wisdom that are characteristic of the higher chakras, those located in the heart, throat, head, and above.

Additionally, the water element represents fluid-like nature of the body, as well as its cohesiveness. The water element creates emotion and passion in our bodies.  It brings strong, watery emotions & feelings: depth, mystery, and longing. It's different from the emotions of the fire element, which are more fiery and so have to do with hot passion, rage, and excitement.  Water's emotion is more subdued and deep.  The emotion of the water element is the emotion of dreams, of the subconscious, of the mystery.  These emotions come out of nowhere and return to nowhere.  I have a client who, for example, never had a desire to have children until she was in her late thirties.  Out of nowhere she could not let go of the idea that she needed to bare a child.  This is the power of the water element.  Emotions well up from the deep subconscious.

Diagnosing the Water Element in Ourselves and Our Practice

Water is the element representative of the fluid nature of the body, mind, and spirit.  It's what lubricates our joints, so when we feel like our motion is lacking in fluidity, when our bodies feel stiff and dry, we're noticing deficiency of the water element.  When our bodies feel thick, heavy, and everything we eats, sits and is slow to digest, we've got too much water element.

The Personality of the Water Element

People with a lot of water element in their personality exude the following positive attributes:

  • Fluid
  • Deep
  • Intuitive
  • Empathic
  • Introverted
  • Soulful
  • Romantic
  • Nurturing

They can also exude the following attributes that can be both challenging to themselves and others:

  • Moody
  • Prone to fantasy
  • Overly sentimental
  • Smothering
  • Impractical
  • Manic-Depressive

Examples of artists who exude or portray the positive qualities of the water element include: Joaqin Phoenix, River Phoenix, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Van Gogh, Monet, Debussy

What Water Element Feels Like in the Body

Excess water element feels:

  • sentimental
  • irrational
  • filled with regret
  • sorrowful
  • heavy
  • cloudy
  • sluggish
  • heavy
  • tired
  • congested
  • aching joints
  • heavy limbs

Deficient water element feels like:

  • dry: skin, hair, nails, inner eyelids, stools
  • insomnia
  • nervy feelings of tingling and numbness in the limbs
  • weight loss
  • thirst
  • fatigue after menstruation

Antidote for Excess Water Element:

  1. Surrender to the water element
  2. Increase fire element to burn away the excess water

1. Surrender to the water:

  • Connect to the fluidity of the vinyasa.  Highlight the quality of flow within the practice such that it connects to the core of your being, to your emotions.  Allow the movements to be fluid-like, smooth, round and easy.  Movements should be both continuous and circular  This quality of movement is just the opposite of fiery  movements, which are jagged, staccato, sharp, quick, and intense.
  • The breath can be a great access point to connecting us with our watery nature.  Rather than focusing on breathing to the top of the inhale or the bottom of the inhale, we can emphasize creating smooth, fluid transitions between the inhale and exhale and the exhale and inhale.  The breath can either be shallow or deep as long as it connects us to our emotions.  Remember that emotion is just energy in motion, but if we don't access the emotions, they remain stuck within us.  Rather than resisting and, thereby, strengthening that which we resist, we can harmoniously blend with our deep, watery nature thereby connecting to our needs, fears, pains, and desires.  This allows us to become more compassionate not just with ourselves, but others, as well.
  • Sometimes the watery feelings, sensations, and emotions are so deep and so difficult to access that stillness can be a useful tool to accessing the depth of our being.  In stillness we take ourselves out of the rush of frenetic energy to be with our inner wisdom.  Stillness teaches us of the remedies of excess water element, wisdom and compassion.

2. Increase fire element to burn away the excess water (See Fire Element)