Five Element Series Part 8: Earth Element

The Earth Element

Click here to listen to Earth Element Music

The earth element is connected to the root chakra and is located in the perineum-- the region between the genitals and the anus. It's located there because it is the place where, when we're seated on the floor, we make contact with the earth.  Additionally, it is located at the base of the spinal column.  It is what the whole spinal column rests on and so is the foundation of our nervous system and, thus, represents the foundation of our being, the root of our consciousness. This chakra is related to our survival instinct and controls basic self-preservation.

Diagnosing the Earth Element in Ourselves and Our Practice

Earth is the elemental representative of the solid nature and structure of the body, mind, and spirit.  We can feel the earth element in the body when we feel a sense of solidity and groundedness, along with a sense of possibility.  We tend to feel rooted with a firm foundation.  Earth element is present when we describe the things of life as: "real," "organic," "earthy," or “what you see is what you get.”

The Personality of the Earth Element

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

  • honest-to-goodness
  •  what you see is what you get
  • loyal
  • steadfast
  • methodical
  • practical
  • grounded
  • reliable
  • detail-conscious
  • realist

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

  • excessively cautious
  • premeditative
  • conventional
  • rigid
  • predictable
  • unimaginative
  • dull
  • materialistic

Examples of people who artists who exude or portray the positive qualities of the earth element include: Tom Hanks, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Morgan Freeman, and Russell Crowe

What Earth Element Feels Like in the Body

Excess earth element feels:

  • heavy
  • stiff
  • stuck
  • tight
  • constricted
  • pessimistic
  • gloomy

Deficient earth element feels like excessive air element:

  • Worry
  • Anxiety
  • Fidgeting
  • Overly sensitive
  • Falling asleep easily but waking up a night or in the early morning
  • Stuck in our heads and out of our bodies
  • Dizziness

Antidote for Excess Earth Element:

  1. Surrender to the earth element
  2. Increase air
  3. Increase fire elements.

1. Surrender to the earth element:

  • Increase the time of savasana.  There's a propensity for a lot of us to "check out" in savasana.  Instead of falling asleep here, the game is to fall awake.  And what we're awake to here is the state of the body, being with the sensations in the body, as they are, just 'being with.'  When there's too much earth element, simply applying consciousness to the sensation of heaviness, lethargy, and fatigue, can transform and balance them.
  • Instead of doing a whole practice, let your practice just be a few postures and then surrender to them. Postures most helpful are ones that allow you to rest in them.  This is the same idea of taking long periods in savasana. You can take a restorative yoga class, or you can just choose a few postures that allow you to slow down enough to bring attention to the sensations in the body, thus, transforming them.
  • Hit the snooze button on the alarm.  Sometimes it can be extremely healing to sleep the extra few hours you would be spending at the shala practicing yoga.  I know that this is controversial, since most teachers say you should practice six days per week.  However, when you're "shoulding on yourself" and you're too fatigued to be present, you're not really practicing yoga.  You're guilting yourself and adding more karma to add to your pile of samskaras to overcome.  Additionally, we in the West already have enough guilt, responsibility and intensity in our lives.  The addition of having a practice we "have to do" is just another burden.  Sleep is necessary.  Period. 

2. Increase air element (see Air Element)

3. Increase fire element:  (see Fire Element)

Antidote for Deficient Earth Element:

  • Emphasize mula bandha, since the the Muladhara Chakra is the residence of the earth element.  Placing our attention here has the tendency to connect us into our physical form, which is an expression of the root element.  It also allows us to connect not only to our physical seat, but the seat of our consciousness.
  • Increase the time you spend on the exhaling compared to inhaling.  You might try at 1:2 ratio, so, for example, you might inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 10.  Or maybe that's too time consuming, so you inhale for 4 and exhale for 8.  When we increase the ratio of exhale to inhale, we have the capacity to calm our nervous system.  If, for example, you notice you're agitated, take time aside to just try the 1:2 ratio of inhale to exhale, and you'll notice that your mind will naturally find more stability.  Additionally, you'll notice that at the end of an exhale, you naturally engage mula bandha. In other words the pelvic floor natural contract; thus, exhaling is a natural way to engage mula bandha.
  • Put an exhale retention into the breath sequence.  By doing so, you will be emphasizing the exhale and its capacity to calm and stabilize the nervous system.
  • Increase the time you spend in forward bends over back bends.  Forward bends have a more sedating effect on the nervous system than backbends.  That's one reason why primary series is so powerful when us Westerners first learn it.  We're so used to being amped by life that when we take all of those forward bends, we start to find an access point toward introversion.
  • Additionally, while in forward bends we can either emphasize the extension of the spine out of the pelvic girdle or the flexion of the bend from the waste.  By emphasizing flexion rather than extension, we create more introversion.
  • The earth element is all about the parts of our lives where we're grounded, honest-to-goodness, down-to-earth, what you see is what you get.  When we're exploring the earth element in our lives, we get to notice the places in our lives where we need to "get real", places where we've been lying to ourselves, places where we could simplify.  Additionally, it can help to cut out stimulants, television, computer time, and to eat nourishing foods.