This is the fourth of a series of posts on the 5 elements of Ayurveda and yoga. My last post was on fire element.
As nature flows into more material manifestation—space gives rise to wind which gives rise to fire—the elements take on more tangible form. As the spreading quality of fire slows and cools, water element is born.
Water element is the principle of cohesion. In the body, this emerges as nourishment, growth and lubrication. Water cools, moistens, adheres, soothes, softens, smoothes, dulls and spreads.
When we express free-flowing water element, we connect easily to others. Emotionally we are content, express ourselves calmly and smoothly and allow things to “roll off our back.”
Water originates in the potential for taste. The advent of water element moves us from the birth of form (fire element) to the tangible experience of substance. More simply, we can see and touch water. Because of its relationship to the sense of taste, water element governs the tongue. Water element also regulates lubrication and connection, protecting the body and mind from the destructive nature of wind and fire elements. Water element is most predominant in the spring-time or during rainy season.
When we express free-flowing water, we connect easily to others. Emotionally we are content, express ourselves calmly and smoothly and allow things to “roll off our back.” Once fire element has completed the task of transformation, water allows for assimilation, permitting our food and experiences to become part of us.
Healthy water element insulates the body with a healthy layer of fat, lubricates the joints and mucosa and produces clear, smooth skin. The eyes are open and non-judgemental and movement is smooth and fluid.
Two of the most prevalent flavors in the western diet–sweet and salty–both predominate in water element. The tendency to over-consume these flavors leaves us heavy and bogged-down with wet, sticky dullness.
When water over-accumulates, digestion slows and we may become dull and insensitive to the situation around us. Excess water leaves us sticky, bogged-down, heavy, excessively emotional or depressed. The wet quality of water element douses the digestive fire resulting in obesity, sluggishness and apathy. Yeast infections and white, itchy rashes may develop on the body and the eyes might become dull and watery. Nausea, excess mucus production, loss of appetite and edema are also common expressions of excess water element.
Excess of water can take a saccharin-sweet expression such as in God Realm fixation, causing a superficial pretense of “depth” and profundity that actually insulates us from the uneasiness of real depth. Alternatively, the apathy may take precedence, leading to the Animal Realm tendency to hide away from discomfort, self-medicating with sweet foods and entertaining media.
On the other hand, modern fitness culture encourages intense exercise and dry food devoid of the naturally moistening qualities of healthy fats and oils. Overindulgence in those habits leave us lacking in sufficient water element to connect with our life.
Deficiency of water element leaves us dried out and inflexible in body and mind. We may become constipated, emaciated and bitter. A depletion of the sticky and smooth qualities of water element leads to a loss of ability to connect with others or with nourishment in general. We are left unquenchably thirsty and desperately needy but unable to connect to what is offered to us, consumed by a Hungry Ghost Realm fixation. Moderate depletion of water element may lead to dry analytical Human Realm fixation. Severe depletion of water element contributes to the inferno of Hell Realm fixation and the intensity of Titan Realm fixation.
- Exercise—particularly working up a sweat so the channels become unblocked
- Dry, light foods
- Cook with herbs: ginger, white and black pepper, clove, cumin, coriander, fennel (these last 3 also make a great digestive-stimulating tea)
- Spending time in the sun or a dry climate
- Surya Namaskara (sun salutation)
- Twist postures and digestion strengthening postures—such as pawanmuktasana II sequence, uttkatasana (“awkward” or chair pose) or boat pose
For deficient water:
- Hydrating fluids such as cow’s milk, coconut juice and coconut milk
- Drinking water so it actually hydrates you
- Ghee, sweet grains (such as wheat), red grapes
- Spending time in person with loved ones
- Abhyanga and Bucket-bathing
- Yoga Nidra
- Chandra Namaskara (moon salutation)
- Moon-bathing (think sun-bathing, but under the light of the moon)