Embodying the Elements:
A Sensory Practice in Awareness
This practice is my go-to practice to empower a felt-sense of calm and homeostasis through embodied self-realization. No prior experience is necessary. If you have any medical conditions like high blood pressure or if you are pregnant, use slow smooth breathing rather than the Breath of Fire practice to embody the Fire element. There are no additional contraindications.
This powerful practice can be experienced anywhere at anytime for as little as 30 seconds to 3 minutes. The practice is both energizing and relaxing using a variety of breathing practices and hand mudras to engage a sensory experience to self-direct your nervous system. The results can be felt immediately, if you practice with earnestness and intention.
1) Begin by attuning to the Body Current® foundational principles (the 3 A’s below) while observing the natural rhythm and texture of your breath. What do you notice? Is it slow and smooth? Is it shallow and rapid? What do you taste, smell, and feel as you breathe? As you direct your awareness, set your heartfelt intention for this practice.
• Awareness – Focus your awareness on your breath and the current of sensations arising and informing your present moment experience. This sends a signal of safety to your nervous system as you entrain with the present moment.
• Acceptance – Without judgement accept thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions that arise through the present moment with curiosity and fresh eyes. This allows the nervous system to relax into a state of acceptance and homeostasis through the breath.
• Allowing – Allow yourself to have an experience of the present moment through embodied self-realization. This experience is what creates new pathways to shift your neurobiology. Remember your intention for the practice to frame and allow a deepening into a felt-sense experience of the moment with wonder and curiosity.
2) Continue to attune to the 3 A’s above throughout the practice as we link our breath with a symbolic hand mudra to embody the elements of your inner and outer landscape.
- Place your palms face up at your lap.
- Bring the thumb of both hands to press into your Pointer Fingers engaging the Jupiter aspect of higher intelligence while embodying the Earth element of this mudra. Take 3-9 slow smooth inhafles through the nose noticing the sensations that arise followed by complete exhales through rounded lips like you are blowing out a candle. Notice the stable and grounding earth beneath and around you. How can you deepen into a felt-sense of the Earth?
- Bring the thumbs to press into your Middle Fingers engaging the Saturn aspects of innate wisdom and patience while embodying the Air element. Take 3-9 slow smooth airy inhales through the nose and exhale the slow sound of Om. Notice the subtleties of the waves of sound and the element of air around you. What is your felt-sense of the air entering through your nose? How long can you sustain the vibration of Om into the air and space around you?
- Bring the thumbs to press into your Ring Fingers engaging the Sun aspects of health, vigor and vitality while embodying the Fire element. To embody this element through the mudra and breath, engage Breath of Fire focusing on rapid inhales followed by strong exhales as you snap the naval to the spine. Find a rhythm that works for you to sustain for 10-30 seconds. If you feel lightheaded, resume slow, smooth breathing. If you feel energized, feel free to repeat a few rounds to build the awareness of fire. Allow yourself to receive the purifying and energizing properties as the sensations of Fire build while releasing any tension that arises. End with a couple rounds of slow smooth breathing and open, curious awareness of what you are observing. How has your internal heat transformed? What subtle shifts do you notice in your inner environment? What do you notice about your breath?
- Bring the thumbs to press into your Pinkie Fingers engaging the Mercury aspects of clear communication and mental clarity while embodying the element of Water. Use the Ujjayi or “Victorious Breath” for 3-9 rounds of slow smooth breathing. Simply channel the inhale through the nose, touching the back of the throat to make an ocean sound as you expand your body with your inhale. On the exhale, bring the naval to the spine as you bring the sensation of the exhale through the back of the throat and out the nose. Allow this breath to wash over you just like the waves in the ocean. How does the sound of the breath change throughout your practice? What aspects of the water element are you noticing through your sensory experience?
- Feel free to focus on embodying just one of the elements above or cycling through them all. When you feel complete, take a few moments to notice, with child-like curiosity, the cadence and texture of your natural breath and the elemental nature of your inner environment.
The Waking Times recently reported their findings on the healing opportunities found in a study involving rhythmic conscious breathing in relation to our Central Nervous System and the Vagus Nerve, our 10th cranial nerve.
Of all the various functions of our autonomic nervous systems, from heart beat, perspiration, hormonal release, gastrointestinal operation, neurotransmitter secretion, etc., the breath stands alone as the only subsystem the conscious mind can put into ‘manual override’ and so it is through manipulation of the breath that we can recalibrate the entire system.
In addition, according to a recent article documenting a study in the International Journal of Yoga, conscious breathing along with embodied movement has been shown to positively impact immune function, resolve autonomic nervous system imbalances, and calm stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression.
To learn more about the power of rhythmic breathing, visit our blog Finding Your Rhythm within the Chaos: 3 Simple Steps.
What does all this recent research mean to you? Your breath and your intention for this practice literally puts your health into your hands and will inform the results you reap from this practice. Enjoy!
Shanti Medina is the founder of Body Current®, an empowering application of simple somatosensory practices and entrainment principles to ignite embodied self-realization, release stress patterns, resolve trauma imprints and live a life powered by intention with each breath. She is a Certified Neurosculpting®Facilitator, Pranic Healer and Yoga Therapist sharing her Body Current curriculum as faculty at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health as well as the certification program at the Neurosculpting Institute. To schedule a private session, in person or via Skype, and to find out more about Shanti, visit EnergizeShanti.com