We all know the peace and tranquility of being near a body of water. Water is comforting. We strive to be like water, so that whatever is happening on the surface, does not affect the stillness of the depths. Water is accepting of others, of events and of self. It is purifying and cleansing. It represents change in its liquid state. Water, called “apas” in Sanskrit, protects us. It protects against the dissolution of the Ether element, the roughness and motion of the Air element and the heat of the Fire element. Ether provides Water the space to exist within. Air provides Water with the ability to move and flow. Water balances the heat of Fire. It is cool, heavy, moist, stable, smooth, flowing and soft. (Much of the information contained in this article was taken from The Laya Center’s article on Ether.)
Water is necessary for the survival of all living things. In fact, up to 60% of the human body is made up of water. Our blood, lymph, and other fluids comprise a transportation system between our cells and through our vessels. These fluids bring energy and carry away waste. They regulate temperature, bring disease fighters, and carry information from the hormones. Water soothes pain and inflammation, protects and nourishes the body. Ayurveda recognizes different types of water in the human body: water that protects the mouth against the actions of chewing and against the enzyme that begins the breakdown of carbohydrates; water that protects the mucous membranes of our stomach against the acids that aid digestion; water that stabilizes the flow of neurological impulses and protects the nerves of the brain; water that protects the joints from the friction of motion; and water that protects the respiratory system from the movement of breath. The origin of the water element is taste, “rasa.” Taste is one of the avenues through which we perceive our world. It is interesting to note that the taste buds of the tongue only work when water or saliva is present. Another body part associated with the water element is the urethra. Imbalances of the water element in the body can be observed by monitoring changes in a person’s experience of taste as well as through alterations of urine or seminal fluid.
The chakra of the Water element is the Sacral Chakra. This element and chakra are associated with emotions, passion, pleasure, creativity, fluidity, and sexuality. When the water element is balanced, you are able to connect easily to others, feel content and calm, let things go, be open to joy and pleasure, and express creativity. An unbalanced water element may lead you to feel emotionally unstable, dehydrated, tense, stuck and have a low libido.
Spring is the season of the Water element. In springtime, the water stored within the snow begins to flow from the mountains into the rivers and streams. Water is the source of life and the container of Prana. As the water begins to flow, life grows in its wake. Spring is sweet and its sweetness nourishes all of life. During this time, the Water element in our bodies naturally increases and flows. It is important to keep the water from overflowing in our bodies at this time by making sure that we do not overindulge in sweets, meats, and oils. In the winter, when water tends to freeze, we must take special care to keep warm, especially the parts of the body associated with the Water element, like the kidneys and bladder. The soles of the feet and your ears are gates of the kidney meridian so must be kept warm as well. In the cycle of life, our springtime is reflected in our formative years, when we are learning and going to school. It is a time of information gathering that we will use in our later, fiery part of life.
The astrological signs of Water are Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. These water signs are intuitive and sensitive, and they feel more intensely than the rest. Water signs can be calm like a still lake or raging like a storm at sea. How things feel is what matters to water signs, and they base their actions on sense, as much as logic or intellect. Water is also about compassion and understanding, so these signs are empathetic and nurturing. They can sense others feelings, and balance those with their own. They are often artistic and desire aesthetic beauty and for everyone to be happy as a result of that beauty. When water signs are balanced, they are comfortable in their lives, moving with ease in relationships and through their days. Their serenity comes from inside, not externally, so they are joyful and content. However, much like still water can become stagnant, an inactive water sign person is not at their best. Water signs feel most fulfilled when they are helping others. Water signs are susceptible to mood swings, like being tossed around by the waves of feeling. At their worst, they could become self-indulgent, brooding or controlling. (www.horozo.lt/element/water/ )
If we have too much watery influence, we become overly sensitive, weepy, and possibly trapped in self-pity. We may begin floating through life, lacking the impetus to initiate change and letting responsibilities slide. In meditation, too much water can diminish clarity. This is not the dullness or heaviness of Earth, but a kind of weak drifting. If the qualities of water increase too much, they overflow from the stomach into circulation and flood the tissues of the body. If we then take in moist or oily food, it can dampen our digestive fire, and slow down our digestion. We’ll lose our appetite and feel heavy in the abdomen. As water overflows from the digestive system, it often settles in the watery tissues of the body (plasma, fat, fluidic reproductive tissue). This can increase the quantity of our bodily secretions while lowering their quality. (Healing with Form, Energy and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Ripoche)
If we have a deficiency of water, we are not comfortable with ourselves, and therefore not comfortable around other people. We lack joy. Even if we’re grounded in earth, if we have too little water it is a dry kind of solidity, without pleasure or appreciation. If both earth and water are deficient, we’ll be dominated by fire or air or both resulting in a lack of groundedness or excessive agitation/irritability. Too little water in meditation means internal discomfort in the practice and loss of joy in the spiritual path. Our tissues become too dry, resulting in dehydration, dry mucous membranes, dry skin, weight loss, and weakness in the reproductive tissues. A deficiency of water also results in a decrease in urination, sweating, and the formation of dry, hard stools. The lips and eyes become dry as well. (Healing with Form, Energy and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Ripoche)
In the Ayurvedic tradition, the Kapha Dosha contains both Water and Earth. (For summary of the Doshas see my previous Buzz article on Balance, https://www.beefreeyogaaustin.com/post/balance-in-all-things) It is water that is responsible for most of the protective and healing aspects of the Kapha Dosha. Sweetness is the taste of this dosha. Foods that are rich in water include fresh fruit, seafood, seaweed, cooked grains, non-fermented dairy, oils, nuts, fatty meats, sweet potato, molasses and spices like cinnamon, nettle, liquorice, clove, rosemary, and cardamon. Salt can help in the retention of water, in moderation. The proper intake of these foods supports a healthy balance water element in the body. As water is the foundation for earth in the body (water supports earth’s heavy, stable qualities), too much water can lead to weight gain and sluggishness. That said, it is important to stay properly hydrated with pure, filtered water and avoid refined and processed foods and sugars.
There is no shortage of practices to connect with the Water element -- first among them is spending time in it or near water! So go swimming, take that long hot bath, sit on the beach or by a lake. Play in the rain! Be mindful when you drink water. Soak it in. Massage, qigong and meditation practices keep you in the flow. Silence is beneficial to the kidneys. Fear is an emotion that drains your water element, so avoid mass media. In your yoga practice, you can balance the Water element by focusing on deep stretches, as well as releasing tension and unprocessed emotions. Focus on the “flow” of your sequence, and include poses that target your pelvis: like moving between child’s pose, cobra, and cat; down dog to plank, crescent moon, bound angle pose (butterfly), prone frog, half pigeon, bridge lifts, and happy baby. You can also incorporate the water-related postures like crab, fish, half-lord of the fishes, dolphin and waterfall. Learn breathing techniques that mimic the waves of the ocean.
I’m in favor of any element that I can connect with while soaking in a hot bath! Most of us can stand to release a bit of rigidity, and go with the flow more often. Connecting with the Water element will help us to do just that. So feel your feelings, eat something juicy and sweet, and thank the Water element for its nourishment and protection.
**For more information, check out Healing with Form, Energy and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Ripoche, The Laya Center’s article on Ether (www.thelayacenter.com/ether). And a description of the astrological signs of the elements at www.horozo.lt/element/water/ Much of the content of this article was taken from this excellent summary of the element.