One of the first routines I learned when I began teaching Nia was a classic created by Nia co-founder Debbie Rosas called Chakras. Its focus was the elements of earth, water, fire and air and as a student, I loved the contrasting grounded, fluid, intense, and light movements. But as I worked on getting ready to teach it, something was missing.
I asked my mentor, Chris Friedman, to let me teach her the first song. After a minute, she stopped me and asked, “When you do that deep stance, which element are you dancing?”
“Earth,” I said.
She paused and said, “I can’t feel it when I watch you.”
Oddly, neither could I. I’d been focusing mainly on my feet and legs when I did this “Earthy” movement but Earth, Chris pointed out, is in my whole body.
Throughout the routine, I did my best to embody each element. Earth isn’t just in my bones and base, Water isn’t just in my joints and blood, Fire isn’t just in my nerves and muscles and Air isn’t just in my lungs and hands. Each element is systemic in the body.
We and the planet are made of the same stuff. As I embody the elements, I am embodying the interconnection within and around me.
The Earth element is in our very bones, muscles, and connective tissue. Our physical form that allows us to literally stand on the Earth is of the Earth element.
Stability and strength are the movement sensations most directly connected with Earth. Like the globe itself, stability radiates energy out in all directions from center. And like the force of gravity that holds us to the ground, strength pulls energy in toward the bones.
Feel your radiating rootedness and your powerful physical form and you are feeling the Earth in you.
Of course, our bones and muscles and connective tissue can’t function without…
The human body is more liquid than anything else. Synovial fluid lubricates joints and saliva lubricates our tongues. Blood, our fluid tissue, touches every other tissue in the body. In her 2008, New York Times article, The Wonders of Blood, Natalie Angier wrote:
It is through blood that our disparate parts communicate, through blood that our organs cooperate. Without a circulatory system, there would be no internal civilization, no means of ensuring orderly devotion to the common cause that is us.
Much of us liquid and is constantly moving. The flow of mobility is the movement sensation connected with Water. The life giving, cleansing power fluid movement mirrors the liquid element that swims within us and around us.
Feel movement with no beginning and no end and you are feeling the Water in you.
Of course, the flow of blood and movement stops cold without…
The nervous system fires to ignite both unconscious and conscious movements. Without the electric spark of nerves, the body wouldn’t know what to do. Whether from the flash of thought and imagination, or the ignition of automatic processes, fire is in our fibers.
The movement sensation of agility with its quick starts and stops is most closely associated with fire. The sizzling heat of precise agility is how we can light our own element of Fire.
Feel the bright lightening quickness in your bones and you are feeling the Fire in you.
Of course, the Fire goes out without the nourishment of…
Just like the air around us, the air within us offers relaxing nourishment and powerful energy. Air is the spaciousness that we feel when we breathe deeply, stretch long, and connect to the vastness of spirit. Air and space can be found in every bone, fluid and tissue … and between every thought.
Flexibility is the movement sensation of energy moving out along the bones. Like a long exhalation, creating the length and space of flexibility connects the body most directly to Air.
Feel the spacious length in your body, your movement and your breath and you are feeling the Air in you.
Of course, Air has nothing to animate, nothing to nourish without Earth, Water, and Fire.
Earth Day is this week* so it’s a perfect time to recognize the interconnectedness of the elements on our planet and in our bodies. Dance with elemental movement and feel your connection to every part of you, the planet and the universe!
* Earth Day 2016 is Friday, April 22 and Mary Linn and I are teaching a special class that evening at acac downtown, 545-7pm. The class is free to members and they can bring a guest for free!