The Four Elements
We connect to the elements through movement and other practices because we have found them to be great allies, and working with them is a beautiful way to connect with and to honour the elemental world that we inhabit. This is true both in terms of their actual physical essence inside and outside us and because they offer us a rich and varied language of metaphor for our movement practice and a way to identify with something that is both an essential part of who we are and something that exists way beyond us. We have found that a deeper relationship with the elements instills inside us a wish to reciprocate and to care more for the environment around us.
Each Element, in its Yin and Yang form, provides an opportunity to explore a wide range of movement vocabulary. As we discover our own particular expression within each of these four distinct landscapes, we are simultaneously building skills and ‘rounding out’ the whole psyche.
Through practice, parts of our natural expression, which may have been left behind or simply not given space, come to the fore. As our practice advances, we may become aware of and connected to the deeper and more subtle levels of the psyche as they are awakened. Old stories and limiting beliefs may get challenged and released and we find ourselves more free, confident and at ease in the natural expression of who we are in all areas of our lives. In classes and workshops, not only do we become a more creative and imaginative dancer but also, step by step, we reveal the original and human beings we all can be.
In the Movement Medicine mandala, we place Air in the North, Fire in the East, Water in the West and Earth in the South.
Air is the breath of life. The English word, ‘spirit’ comes from the Latin root, ‘spiritus’ which means breath. The deeper we breathe, the more our energy will come to life. Being aware of our breath tunes us into life like nothing else, and is the basis of most meditation practices. In the dance, as well as the obvious connection between breath and movement, we connect the element of air with the ‘ecstatic flight’ of trance states that are achieved through sustained and focused movement practice.
The spirit of the fire is also vital for our wellbeing. Each of us has ‘firepower’ and we either learn to use it responsibly or it can become a source of destruction in our lives. In our bodies, the fire is the energy for life being created by the mitochondria in our cells. The faster our metabolic rate, the warmer we are. Fire is a powerful energy of transformation. Too much, and we are destroyed by our own activity, too little, and we die. In our movement practice, we make a link between the sun and the fire and we dance to embody a creative relationship with this force.
We can live without food for many weeks, but without clean water, we would die very soon. Water can take many shapes from fine mist or a deep still lake to a raging torrent or a crashing wave. To dance the water element is to enter the world of fluidity, flow and shape-shifting in which we learn to surrender our attachment to one form and receive the gift of purification. Eighty percent of our body is water. Water needs to be in balance with the other elements. Too much and we will drown, too little and we will dehydrate.
The physical body is the temple and the playground for the spirit. Getting a kinesthetic sense of how we feel inside our skin, and bringing that into movement, gives us the sense of presence we sometimes lack. We think of our bodies as our personal piece of land to tend and inhabit. In our movement practice, earth is the element where we develop a dynamic and creative relationship to our grounding, our roots and the physical structure of the body. You could describe the work here as ‘finding your feet.’