Connecting with the elementals
When we talk about elemental holistic healing, there are actually many different places where this has been applied for thousands of years.
I recently spoke to Tonya Dee, a Holistic Sha-Medium, who explained about elemental healing and even took us through a short elemental meditation.
Connecting to the elements is our constant and infinite connection to source.
Working with the elements can be found in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is also used in Ayurveda, an Indian holistic healing system that is thousands of years old.
“Earth, water, fire, and wind. Where there is energy there is life.”
- Suzy Kassem
There are other traditions that work with the elements as well, but TCM and Ayurveda may be two of the most well-known Eastern traditions. Anyone who has studied yoga would be familiar to some degree with Ayurveda, for example.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
TCM views depression as a complex syndrome. The whole body must be healed and re-aligned, to address it. That is why TCM remedies do not focus on just a single component or symptom. The remedy will be multidimensional and address many things in the body because depression is multidimensional as well (Li et al., 2020).
There are 5 elements that feature in TCM: wood, metal, water, fire, and air. These elements are associated with facets of nature and connect to all aspects of human health. More studies are being conducted to explore the 5 elements and researchers recommended using TCM in conjunction with modern science, as a way to prevent disease and strengthen the body with lifestyle changes (Mayer, 2021).
A great way to incorporate elemental healing into your mental health journey is to work with a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine alongside your healthcare provider. They can help with understanding what is causing anxiety, sadness, stress, or chronic pain and then work with you to holistically start the healing process. This could include lifestyle changes, herbs and acupuncture.
And if you are terrified of needles, like me, starting out with just one or two needles to try it is a good idea. My acupuncturist was fantastic and thanks to her, I can do short acupuncture sessions now, which has helped me a lot.
I have used acupuncture for anxiety, stress, and of late for chronic pain after breaking my foot. On a side note, acupuncture has also done wonders for getting menopause symptoms under control. Those hot flashes can really mess with your sanity!
Ayurveda AND ELEMENTAL HEALING
Ayurveda also works with 5 elements, although they are named slightly different: space, air, fire, water, and earth. The same idea applies with Ayurveda that the body is a holistic being and needs to be addressed in that way for healing. While certifying as a yoga teacher, learning the basic understandings of Ayurveda was part of the program.
Ayurveda is considered a complementary and alternative medicine in the US (What Is Ayurveda?, 2016). A well-trained and reputable practitioner can help with many problems that also encompass low mood, anxiety, stress, and chronic pain. For example, I explored Marma Therapy after breaking my foot, to help with the chronic pain.
Marma Therapy works similar to acupressure. Specific points in the body are lightly pressed and activated. The points depend on what you are trying to work with and are based on Ayurveda. So, while Ayurveda does work with the elements, there are many techniques within Ayurveda that can be used for different applications.
A word of caution for internally ingesting any Ayurveda products. Please make sure you verify the source and composition of any products you plan to ingest. Many products have been found to contain toxic heavy metals and can cause life-threatening complications (What Is Ayurveda?, 2016). Although I found Ayurveda to be very helpful and I love working with it, you need to make sure you are safe at all times.
More Healing with the ElementALS
There are many other traditions that work with the elements for healing and connection. Shamanism works with earth, air, fire, and water. Pagan traditions usually work with the same four elements, although spirit is often added for the center. The common belief is that everything is connected, and only through balance and alignment can true healing be achieved.
This is solid advice, considering that when we experience sadness, anxiety, or stress, it is usually because something is out of balance. Whether that be in our body or in the environment around us. It is often necessary to address several things to put ourselves back into alignment.
The 4 Elements
Here is a brief overview of the elements from some of the nature-based traditions.
Water is strongly related to emotions. It also connects to our intuition and encourages us to look inward and reflect. Sometimes, it is nice to meditate to the sound of water, or on a beach or by a stream. Since water flows, water can help cleanse away stagnant emotions and refresh us.
Earth is generally considered a grounding element. It is also related to stability and manifestation. This has to do with the idea that when we first have a thought, it then needs to be nurtured and manifested. Once it manifests, it becomes tangible. For example, you may have the idea to take a yoga class. You then think about it (air element) and eventually participate in a class. This class is the physical manifestation of your thought and would be connected to the earth element.
Air is connected to our thoughts and intentions. Many traditions also consider the air element as our connection to source. Air can be helpful when trying to get clear on something. Going for a brisk walk in the cool air helps clear your head and focus on a new direction.
Fire is connected to energy and our personal empowerment. You have experienced burning something before, maybe by throwing it in the fireplace or into a campfire. In that sense, fire can symbolically burn away old things we no longer need and make room for new things. It is also connected to your inner strength.
Elemental healing can also extend to your food choices. TCM, for example, integrates diet into the healing options, which could be another way to balance the elements. You may have noticed that some foods may cause you more problems, like a headache or bloating. TCM takes that into consideration and optimizes food choices for physical and mental health.
TCM takes that into consideration and optimizes food choices for physical and mental health.
However you decide to incorporate the elements into your healing journey, there are many options for you to try out.
Li, C., Huang, J., Cheng, Y. C., & Zhang, Y. W. (2020). Traditional Chinese Medicine in depression treatment: From molecules to systems. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2020.00586
Mayer, B. A. (2021, October 18). The five elements: What science has to say about this Chinese Medicine theory. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mind-body/what-are-the-five-elements
What is Ayurveda? (2016, December 13). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/ayurvedic-treatments