The Yoga Synergy sequences were named in honour of the pancha mahabhuta (5 Great Elements) of Hinduism and Ayurveda that are believed to make up all of creation, including the human body – which, upon death, dissolves into these five elements of nature, thereby balancing the cycle of nature set in motion by the creative force of the universe.
Bianca Machliss and Simon Borg-Olivier developed the Yoga Synergy sequences together, over a 20 year period. The Yoga Synergy sequences were named in honour of the pancha mahabhuta (5 Great Elements) of Hinduism and Ayurveda that are believed to make up all of creation, including the human body – which, upon death, dissolves into these five elements of nature, thereby balancing the cycle of nature set in motion by the creative force of the universe.
Each of the five elements is associated with one of the five senses, and acts as the gross medium for the experience of sensations. According to Hindu thought, the basest element, Earth (prithvi, kshiti or bhūmi) was created using all the other elements and thus can be perceived by all five senses – hearing, touch, taste, smell, and sight. The next element, Water (aap or jala), has no odor but can be seen, tasted, heard, and felt. Next comes Fire (tejas or agni), which can be seen, heard and felt. Air (vaayu, marut or pavan ) can be heard and felt. Ether (akasha) is the medium of sound but is inaccessible to all other senses. Hindus believe that the universal creative force used akasha, the most “subtle” element, to create the other four traditional elements; each element created is in turn used to create the next, each less subtle than the last.
Earth is the first of the 5 sequences, and is usually practiced at the beginning of the year after the holiday season to firmly put our feet back on the ground. Summer is hot and the practice needs to be responsive to this by being calm and cooling. The intention with which we practice this sequence is to set the foundations for the year, to create a steady mind and regular practice, the beginning of the advancement towards a long-term, stable practice.
Water is the second of the 5 sequences – the year is underway, routine established, the weather cooling down, but still comfortable. Water is the binding element, the conductor of all the other elements, necessary for survival. Our blood, lymph and other fluids move between our cells and through our vessels, bringing energy, carrying away wastes, regulating temperature, bringing disease fighters, and carrying hormonal information from one area to another. The water sequence practice boosts our immune system in preparation for the winter. The intention with which we practice the water sequence is to bring about change through fluid movement.
Fire is the third of the 5 sequences, designed to be a heating dynamic energizing practice during the cold winter months. Fire is the transformative element. It is form without substance, and the engine of all processes. According to Ayurveda, the location of Fire in the body is the small intestine. Within our bodies, the fire or energy binds the atoms together. Fire transforms food into energy. It creates the impulses of nervous reactions, our feelings, and even our thought processes. The intention with which we practice this sequence is to generate the internal fire, to boost immunity and maintain vitality through the coolness of winter.
Air is the fourth of the 5 sequences, designed to lighten the body and spirit as we move out of the winter and into the spring. In Ayurvedic terms, Air (Vaayu ), the wind, is “backdrop” of our environment (the surroundings that we may not always notice). Air is the second lightest element next to ether, in that we can perceive it both visually, and tactilely (in tree branches moving in the wind or in the feel of it on our skin). The intention with which we practice this sequence is to move the stale energy of winter, and bring a lightness to the being, increasing mobility and movement through all our systems.
Ether is the last of the 5 sequences and is usually practiced at the time of year when the summer is starting again, but the year is ending, so there is much general exhaustion. Ether is the space in which everything happens. It is the field that is simultaneously the source of all matter and the space in which it exists. In Ayurvedic terms, Ether (Akasha) means “space” or “emptiness” and is the empty space between atoms. As we know from quantum physics, matter is much less solid than it appears, and is mostly composed of empty space. Ether also corresponds to what many call the undifferentiated cosmic force, the unified field, or the one mind. One characteristic of Ether is sound or vibration; its main characteristic is lack of resistance. It is the lightest of the elements. The intention with which we practice this sequence is to maintain a sense of balance and calm, to unify and energize the body mind and spirit, allowing our being to smoothly transition to the end of the year.