An Ayurvedic Tribute to Valentine’s Day.
Ask most people what they’ve heard about Ayurveda, and they’ll likely mention the three doshas of vata, pitta, and kapha.
Knowing our dosha, which can be determined by a simple quiz, or better yet, via a visit with an Ayurvedic practitioner, can guide us to a better diet, exercise, and lifestyle routine so that we, with our unique constitution, can stay balanced, healthy, and whole.
But if we stop there in our understanding of this great and ancient science, often considered yoga’s sister science, we’ll miss its overriding philosophical statement:
“The entire universe is comprised of the Five Great Elements of Ether, Air, Water, Fire, and Earth. This includes human beings. Which means that we, too, are comprised of the Five Great Elements.” (Pancha Mahabhuta).
How can we turn what is truly a profound philosophy into a living, breathing practice in our daily lives?
Let’s start with Valentine’s Day, the most Hallmark, commercial, guilt-inducing holiday of them all.
I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day. I never have been. I’ll express love when and how I want to, thank you very much, is the language that might describe my resistance.
Still, my husband of 23 years often caves in to the pressure to bring me flowers and candy, and then I obligingly eat the candy and take care of the flowers. Neither of which I really want to do, to be honest.
On the day, I do like to go out to dinner if we can find reservations, enjoy a nice bottle of wine, and toast to making it this far and still liking each other. And maybe, if we don’t drink too much wine, or if we aren’t waiting up for kids to get home, we make it into the bedroom.
But that was pre-Covid, as well as pre-empty-nesting, which, combined, has turned all normalcy upside down. So, I’m thinking why not take this opportunity to turn Valentine’s Day upside down as well, since I’ve never much liked it right side up anyway?
What if we honored our partners (or perhaps ourselves—a partner is not necessary for this tribute) in a way that reflects our understanding of each other as reflections of the Universe, comprised of the same Five Great Elements that make up a shooting star, a river, and a mountain range?
What if we paid tribute to each individual element that resides within us?
Hopefully, your imagination is already jump-started, but here are a few ideas:
1. The Earth Element.
This translates to our actual physical body.
Careful, don’t jump to the easiest conclusion here! I’ll leave it to my fellow Elephant Journal writers to share ideas on how to worship the body. But how else can we get creative in appreciating one another’s body, and truly recognize them as microcosms of the great macrocosm?
Personally, I miss getting dressed up. A fancy dress, my best jewelry, a great pair of boots or heels—nothing, sadly, that actually goes with our much more casual Covid lifestyle.
I admit I miss hearing my husband say, “Wow!” when I would walk out of the bedroom, dressed to hit the theater or our favorite restaurant. And I’m not blaming him for not complimenting me when I’m just wearing pajama bottoms and a bulky sweater day after day…but still.
Then again, who’s to say we can’t get dressed up just to head to our own dining room, or to the mini-theater within our homes? Get dressed up for yourself, for your loved one, and do so in a way that most reflects your true self, your soul. Adorn your body in jewels, or scarves, or beautiful garments, and appreciate your partner’s body in their adornment.
If that doesn’t sound up your alley, how about dressing down instead, and giving each other, or yourself, an abhyanga massage? Not only can this be a sensual massage, it is incredible for your skin (and your hair, if you don’t mind oily hair for a day or so).
Sesame oil is the traditional oil used for abhyanga, but if you want something lighter, you can use almond or even coconut oil. Be sure to warm the oil up gently, and use a liberal half cup per beautiful body. (And trust me, dedicate a couple old towels that you will use for nothing else going forward!) Afterward, sit in a towel or old robe (protect your furnishings, you’ve been warned!) and let the oils soak in.
Also, the earth element is associated with our sense of smell, so add a scented candle to your massage for an even deeper experience.
2. The Water Element.
This is associated with our senses and our emotions.
Any way in which we honor our own or another’s emotional life would honor their water element.
I’m personally not a poetry person, but for those who are, how perfect would reading a few lines to each other be, perhaps while nibbling on some of those delicious boxed chocolates you already bought anyway (who’s to say we can’t combine some traditions?). The water element relates to our sense of taste, so keeping the taste buds happy will heighten our experience.
For me, I could truly appreciate an opportunity to read aloud The Ramayana, or perhaps delve into some great myths. Finding the emotion in language and sharing it is a natural extension for me, but what might this look like for you?
3. The Fire Element
The fire element represents our passions and longings. It’s associated with the heart. When’s the last time you and your partner exposed the deep and mysterious places of the heart to one another? For that matter, when’s the last time you’ve shared these with yourself?
Or, you could take this one more literally, and start a fire together and hold a fire ceremony of your own making. I’m sure you both have some old baggage to burn in that fire. Or perhaps cook a meal together, finding a recipe that takes time, and patience, and love. The fire element is associated with our sense of sight, so whatever you do, make sure its presentation is lovely.
4. The Air Element
Air is the element that represents our creativity and originality. So, how about picking up some brushes and paints and doing some art together? Or composing a song, no matter how silly or unprofessional? Or just listening to some new, creative music that each of you has found and would like to share? Air is the element that represents sound, so keep this in mind.
5. The Ether Element
Ether is the element of possibility. It is the origin of all of the other elements, as well as their container. How can you honor the possibility within each other?
The first thing I think of is to imagine the possibility for your relationship. Where might it be going in the future? What do you both want? Is there anything that’s gone unspoken or unrealized? Now’s the time to breathe possibility into the relationship, so that it can move from ordinary to extraordinary, flesh to spirit.
From an earthly relationship to a cosmic one.
This year, let’s not take our cues from Hallmark and Co. and wind up celebrating love in superficial, contrived, habituated ways.
Instead, let’s take our inspiration from Ayurveda and celebrate love in its wholeness, from the ether down to the earth.