The ancient rishis intuited the five elements or tattvas, of earth, water, fire, air and space as being the principle five energies of creation. The five elements have relationship with each the five sheaths, or koshas, of the yogic body.
We start with the foundation, the earth, our physical bodies, the amalgamation of dense matter, muscle, bone, ligaments, tendons. Our external physical layer, sheath or annamaya kosha - the densest layer of being.
The earth element grounds us, holds us, nourishes us with food. Mother Earth, our home, she contains life, produces life and nourishes life.
We start with our feet and learning how to stand. Tadasana, the mountain pose, and Vrksasana, the tree pose teach us how to engage our feet, how to draw energy upwards, how to root down to rise up, how to engage the lightness that travels up through to the spine and crown with practice.
We practice yoga barefoot to encourage this connection and to feel out feet properly. To expand and extend the soles of the feet, to earth and ground us. The first horizontal diaphragm of the body, padabandha.
The element of earth is associated with the root chakra Muladhara chakra. Extending through the legs to the feet from the base of the spine, into the earth, where we find our roots to nourish us. Muladhara Chakra is associated with connection, physical body, our family and tribe, community, our home and our place in the world. The base of the spine is also the home of the coiled kundalini in the esoteric yogic body.
Every time we lie down in a Yoga asana or for shavasana, we release to the earth, surrender the weight of our bodies to the earth, and allow ourselves to be held. The more we are able to release and surrender, the more we open ourselves to receive.