3.45 – One gains mastery over the five elements by samyama on the nature of their subtle states, gross states, connection, and purpose.

स्थूलस्वरूपसूक्ष्मान्वयार्थवत्त्वसंयमात् भूतजयः ॥४४॥

sthula svarupa suksma anvaya arthavattva samyamad bhuta-jayah

  • sthula – gross; large; thick; coarse
  • svarupa – nature; quality; essence; appearance; original form
  • suksma – subtle; minute; fine
  • anvaya – association; connection
  • arthavattva – having purpose
  • samyamad – by samyama – the perfect integration of consciousness; the uniting of dharana, dhyana, and samadhi
  • bhuta – elements; being; existing
  • jayah – victory; mastery

3.46 – From that mastery of the elements various abilities appear such as the power to become as small as an atom, the perfection of the body, and freedom from normal physical limitations.

ततोऽणिमादिप्रादुर्भावः कायसंपत् तद्धरानभिघात्श्च ॥४५॥

tatah anima adi pradurbhavah kaya sampad tad dharma anabhighata cha

  • tatah – due to that; from that
  • anima – minuteness; fineness; the power to become the size of an atom
  • adi – and others; etc; and so on
  • pradurbhavah – appears; manifests
  • kaya – the body
  • sampad – perfection; prosperity; excellence; right condition
  • tad – that
  • dharma – nature; attribute; essential quality
  • anabhighata – unobstructed; unrestrained; free
  • cha – and; also; both

3.47 – As the body becomes perfected it develops grace, beauty, strength, and diamond-like hardness.

रूपलावण्यबलवज्रसंहननत्वानि कायसंपत् ॥४६॥

rupa lavanya bala vajra samhanana kaya-sampat

  • rupa – appearance; form
  • lavanya – grace; beauty; charm
  • bala – strength; force; power
  • vajra – diamond-like hardness; a thunderbolt
  • samhanana – firmness; compactness
  • kaya – the body
  • sampat – perfection; prosperity; excellence; right condition

Commentary on 3.45-3.47:

While Patanjali doesn’t go into great detail about the chakras or their association with the elements, later tantric texts explore them in depth. One element is the most dominant within each of the first five chakras.

Kundalini sadhana involves the transmutation of those elements. Whether we’re consciously focusing on them or not, the progression goes from earth to water, water to fire, fire to air, air to space, and then from space into the subtler realms beyond the elements. Our bodies transform as we ascend through the chakras and the elements within them.

In Sutra 3.45, the practice is to work with the gross and subtle states of the five elements and the purpose between the two. The gross states are the elements themselves—earth, water, fire, air, and space. Together, they are the mahabhutas and make up the most physical layer of the universe. The subtle states of the elements, the tanmatras, are smell, taste, form, touch, and sound.

How they are paired:

  • earth – smell
  • water – taste
  • fire – form
  • air – touch
  • space – sound

By samyama on these gross and subtle elements, and their connections and purposes, the yogi acquires mastery over them. Through this process, various physical powers may emerge.

Gaining an understanding of the elements and how to balance them within the body, the yogi establishes a state of physical harmony. Through right diet, exercise, and lifestyle, they develop radiant beauty, grace, and firmness.

Insight into how the elements of the body can be balanced can be acquired through the study of ayurvedic principles.

We can develop insight into how to balance the five elements within the body by studying ayurvedic principles.