Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Element Water

Not enough rain and your garden with wither and die. Too much rain and your garden will get soggy and rot. Just the right amount of rain and your garden with thrive and prosper. Water is necessary for all life forms. It can create and destroy. It is the right amount in balance that gives us aliveness and productivity.

Water itself is indestructible. With its adaptable nature, it can change form from liquid to solid or gas. Although formless on its own, it can change to the shape of any container. It is the purest form of liquid and covers approximately 71 percent of the earth's surface. Living cells are comprised of 70 to 95 percent water.

Always moving, water is unpredictable and unstable. It is yielding yet powerful. Over time it can erode the greatest obstacles. Even in its stillness, water has gentle movement and latent powerful energy. The energy is unleashed by outside forces such as wind, gravity and resistance.

You can see through water and it reflects whatever is around it. Water has its own rhythm and it seeks calm as well as high energy. Water will always fill in a void if it can.

Solar energy continually recycles water through evaporation. The vapor from the ocean surfaces condenses quickly and then falls back to the ocean or land as rain. The water on land eventually returns to the ocean from rivers and groundwater traveling through the rocks and sediments of continental margins.

A person with water personality tends to be very emotional; sometimes overemotional. They have deep intuition, strong imagination but can be very moody. They have a gift of understanding others and are very compassionate.

We use water to cleanse our bodies and clean everything from our clothes to our cars. It is refreshing and soothing. Splashing cold water on your face will energize you and it activates circulation. Water is used in various religious ceremonies as a sign of transformation, liberation, and purification. Some water is considered to have miraculous healing properties. An estimated 200 million people from all over the world have traveled to the natural springs in Lourdes, France to be healed.

Practicing yoga, the water element reminds us to be mindful of transitions. Moving is part of the practice and moving mindfully reminds us to move with the breath and go deeper into our practice. Bringing the water element into our practice reminds us to be intuitive and listen to our bodies. It reminds us that with time, intention and patience we can overcome obstacles in our practice. We can change our perspectives that inhibit our happiness and growth.

Whether its up in the sky as a cloud, or down on the earth as a pond, or at the extreme ends of the earth as a polar ice cap, water is all around us. It can inspire you to reach for the sky, contemplate stillness or search deep below the surface of what we see at first glance. Step into the flow of the river, ride the current and feel the vitality and serenity of nature in each and every moment.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Element Earth

Most of us have fond memories of squishing mud through our toes. building castles in the sand and digging in the dirt. When we touch the Earth, we connect with the roots of nature. The Earth is fertile and stable. All life forms, as we know them, spring from the Earth. We affectionately call our whole planet Mother Earth.

The diversity of the forests, the majesty of the mountains, and the richness of the precious metals all come from the Earth. The Earth provides the foundation for these entities to thrive and take shape. The metals and stones we value the most such as gold, silver and diamonds lie buried within the deep, rich Earth.

Of all the five elements in the Pancha Tattva and ayurveda systems, Earth is the most solid, and the most supportive of our basic needs. The Earth is teeming with life and is constantly giving birth to various life forms. Plants send roots into the earth so they can rise toward the sky. Nutrients within the Earth are continuously being recycled to keep enriching the Earth as it continues to give its resources to sustain the life above and within it.

Someone who has earthy qualities is thought of as stable, supportive, giving, and practical. They can be counted on as a friend and are strong and reliable. They have an affinity with Nature and are slow to anger but also slow to forgive. Their emotions run deep and they are persistent in following their goals.

Grounding as we practice yoga is vital to having a solid foundation in our poses. The more we ground, the more we can soar. We can use Earth energy to inspire our poses. Connecting with Nature is at the core of our yoga practice. Root to rise. That is our mantra. Remember the larger energy of Earth and Nature and observe how that connects you back to your true self. Use the Earth qualities of sensitivity and resiliency to grow and deepen your practice.

Even though the exterior form of Earth appears to be stable and durable, there is always some movement within. Bones, the most solid Earth-like matter in our bodies, are constantly being dissolved and rebuilt. Rocks are continually in the slow process of erosion. Everything in the Earth and our bodies, no matter how solid and stable, is still on some level changing and evolving.

Earth is everywhere. Ever notice no matter how often you clean your body or your house, it gets dirty again? Some little piece of earth is always clinging to you. Our natural cycle is to be born of the Earth and eventually return to the Earth.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Element Space

Everyone is fascinated by space. To gaze at the stars creates a reverse phenomenon. The tiny stars make us feel tiny. We can feel the distance in space and know that these tiny bright bits we see in the vastness of space are, in reality, huge.

Space is limitless and yet it acts as a container for everything we know. It holds the earth, the solar system, the galaxies and beyond. It is a mystery that physicists are still seeking to understand and define.

Physicists argue over whether space is absolute or relative. Newton believed that space was absolute, its own separate entity. Einstein's theory of relativity describes space and time as being woven together and affected equally by gravity. Petr Horava, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, is now questioning Einstein's theory and proposing that space and time are not equivalent at very high energies, but are equivalent at lower energies.

Humans keep exploring space from satellites, by sending men into orbit and from high-powered telescopes. Fictional movies based on space like Star Wars, Star Trek and 2001 A Space Odyssey were enormously popular and continue to keep their appeal years after they were filmed.

Space is something that separates us and unites us at the same time. People tend to want their own space, yet their is an intrinsic need to feel connected to others as well. Space invites us to explore more possibilities than can be conceived by the naked eye and even beyond what our technologies have shown us. It invites our imaginations to go wild.

When we sit to begin our yoga practice we open with the idea that we are unlimited in our goodness and capabilities to give and receive love. We can open to the concept that we are supported by something so vast, mysterious and powerful that we can release our limiting ideas of ourselves and the world we live in. To begin our practice in this way releases tension and fills us with energy. Marianne Williamson states it beautifully when she says. "We learn to trust the power that holds galaxies together can handle the circumstances of our relatively little lives". Throughout our practice it is important to come back to this concept of opening to grace. We can bring the expansiveness of the space around us inward. Magnification creates a new perspective on what is inside each of us. We can use that perspective to perceive our inner bodies as magnificent as the infinite space outside of us.

When you look up at the stars and out into space. allow your imagination to keep soaring. Allow your heart to become as bright as the stars. Let your mind believe in endless possibilities.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Creating Rituals

Habits are routines or actions that are repeated without intention or even awareness. They can become almost unconscious forms of behavior. Rituals are actions or routines done with intention and with great awareness. There is often a symbolic or emotional meaning behind the action and it is done with assent.

Smoking, drinking coffee, biting your nails. reacting to people or situations, sleeping late, our thought patterns can all become habits. Some habits like smoking can become addictions. We tend to label our habits as good or bad depending on if they are beneficial to our lives or not. Good or bad, habits are difficult to break. Because they are basically involuntary, we have to make a great effort to change our habits.

Some of the strongest rituals in nature are the mating rituals. Without procreation a species would die. At the climax of their courting ritual, a pair of grebes will skitter across the surface of the water with their wings spread behind them, their long necks arched gracefully upwards, and then, in perfect synchronization, they suddenly dive together disappearing into the water. Penguins court each other face to face singing to each other and affectionately rubbing their beaks together. Moving with agile, undulating bodies, male humpback whales will jostle with each other to attract the attention of a single female whale until she finally chooses her mate.

Rituals abound in the sporting world. Football players huddle to strategize and psych each other to win. Basketball superstar Michael Jordan always wore his North Carolina college shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform. World tennis star Rafael Nadal of Spain lines his water bottles up with the labels facing the baseline he is playing from. Before each race Michael Phelps listens to Rap music, climbs up on the block, bends forward, clasps his hands behind his back and like an albatross preparing for flight, stretches and flaps his arms back and forth. All these athletes have intense focus and an unstoppable desire to win. Their rituals create stability amid the unpredictability of each performance.

Bringing ritual into a yoga practice makes it more powerful. When we sit and center ourselves with our breath, it helps to relax our minds and let go of incessant chatter. Setting an intention gives a powerful focus for the practice making it more than just a stretching routine. Savasana as the final pose at the end of a practice, lets the benefits of yoga settle into our bodies and minds. Even within the practice you can have your own special rituals. Taking a deep inhalation and opening to grace before each pose could be a personal ritual for your practice.

We use rituals to remember, to let go and for transformation. A simple act can have a great impact when we use it as a ritual. Potent times for rituals are just after waking or just before sleeping. Try the simple ritual of giving gratitude at these times and notice how more and more reasons to be grateful will come into your life.