The question that the element of space asks is: what is your true purpose? It is the element that is the hardest to get to grips with in terms of what it is. It is everything – because everything is in space - but it is nothing. It is invisible, yet limitless, an intangible nothingness which is in everything and around everything. It can be seen as freedom or as our connection to faith and spirit. It teaches us a lesson about humility and learning. We are everything in our own eyes, yet we are nothing in the bigger scheme of things - a speck of dust when looked at from space. We learn to know as much as we can to be able to control and manage our environment, but the more we learn, the more we realise how little we know. We realise we are here as a result of something so much bigger than us…and we are part of that ‘something bigger’. There is a Universal Truth, which governs life as we know it – and as we don’t know it. Most mind-blowing of all - the Truth is out there, but it is also inside us. We are the Truth and we hold it’s power and it’s magic right inside us.
Space – You’re meant to be here…what is your true purpose?
The vastness of space has many valuable lessons for us. It teaches us about expansion – expanding our minds and bodies to access the limitlessness of our true being. We are more than what we have constructed in our mind. What our mind can grasp is useful, yet limited. We can exercise unimaginable creative energy when we expand fully into the space of knowledge and wisdom available to us through the Divine. The Divine is ‘out there’ and it is ‘in us’ through the element of space. We have the ability both to create the vision and execute the plan for our lives – living our true purpose. We have space and freedom to move and be ourselves - to live our own unique truth.
The bodily organs associated with the space element are the liver and the gall bladder. The energy meridians for these organs run up the inside (liver) and outside(gall bladder) of our legs, all the way up through the torso into the face (liver) and from behind the head towards the ear (gall bladder). As with the other elements, imbalances manifest in the organs themselves and speak to us through injuries, dis-ease or discomfort along any of these energy lines.
Common physical conditions associated with an out of balance space element are all conditions reacting to the liver and gall bladder – issues in blood purification, gall stones, and some hormonal issues due to the liver activating hormones (insulin, glucogen, thyroid and sex hormones). Many many dis-eases can be traced back to problems in the liver and gall bladder due to the vast functions of the liver. Those with a Space imbalance will often experience anger management issues, be very competitive, have wild ideas, be intimidating, reckless and forever craving arousal. They are easily frustrated, appear very busy and while they crave order, can be disorganised and easily confused. Someone with too much space energy will present as very controlling and sincerely believing they are always right.
Balance in the space element brings the freedom of movement and flexibility both in mind and in body. There is peace in flexibility because we know beliefs can change and nothing is ever set in stone. There is a sense of certainty, which comes from knowing that you don’t know. There is a healthy sense of direction accompanied by the ability to use initiative and take risks – because a leap of faith is so much more fun and meaningful, than recklessness! People balanced in Space have a strong sense of spirituality and their place in the Divine scheme of things. They are often strong leaders because of all the aforementioned characteristics.
Relaxing in the knowledge that you are part of something bigger, that you have access to infinite knowledge love and wisdom through your connection to the Divine.
There are many reasons to want to balance space so read on to find out how!
· Standing wide legged forward bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)
· All twisting postures and variations
· Extended side angle pose (with bind) (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
· Birds of paradise (Svarga Dvidasana)
· Reverse Triangle (Parivrtta trikonasana)
· Side plank (Vashistasana)
· Combine with water postures – standing splits and half moon/revolved (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana and (Parivrtta)Ardha Chandrasana)
· Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)
· Revolved seated side stretch (Parivrtta Upavistha Konasana)
· Meditation – space in body, space in spine between vertebrae, space between words and actions – time to reflect and choose differently
Lifestyle and Eating Habits
Balancing space goes hand in hand with cleansing and decongesting the body Sour foods help to detoxify the liver and give new life. Foods that balance space in general are wheat and barley grass, sprouts from alfalfa, mung beans, sunflower seeds, whole wheat, rye or mustard seeds. Green foods are great to balance space. These include spinach, kale, celery, asparagus, and cabbage.
The liver can become extremely congested due to excess fats, chemicals, toxins and even competitive environments. This impacts the livers functioning and while this is not easily noticed due to the liver being such a robust organ, we need to take extra care of this multifunctional organ. The liver impacts so many other organs in the body, so even though the liver might not be obviously affected, it has a very direct affect on other organs. E.g. when the liver isn’t healthy blood purification is very poor which leads to high blood pressure and heart diseases, and even skin problems. Hormonal issues can be due to poor liver functioning – clear examples of the indirect impact of poor liver functioning.
As for lifestyle tips in looking after your space, try these:
· Art therapy (creativity)
· Dancing (bringing freedom and movement in the joints)
· Creative and challenging projects
· Community awareness actions (being aware of being part of something bigger – having and influence and ability to make a difference)
Create space for your spirit to thrive. Live a life of purpose.
I recently moved to a more ‘conservative’ community, where yoga is not yet as natural a part of life as it has become in places like California and London. Advocating strongly for yoga as a lifestyle I have come across a number of limiting beliefs about yoga, preventing people from getting involved in this magical practice. It’s time for these to be exposed…. and binned.
1. ‘Those Yoga people are flexible. I can’t even touch my toes’
Telling yourself that you're not flexible enough for yoga is like saying you're too dirty to take a bath. Noticing your own inflexibility is a sign that you need to do something different in looking after your body. Yoga is that something different.
2. ‘I don’t have time for something that doesn’t offer a real workout. I do work, home and gym. I’m sorted’
Yoga is not your ordinary workout. You will work on strength, balance, endurance, muscle tone, and stretching muscles that have not been stretched for years. You will have to create space in your spine so you can move properly again and achieve strength in places not known before to support your lengthened and strengthened muscles, joints and vertebrae. To top it all of you will need to find a way to let go, breathe, release, establish softness and, god forbid….relax and expand your mind. Real workout? No, better.
3. ‘I will look ridiculous trying these funny moves’
What is ridiculous is depriving yourself of what you need out of fear of what others will think. Forget about others and they will forget about you. You could worry about what you look like or you could have fun with it. At worst you have a laugh; at best, you do your body the biggest favour ever.
4. I can’t actually do the postures
Just because you don’t know how to do it today, doesn’t mean you wont know how to do it some day. Do yourself a favour and cut yourself some slack. You're new at this so taking a bit of time to learn is an exciting journey to embark on. Everyone starts something new from a place of not knowing. The journey is what it is about. There is no destination.
5. ‘I will be the only person who doesn’t know what to do.’
In a beginners class everyone is still finding their way in yoga. Practice in yoga means to try and then fall out (smile), get up and try again. So you fall over? So what? In the bigger scheme of things, I'm sure you can think of worse things that could happen. Pick a beginners class with others just like you!
6. ‘What I have seen in the yoga photos is beyond what I will ever be capable of’
No two people have the same bodies and no two people look the same in a yoga posture. Once the posture has been set up safely, you are free to explore where your body needs to go. The success of yoga is measured by the joy and peace your practice brings – not the shapes you can make with your body. If you are capable of embracing this notion – you are capable of doing mind-blowingly, amazing yoga.
7. ‘Yoga is a weird cult/religion/foreign cultural practice’
Yoga was born in India but there are ancient drawings indicating it was practiced by other nations in different forms – for similar purposes. No one owns it. Your yoga is just that – YOURS. It’s a practise for YOUR health, vitality, balance and strength. It’s simply not true to say that it is a religion or cult and anyone trying to make it one doesn’t understand the beauty of yoga.
8. ‘I’m not vegetarian…and I don’t want to hear that I should be’
Some of the best yogis I have had the good fortune of meeting the world over weren’t vegetarians or vegans. Some were. Some ate red meat, some didn’t. Some at fish and others didn’t even ‘talk’ about animal produce, never mind eat it. Some drank alcohol, some sometimes drank too much. Some probably needed a wine. See what I’m getting at? There is no judgement and you don’t need to ‘convert’ to anything.
I hope that squashes some of the misconceptions and unfounded fears for aspiring beginner yogis. Get yourself in a yoga class! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You have more to be worried about by way of your health and well-being if you continue to live in a state of contraction, tension, pain, inflexibility and unnecessary limitation. Love yourself enough to bring yoga into your life.
The question that the element of air asks is: what can you let go of? It assumes that in order for us to be adaptable to constant change and movement as a natural part of life – we need to be comfortable with letting go of those things we no longer need. We can’t fully move forward with a part of us stuck in the past – clinging on to hold beliefs, habits, or resentments. What do you need to let go of in order to become fully present? What is it that has managed to stay in your life even though it no longer serves you?
In addition to a theme of letting go, which is often very difficult and painful, air also incorporates positivity and vitality. New, fresh, positive life follows when we are able to release the baggage. We face what is holding us back and then emerge anew and afresh with new life and vitality.
Air – Keep moving and shaking…erm…changing!
The nature of air is to be ever moving and ever changing. It teaches us to learn to say goodbye as we let go, and to see loss as an opportunity for renewal. Air uses the cycle of breath as a natural metaphor for this lesson: taking what one needs, fresh and new (the inhalation), and releasing whatever has served its purpose and is no longer required by the body (the exhalation). What is brought in to our bodies through the breath is positive, as it is life force (prana) and it is a product of earth functions. While that which we exhale has become redundant or even toxic for the body, it has a purpose in the natural flow of life in the atmosphere and the world outside our bodies. This process illustrates our role in the cosmic cycles and how we are an integral part of something so much bigger than ourselves.
The bodily organs associated with the air element are the lungs and the large intestine. The energy meridians for these organs all run through various fingers and up the arms into the chest, up to the face under the nose. As with the other elements, imbalances manifest in the organs themselves and speak to us through injuries, dis-ease or discomfort along any of these energy lines.
Common physical conditions associated with an out of balance air element are asthma, bronchitis, constipation, and problems related to the lungs and large intestines. Psychological/personality difficulties evident in an air imbalance are bipolar disorder (often in combination with a fire imbalance), depression, general clinging and controlling behaviour, accumulating and hoarding tendencies, excessive perfectionism, righteousness and being overly analytical. People will also often experience feelings of vulnerability, anxiety, have a disinterest in life, have a habit of constant complaining and lacking in spontaneity and a sense of self-preservation.
Balance in the air element brings the capacity to embrace the winds of change. It brings the ability to make level headed judgements on the basis of sound and fair discrimination, and to feel comfortable to allow others to voice their own unique judgements. Balance in air allows the ability to maintain inner order, even amidst change and even chaos around us. It allows us to move on, to let go, to grieve and release whatever we need to in order to achieve inner peace and balance.
Once we become comfortable knowing that all things on our journey are meant to be there, but not all things are meant to stay, we free ourselves, our body and our mind by releasing what has served its purpose, and can now move on.
Here’s how to balance air:
· Pigeon, King, lazy, reclined, double (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana; Agnisthambasana)
· Humble Warrior (Baddha Virabhadhasana)
· Cowface (Gomukhasana)
· Lizard Lunge (Utthan Pristhasana)
· Camel Flow
· Flow between upward facing dog and downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
· Flow between childs pose and upward facing dog in a slower (yin) practice
· Squat (Malasana)
· Flow between Warrior 1 and 2 and Reverse Warrior
· Suffi grinding
· Fists between thighs and stomach in child’s pose
· Shoulder stand (Sarvangasana) with leg variations
· Butterfly/lying down(Supta/Badakonasana) – try with a bolster under the length of the spine
· Wind removing pose (Pavanamuktasana)
· Pranayama – interval breathing, full yogic breath
Lifestyle and Eating Habits
Due to their ability to remove excess mucus (apart from in conditions such as constipation when dryness in the large intestine is the issue), pungent foods are best placed to balance air. These include all members of the onion family, especially garlic, turnip, ginger, horseradish, radish, cabbage, kale, and daikon. Seaweeds and green vegetables are essential for rebuilding a healthy mucus membrane in the lungs and large intestine. The intake of fibre is super important to keep the large intestine healthy. Opt for apples, carrots and cherries as they are great sources of fibre and help to eliminate cholesterol from the digestive tract.
More so than any type of food, deep, conscious, expansive, full, yogic breaths are essential for the vitality of our lungs. Your large intestine is the last exit for all which your body needs to rid itself of. If the colon isn’t healthy, this toxic waste can sit in your body longer than is necessary – sometimes even years! Processed foods like white bread, white pasta, pastries, hard cheeses and other dairy products destroy healthy bacteria in the colon and it gets stuck in the walls of the intestines. Consider a colon cleanse at least once a year – even if you are vegetarian.
As for lifestyle tips in managing air, try these:
· Conscious breathing/pranayama
· De-clutter - your home, your office, your wardrobe
· Nature walks
· Cardiovascular exercise
Get comfortable with letting go of the past so you can fully experience and appreciate the present. Embrace the joy and challenge that changes can bring. You can either fight it or embrace it – but you can’t stop it! What is it going to be?