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?