fbpx

Elements Archives - Peacock Tree Yoga

Dancing with the Daffodils

By | Teachings, Uncategorized | No Comments

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

~ Daffodils, by William Wordsworth

Living in England, we understand the importance of daffodils, what they represent. Here in York, these ostentatious flowers turn the city’s ancient walls into a halo of orange and yellow – giving us a sure sign that Spring has arrived. Even as early as February, it’s not difficult to find one or two enthusiastic daffodils, not-so-patiently waiting to shed their protective layers and reveal their undergarments. We’re a bit like that too, being as keen as we are to spot them, to get proof that Spring is definitely coming…

After the lull of Winter, we – like the daffodils – are ready to burst into Spring! Or, to put it in terms of Chinese medicine, we’re ready to move from water into wood.

Water to wood

PTY tulsi and cousin for daffodils blog

Into the woods…

As was noted in our New Year blog about hunkering down instead of revving ourselves up and attempting great feats of resolution, Winter is down time. Or, as Neil Gumenick from California’s Institute of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture so perfectly puts it; “Winter is for us, as it is for all of nature, a time for internal work: meditation, containment, concentration, and the storing of our energy. We use this season for rest and the filling and maintenance of our reserves, gathering strength for the year ahead.”

During the cooler months, we need to allow ourselves “to simply be still and quiet… to stand in the energy of the Water element”. And if we do? If we do as nature asks and use that time to take rest and spend time with our Selves? Then we continue to mirror nature as we move into Spring; we find ourselves as keen to burst into the next season as those prematurely sprouting daffs – like Ethel Merman singing ‘There’s no business like show business’!

What’s more, if we’ve truly spent the downtime of Winter nourishing ourselves, and using that deep connection with our inner Selves to understand what we need from the year ahead (something we encouraged in our Making Your Dream List blog), then we not only have the energy to match Spring, but its sense of growth and purpose, too.

Moving into Spring

We find joy (and Tulsi!) in daffodils

“Wood is the energy of youth and growth.”

“The Wood, which has been at rest, storing and concentrating its energy under a winter blanket, now bursts forth with new buds, new life piercing Earth’s crust… Wood is the energy of youth and growth: a new beginning, a vision of a whole new cycle. The Wood energy of spring is an expression of life at its strongest.” ~ Neil Gumenick

Let’s enjoy the energy of Spring, yogis! Feel it coursing through us. Utilise it. Capitalise on it. Know that we are investing this powerful energy in positive growth and change. But let’s also stop to re-focus every now and then; take stock, check that we’re pouring our energy into the right things. And then carry on – happy in the knowledge that come next Winter, when we dive back into the pool of our Selves, we’ll be able to think fondly and proudly of how we used these heady Spring days…

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Everybody loves the sunshine…

By | Teachings | No Comments

Have you ever considered why it is that we wait with such eager anticipation for the Summer sun to arrive? Why you find yourself checking the long-range forecast, in the hope of finding evidence that Britain will actually be bathed in sunshine at some point?

everybody loves the sunshine

The fire element inspires play…

The sun feels nice, we can wear our lightest clothes (or nothing at all!), feel free and easy… We can eat outside, even if it’s late in the evening. The light has a magical quality. And when the threat of rain doesn’t loom, we’re more inclined to play – by ourselves, with our families and friends, and even strangers.

These are all good reasons for anticipating the arrival of summer, but there’s another reason, too; Summer, and the element of fire it brings, plays an important part in our spiritual wellbeing and evolution…

Everybody needs the sunshine…

“The Fire element expresses itself as joy and manifests within us as love, laughter, and enthusiasm. During summer, the season of maximum expansion, we can become aware of ourselves at our fullest.” – Neil Gumenick

According to Chinese medicine, Summer delivers the promises of Spring. It’s the time when the plans and intentions we set in Spring blossom fully, giving us the opportunity and power to present our truest and most impressive selves to the world. And because we are part of nature, this is a natural thing for us to do each year. So much so, that when we lack fire at this time of year, everything just feels wrong – or, as Neil Gumenick puts it in one of his articles on the Five Elements , “we can feel isolated and spiritually cut off, uninspired, fearful, empty, and disconnected from life”.

How to fire up your summer (with or without the sun!)

"During summer, we can become aware of ourselves at our fullest."

“During summer, we can become aware of ourselves at our fullest.”

If you do happen to encounter some sun at some point during the Summer, capitalise on it! Get outside, socialise, live your passions! Dance naked on the beach! Swim naked in the sea – even for 5 minutes, it takes a decade off you!  And tap into the self-sustaining power of the sun by taking your yoga practice outside, into nature, each time our biggest star extends even a finger of light from the sky.

And on those days (or during those weeks!) when the sun doesn’t seem to shine at all, when you don’t feel warmed to the core, and just generally seem to have lost your mojo?

Light your own fire!

Chinese Medicine suggests working on the heart meridian, to “re-establish our connection to the Divine and … awaken us to the security provided by the current of love that permeates existence.” What we’re being told, in a nutshell, is that focusing on the heart can help us to really feel universal love – great big flames of the stuff! We can find our own blistering Summer – right there inside us. And, happily for us yoga folk, our practice can aid us in doing so…

Firing up your yoga practice

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be working on the anahata, or heart chakra, in Peacock Tree Yoga’s classes – exploring backbends and other postures which assist us on our path to an open heart. You can begin at home simply by focusing on love and the unity of all things, as you move through your sun salutations. Even if the sun doesn’t light up the room as a result, the fire in your heart and soul most definitely will.

The video below was filmed during our recent holiday in Turkey. A deep backbend just seemed like the right thing to do in all that sun – and it felt lovely, even if I couldn’t see much with my cap covering my eyes!

Connecting with nature

By | Teachings | No Comments

A natural communion

One of my favourite things to do is to go walking with friends and a few days off teaching over Easter afforded me the opportunity to do just that. Friends are so important, each providing in their individual ways, a combination of support, company, advice and fun – as well as a reflection of certain aspects of our own personality. And we, of course, reciprocate with our own offerings.

Friends do the same job as nature: they confirm who we are – which is a very reassuring and enjoyable thing!

Tulsi enjoying communion with her friend, Harvey (before wihpping off her clothes and enjoying her connection with nature!

Tulsi enjoying communion with her friend, Harvey (before whipping off her clothes and enjoying her connection with nature!)

But whilst we tend to learn about our ego selves through our relationships with others, nature gets right down to the core of the matter: it shows us our true self – it shows us that we are One. And as my companion and I strode along the beach in Scarborough, our young children within sight, revelling in their surroundings, this fact was wonderfully apparent.

We are all made of stars* (and water, fire and space)

That day, I observed how each wave leaves a mark on the shore, and how I, too, find myself being changed by nature – by the longer days and the freshness of Spring. I felt the space opening up in my heart and mind, mirroring the vast sky above my head. The sandy earth beneath my feet gave me the feeling of being grounded and confident – great solace in a world of permanent change.

Nature gently put its hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eye and confirmed what many of us know, but often forget to notice: everything is connected. You, me and the elements – everything in and on this planet. My daughter, Tulsi, is undoubtedly tuned into this fact; as is so often the case, she was the only naked child on the beach – for that girl, a beach signals ‘bare bottom’…whatever the temperature!

Connecting with nature through yoga

I thank yoga for the ability to see how everything is connected. Our practice gives us time to connect to our deepest selves – that essential aspect of ourselves that’s so often buried under our thoughts, learnt behaviours, frantic day-to-day lives and dramas. Yoga shines a light on the light within, so that when we give ourselves time amongst nature, we’re able to see how we’re not all that different to the elements; indeed, we ARE the elements!

“Yoga shines a light on the light within”

Connecting with nature is a wonderfully enlightening experience and I strongly recommend taking the time to do it. Whether it’s an afternoon in the garden or allotment, a trip to the park, a roam around the Bar Walls, or a grand escapade in God’s own county, along the coast or across the dales and moors – plan it, write it on the calendar, make it happen!

It’s elementary, dear yogis…

Take the time, too, to experience this sense of oneness with the elements during your yoga asana practice. Pay attention to:

  • the earthy weight of your skeleton
  • the wind of your breath moving in, out, and through you
  • the warm fire of your digestive organs
  • the moisture in your mouth and eyes
  • and finally, when you become quiet enough, the vastness of space within and around you

*We really are, read this!