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Air : freedom, expansion and connection

Ashtanga yoga Townsville

Air represents freedom and expansion much like the breath itself. As an element, it is invisible, but its reality can be felt in the air that we breathe in every day. As humans we can do without food for a few days, without water for 24 hours but without breath for no longer than a few minutes. 

Journey through the elements

We have established solid foundations and routines in the Earth element; we have acted with clarity and dedication in the Fire element, we have let it all go with the flow in the Water element and now we come to the freedom and expansive nature of the AIR element and the Heart chakra. Now is when the benefits of our practice move beyond us and out into the world.

As we now move into the AIR element, I want to encourage you to be courageous to do more than you think you are capable of by acknowledging limiting stories, past experiences, embracing and loving it all along the way. Working on postures that are challenging and require dedication and humility like backbends and inversions to help us open our hearts and bring love and courage to all situations. This term let‘s reach out to others who need more love and support from us to build and strengthen the community spirit. 

Yoga and prana

Our yoga practice is all about prana. Prana is our inner vital life force, or bioelectric energy that brings life or creates movement. In my yoga therapy work, I work a lot with prana – you see prana rides on the breath and flows around the nadis (energetic channels much like meridians) of the body. If there is a blockage or pain within the body it’s because prana is not able to flow there and is a result of stagnation, injury, stiffness or something not working optimally. The various yogic practices of posture, breathing, chanting, meditation, bandha, drishti, vinyasa etc. are all there to assist and support pranic flow. Without prana, there is no life. To bring about change in body and mind we must understand the prana, through which they work. There is a story from the Vedas that illustrates this beautifully:

The five main faculties of our nature—the mind, breath (prana), speech, hearing, and sight—were arguing about which was the most important. To resolve the dispute, they decided that each would leave the body in turn to see whose absence was missed most. First speech left, yet the body continued to flourish though it was mute. Next the eye departed, yet the body flourished though blind. Then the ear left, yet the body thrived though deaf. Finally, the mind left, yet still the body lived on, though it was now unconscious. But the moment the prana started to leave; the body began to die. The other faculties were rapidly losing their life-force, so they all rushed to prana, admitted its supremacy, and begged it to stay.

The argument in the beginning represents the ordinary human condition in which our faculties are not integrated but compete with each other for control of our attention. When prana leaves, it becomes clear that prana gives energy to all our faculties, without which none of them can function. Thus, the moral of this story is that to control these faculties, one must control the prana. Pranayama means control of prana.

Expansion and connection

I have intentionally made some big changes in my life to take care of myself and support growth. I always try to take responsibility for my role in my life, the mistakes I have made and the things I wish I had done differently. I have been humbled by the grace and grit of people living with honesty and forgiveness. I have reflected and learned so much about myself and that I am stronger than I think. I am grateful for how much my body and my heart have endured and how resilient I can be if I get out of my own way, be honest and true. I love that I take risks and want to live a life of no regrets. I don’t mind having tough conversations as they often lead to deeper, more meaningful truths, insight and growth. Air element is about communication that leads to freedom, expansion and connection. Just like we cannot live for long without air, our relationships cannot last long without communication. As Madonna whispers in her song Human Nature “Express yourself, don’t repress yourself” communication is about being able to articulate your expectations to get what you want in a way that is clear and kind. 

How does yoga work?

My yoga practice has shown me that my body is capable of incredible healing after the injuries sustained in the car accident I was in when I was 17. Through my practice I have been able to come up against what seemed like impossible postures only for them to become easy with diligence. Through my yoga practice I have been able to see how I habitually react to these difficulties and obstacles and through self study start to change that so that I am much more gentle, forgiving and compassionate.  And it’s been my yoga practice that has shown me that fancy postures are not the goal but the tool to see things clearly, act with respect and honesty, face things that are hard and to know that everyone is going through their own stuff and so to always choose the most generous response. 

23 years ago, when I started my practice, I had no idea how life changing it was going to be. And it’s really only getting started! Let’s do this!

Allison

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