This week’s videos:
Yay, we’re in the element of Air!!! Can you feel the shift in energy?
I don’t know about you, but for me, fire was tough!It always is. It often kicks in halfway through a retreat, and I’m saying to myself “just ride the storm, Gillie, you know it’s going to be OK”…
Basically we burn off a load of our old crap in the element of fire, it’s sometimes not that pretty, or pleasant, but it’s necessary…., but hey. Bonfire Night has been and gone, and it’s time to breathe in the new season.
Leave all the serious stuff behind, it’s time to play, it’s time to freshen things up, it’s time to fly like a free bird.
Every new beginning we ever wanted is ahead of us, when we feel free.
When I realised I was free, it was like a new lease of life, a whole new world of possibilities opened up to me, and it’s still there, that new world which awaits. It was only me holding me back.
So what was the answer? It was the breath…
I realised that we have ultimate control, over our autonomic responses, our mind, our mood, even our state of health, through the breath.
If there was a magic pill, this was it.
The breath helped me find my peace in any moment. It helped me realise that all that mattered was now. It filled me new stuff, which cleared away the old.
The exciting part is that we are never going to run out of it! Air, that is. Breath.
We have an infinate source of energy right under our noses. It’s everywhere. Oxygen, energy, prana, life force, whatever you like to call it. It’s all around us, and we can go back to this source of energy whenever we need it.
Whenever you feel lacking – in energy, motivation, love, connection, sense even – you can find what you need from the air we breathe.
Prana, as it is called in Sanskrit, is what we are aiming to increase in the body when we do yoga. We are raising the vibrational frequency of the body. We want it to match nature, that’s when we are in balance, and this helps us heal mind, body and emotions.
If you want to learn more, there are loads of resources out there, but this is a great video, you may find really helpful
Master Your Breath
As a teacher, I am also still a student. I am constantly learning.
I’m always looking for ways to improve well-being, relieve suffering, and heal.
I have tried most Ayurvedic practices whilst in India, and these were often quite extreme. Just a couple of years ago, in a quest to improve my body temperature (I was constantly cold and was ill for most of the winter), I decided to try The Wim Hof Method, which entailed a cold shower each morning.
After only a few days (it was in the middle of January), I decided to put it in the “not-for-me” box. It was a step too far, too extreme for me, and it had become a stressor. I had no qualms about giving up, but I did take on some of the principles and have continued to admire the work of Wim Hof.
Also known as The Iceman, Wim Hof is a Dutch extreme athlete noted for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. He has set Guinness world records for swimming under ice and prolonged full-body contact with ice, and still holds the record for a barefoot half-marathon on ice and snow.
Just recently, I had felt drawn back to him, having felt first-hand the positive effects of cold water swimming. I wanted to build my resilience to the cold as the sea started to cool, and I came across his breathing techniques this time.
In the spirit of the element of air, I decided it was time to try something new. I had loved all the pranayama from yoga, but I felt like I wanted to experiment with what Win Hof had to offer. He is the ultimate Wild Warrior, his work is grounded in science, but he is also a living, breathing (!) example of how we can control our bodies and minds through breath and consciousness.
Like myself, Wim Hof believes the answer lies in nature, and that our healing is under our command, and that sometimes you just need to let go and the body is able to solve everything.
Learning to control the breath doesn’t just help us control the mind, but it actually has been shown to positively affect the entire chemistry of the body. So everything from your heart, your immune system, inflammation, nervous system, and therefore mood and overall psychological well-being can all be improved through certain breathing techniques.
So I’ve been trying this for the last week or so, and I have to tell you, this takes all the pranayama from yoga I have learned over the years to another level. What’s more it’s not too extreme.
It’s all about using the diaphragm instead of the chest to breathe, inhaling in three parts and allowing the fresh oxygen to flood the brain as well as the body. We do 3 rounds of 30 of these breaths and at the end of each round, we retain the breath with the lungs empty for as long as feels comfortable.
Today I was absolutely thrilled to be able to hold my breath for a full two minutes. It was as if I’d ran a whole marathon myself barefoot in the snow. There was something really magical going on with the chemistry in my body, as well as in my mind. I felt a state of calm I haven’t felt for some time, and I was more than happy to go and jump in the sea.
They are a quirky bunch, the Dutch, but there’s definitely method in this apparent madness, and I’m loving it.
Earlier in the course, we did Kapal Bhati, which will have give you a good grounding for this practise, and I invite you this week to give it a try for yourself.
I’m recommending three videos for you if this interests you:
- Start with the Breathing Tutorial to get some context and understand what you’re doing:
2. Practice It For Yourself – do it daily if you can, don’t stress about the 2 mins or even 3 rounds, and make sure you follow the safety guidelines… it’s not a competition, it’s learning, as Wim says..
3. Get A Deeper Understanding and Know More About The Man!
This interview with Russell Brand blew me away, and I am officially obsessed with the guy, not least because when asked about what’s going on with the planet, his answer was “light will prevail”…
I wasn’t surprised that he had suffered major tragedy in his life, he has found a way to help himself and in doing so, is helping others…
Get inspired – this is the element of AIR!
The element of air is all about having a fresh approach, new ideas, creativity, as sense of wonder, and PLAY!
It’s that feeling of being free as a bird in forest, instead of a battery hen. This was Russell Brand’s analogy, and it’s just perfect. We can choose to be free! Once we are brave, courage, willing to show our vulnerability, and show up and be seen, we can feel free to express ourselves as we truly are, and just play with life, no holds barred.
There is nothing as liberating as that.
We just need to be prepared to let our own weird light shine! It may feel like it’s not easy being you, that there are people better off, and that you’re not enough as you are.
Kermit The Frog wised up to this though didn’t he in the end?
Here’s a lovely Ray Charles version to inspire you to embrace your inner Kermit…
The secret to harnessing the power of the air element is to reconnect with your inner child, that innocence, the playful spirit, the you that you were before life got messy and you had to develop all these protective layers.
You are perfect as you are, that child, that un-conditioned you is still there, you’ve just got to find it. Or breathe in some fresh air and allow it to come. It’s not about the outcome, it’s not even the journey, it’s your prerogative to play, and what’s more it’s shown to be good for us!
Today I am playing with clay I was given by Elena my friend the Shaitsu practitioner. It’s a challenge because there’s a part of my brain wants me to be good at it. But that’s the ego, and that stops me playing! Instead I’m just making funny spirals and enjoying the process with no expectation.
With no outcome in mind, just get our a notepad or your journal and mind map or list some ideas based on the following questions.
If you notice your critical adult mind stepping in, just notice, and let it go, writing everything down, no matter how silly. In fact, the sillier, the better. Let your crazy ideas guide you….
What did you love doing as a child when you were “playing”?
In what activities did you lose yourself in?
What were drawn to doing?
What were your favourite toys?
What have you always wanted to try but haven’t made the time for yet?
If you had a day with your best friends, and you could do anything together, but it had to be something brand new, what would you do?
In what activities does your creative spirit come out?
What ideas do you have for yourself that you’ve not, until now, felt brave enough to do?
When you are being fully you, what are you doing?
If you were free as a bird, what would you do?
Then just read what you’ve wrote and ask yourself what inspires you from the list…. then go do it!
If you’ve got this far, you’re ready…