Monday, May 25, 2015

Yin Yang Yoga - Wood Element - Exploring the Archetypal Tree


"Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."

" The Wood element is associated with the Liver (and Gallbladder) and connected to the Spring season. In ancient China (and many other places on the planet) people observed that the environment changed during the seasons and took note of how animals, plants and the earth adapted themselves accordingly to live more in balance with the cycles of nature. The human body was seen as a miniature reflection of the cosmos. An entire universe working inside of us. We too have seasons that cycle through. Sometimes we have an exuberant amount of energy like the summer and sometimes we need to rest and recharge like the winter.

Wood is associated with Spring because it is a time of growth, expansion and buoyancy. Like the seed that has been lying dormant in the earth during winter conserving its reserves, in springtime it bounds forward with new intent to bring life to our planet. The wood element is about renewal, awakening and rebirth. The spirit of the Liver helps us organize and coordinate our ideas and visions into actions and change. The Liver is in charge of the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) (emotional/physical) and the emotion associated is anger. When we allow our anger/frustration to go unexpressed we stagnate and are unable to move forward. This inability to properly express oneself can manifest as either being under assertive or overly aggressive, headaches/migraines, menstrual and/or gynaecological issues, PMS, inability to adapt to change, depression....

The virtue of Wood is forgiveness and benevolence which is the opposite of anger unexpressed. Wood allows us to be well rooted in the past, to stand tall in the present and have the vision and foresight to move ahead in the future.

Tapping into the energy of spring (even if it's the middle of winter) encourages us to stay in touch with our creativity. imagination and dreams. We can look to the trees for a lesson in standing tall by staying rooted, yielding to the winds of life by being flexible and agile and keeping our gaze upward and forward so we don't lose sight of our life true purpose. The winds of Life can change unexpectedly and our flexibility can be a strength when needed."


3 part hamstring in wood element  (sometimes called flamenco pose)

Banana Pose

A delicious way to stretch the whole side of the body
Works the spine in a lateral flexion (side bend) from the iliotibial (IT) band to the tops of the side rib cage
Stretches the oblique stomach muscles and the side intercostal muscles between the ribs
We can even get into the arm pit and get a nice stretch there

If prone to tingling in the hands when extending your arms overhead, you may need to place a bolster under the arm or simply bring the hands down.
If you have lower back issues, you may wish to not go too deep in this pose.

Getting Into the Pose
Lying on your back with your legs together and straight on the floor, reach the arms overhead and clasp your hands or elbows. With your buttocks firmly glued to the earth, move your feet and upper body to the right. Arch like a nice, ripe banana. [1] Be careful not to twist or roll your hips off the floor. Find your first edge. When your body opens more, move both feet further to the right and pull your upper body further to the right, as well. Keep playing this edge. Don't forget to do both sides!

Alternatives & Options:
Bananasana with bolster under arms
When your feet are as far to the side as you can get them, try crossing the ankles. Most students feel the greatest stretch by crossing the outside ankle over the inner ankle, but some feel more benefit crossing the other way.
If you feel any tingling in the hands, trying supporting the arms with a bolster, or rest the arms across the chest.

Reclining Root

Roots are anchors the grip tightly into the Mother Earth.

Roots form a symbiotic union with the earth, drawing from her various nutrients and water.

"Tree roots can span for miraculous lengths - like branches - ever reaching out for more. This is metaphoric of our own inner root systems of beliefs and spirituality. We must dig deep, and be firmly rooted in a structured system of beneficent beliefs. It's the only way we are insured upward mobility."

"A vital observation about roots is they are unseen. They remain (mostly) underground. In much the same way, our spiritual progress will be hidden from view to the common eye. Our growth and power occurs beneath superficial layers. Moreover, our belief systems are much like root systems."




Twisted Roots Arms


Forearm Plank

Side Plank



Cat pulling its tail


Twisted Roots Seated

Seated Stump

To see a tree stump in your dream indicates that something or someone is preventing your growth or forward progress. Alternatively, the dream may be a pun on "being stumped" on some problem or issue. The dream may be offering a solution to your problem.

Twisted Stump

"Symbolic rabbit meanings deal primarily with abundance, comfort, and vulnerability. Traditionally, rabbits are associated with fertility, sentiment, desire, and procreation. Rabbit meanings are also closely linked to the seasons, the changes of Mother Earth, and specifically Springtime. Have you ever heard the term "madder than a March hare?" I have (my mom says it). It has to do with rabbits going bonkers around this time of year. They feel the call of spring just as strongly as everyone and everything else - perhaps moreso. Creatures of all kinds feel the tremors of springtime's return and respond to it in wild courtship. It's a celebration of life, and bunnies bounce right back into the swing of spring".

Deer pose

"When we encounter the deer in the wild, our breath catches - we are transfixed by their graceful features and delicate movements. The tender beauty of these beasts has not gone unnoticed by our ancestors.

The deer is linked to the arts, specifically poetry and music in ancient Celtic animal lore due to its graceful form. The Celts also believed that deer were associated with the fairie realm, and would lead troops of fairies - hundreds of them trailing behind them as the stag cut a path through the forest.

Both Celts and Native Americans observed the deer to be savvy when it came to finding the best herbs. These earth-bound peoples would follow the deer to prime herb patches - many of which proved to be highly beneficial in their medicinal purposes."
A nice counter pose to hip openers or any external rotation of the hips
A balanced way to rotate hips, both externally (front leg) and internally (back leg)
Improves digestion and relieves gas
Helps to relieve the symptoms of menopause
Reduces swelling of the legs during pregnancy (until the end of the second trimester)
Therapeutic for high blood pressure and asthma

If any knee issues exist, be careful of externally rotating the hip (front knee); keep that foot in closer to the groin. You could support the front knee with a bolster or folded blanket.

Getting Into the Pose:
Start by sitting in Butterfly on the floor, then swing your right leg back behind you, bringing the foot behind your hip. Position the front leg by moving the foot away from you. Try to make a right angle with the front knee. Move the back foot away from your hip until you start to feel like you are tipping away from that foot. Keep both sitting bones firmly rooted to the ground.

Alternatives & Options:

The tendency here is to tilt away from the internally rotating hip of the back leg; make sure both sitting bones are firmly on the floor; you may need to move the feet more inwards, toward the core of the body.
If you're very flexible, you can begin to move your feet away from the hips.
To get a nice stretch to the side body and the back thigh, twist around toward the back foot by rotating to the opposite side. You may rest on your elbow here and try to bring your head to the floor.

Coming Out of the Pose:
Lean away from the back foot and bring that leg forward, coming back to Butterfly and ready to do the second side.
wood chopping pose


Standing bow pulling pose (aka Dancer)


"Tree lore is a suspected ancient school of knowledge with roots stretching back into our earliest symbolic imaginations. The Tree is a common universal, archetypal symbol that can be found in many different traditions around the ancient world. Trees are symbols of physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation and liberation, sustenance, spiritual growth, union and fertility. The tree is a spiritual motif and framework, a map of conception and consciousness that brings together the temporal worlds of time, space and consciousness.  Trees are the places of birth and death; they are used as sacred shrines and places of spiritual pilgrimage, ritual, ceremony and celebration. Sacred trees are found in the Shamanic, Hindu, Egyptian, Sumerian, Toltec, Mayan, Norse, Celtic and Christian traditions. The World-tree is described in The Upanishads as “a tree eternally existing, its roots aloft, its branches spreading below.”

Paulie’s Tree

This pose concentrates on the trunk. The tree trunk is an incredible design. Outer tree bark protects the whole from potentially harsh cruelties of the world - while on the inside there is an intricate system of circulation and energetic flow. Trees are renewed from the inside out. This is sacred wisdom passed on from tree to humankind: Our prime source for renewal must first be activated from within.

Regular Tree

Be Like a Tree
- Stay Grounded
- Connect with your roots
- Turn over a new leaf
- bend before you break
- enjoy your unique natural beauty
- keep growing

When unfurled in their luscious glory, leaves express themselves in a myriad of colors. Most predominantly however, they reveal themselves in viridian greens - a color notorious for healing, abundance, and vitality in life.

When I think of green, my mind moves into Anahata energy - the realm of the heart chakra, which deals with inclusion, love, empathy, wealth, health and a whole slew of other marvelous attributes. I don't think it's by chance leaves are (mostly) green, nor is it coincidence that I draw correlations between green leaves waving 'hi' to my inner vision and the Anahata. Draw green into your own awareness and see if you settle into a sense of opulence, health and luxury.

Small Tree

TThe Herder Symbol Dictionary says, “Psychoanalysis sees in the tree a symbolic reference to the mother, to spiritual and intellectual development, or to death and rebirth.” It also notes that the fruit, shade, and protective nature of trees have caused them to be seen as feminine or maternal symbols; yet, at the same time, the erect trunk is a phallic symbol. Perhaps this is why, for Carl Jung, the tree symbolized the Self, androgyny (integration and equality between the masculine and feminine principles), and individuation.
'...A tree is one of the best examples of a motif that often appears in dreams (and elsewhere) and that can have an incredible variety of meanings. It might symbolise evolution, physical growth, or psychological maturation; death (Christ’s crucifixion on the tree); it might be a phallic symbol; it might be a great deal more. And such other common dream motifs as the cross or the lingam can also have a vast array of symbolic meanings...' – Man and his Symbols by Carl Jung

½ Lotus Tree

Balancing Stick

Toppling Tree


Wood Element (Warrior 2)

Part VI - Shavasana

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