EARTH – CONNECTING, CARING, CENTRED
Earth has no direction like wood (upwards), fire (outwards), metal (downwards), water (inwards). Instead it is the fulcrum or centre from which all other elements move. Earth energy is neither yin nor yang. In the cycle of seasons, the earth element represents all the transitions between all the seasons, as well as representing the late summer season. It is central to all other elements, like spokes on a wheel, and this characteristic plays out again and again – at the physical level, the organs of stomach and spleen are central to digestion and lie in the middle of the body; emotionally, earth element connects us to each other, at the cosmic level, it is the pivotal point of balance between the heavens and the mundane world.
Transitions, giving and receiving – the gifts of earth
Do you enjoy the feeling of change, knowing that as you let go, something else appears? Earth element people are change adaptable. When your earth element is strong, change and chaos can swirl around you, but you keep your shape, your purpose in life. This is due often to a regular daily routine you do not let go of regardless of what else is happening.
Our earth element allows us to experience abundance, a condition of the mind and spirit, not material possessions. When our earth energies are balanced, we naturally recognise what the universe offers us, from the bounty and beauty of nature, to the love and connections with others, to simply being alive. We intuitively become aware of the need to live in harmony, the idea of giving and receiving in life. Earth teaches us that in order for there to be any sustainable relationship with anyone or anything, there has to be balance between giving and receiving.
Wise earth, indeed.
The Earth Element characteristics
The Season: Late Summer, and all transitions between other seasons
Spirit: Yi, the intellect
The yin/yang meridians: Spleen/Stomach
The chinese character for Earth is Tu. The top horizontal line represents the surface of the soil while the bottom line represents the subsoil or bedrock. The vertical line represents all that is produced by the earth. This character conveys two significant qualities of earth, nourishment and stability.
Psycho-emotional attributes of Earth:
In balance, the earth element allows us to remain connected to others, to understand where ‘they are coming from’. When out of balance, we think only of ourselves, or swing to the other extreme (think fulcrum), where we compulsively give, rejecting any sympathy from others.
Yi, the intellectual spirit, enables us to ‘think through’ how we connect to ourselves and to others. This ability to ‘worry’ a problem through, is a characteristic of a balanced earth element. When we worry or overthink too much, this is the earth chi stagnating. Worry also impairs the Spleen’s job of transporting qi throughout the body, and our spleen helps our lymphatic system function. The expression ‘worried sick’ is apt.
Earth people can often have difficulty recognising they have needs, so busy are they serving others. Little wonder they sometimes feel a little dissatisfied with life, without quite knowing why.
The earth element is associated with the Spleen (yin) and Stomach (yang) meridians. They are responsible for converting our food into essences which the rest of the body can use, to flourish, to thrive.
Our earth element tendency is to like sweet things – sometimes too much. The average Australian eats 14 teaspoons of sugar a day. This sugar comes in via sweet tasting fruits and vegetables, honey, and also through more refined processes, such as in store bought bread, takeaway food. We need less than 1/2 of this. Too much sweet food imposes stress on the Spleen, resulting in insulin (blood sugar) imbalances.
Stomach Meridian (Yang)
The stomach is considered the most important of the yang organs. It is referred to as the Great Granary and is responsible for the nourishment of all other organs. In Chinese medicine, it transforms foods (similar to the view of Western medicine), which the Spleen then moves as the essences to other parts of the body (not the Western view). It is also responsible for sending Qi down in the body.
Emotions such as fear, anger and anxiety slow down digestion as they stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which inhibits gastric activity. They also irritate the stomach, which in turns slows down its ability to distribute the qi downwards into our body. There is a saying, an army marches on its stomach, and many of the important acupressure points for the stomach lie on the leg.
Spleen Meridian (yin)
The spleen is the largest lymphatic tissue in the body. It plays an important part in our immune defence, devouring bacteria, worn out red blood cells, and platelets. It creates lymphocytes, the cells that produce antibodies.
In Chinese medicine, the spleen is responsible for the upward movement of qi and fluids throughout the body. Known as the Minister for Transport, when spleen qi is strong, you have good appetite, digestion and elimination. TCM argues that the state of the spleen is a critical factor in determining the amount of energy a person has.
TCM practitioners also believe that Spleen Qi deficiency is a major reason for the global epidemic of diabetes.
SUGGESTED MERIDIAN POINTS FOR YOGA PRACTICE:
All points in the WanderingYogi Yin for Yang are suggested based on the following criteria:
- You can access them during your yoga practice, without too much effort (i.e., they are a natural extension of the pose)
- They are considered effective points within that meridian to balance your energy safely (i.e., without the help of an expert).
Zusanli – Known as Leg 3 miles -Stomach 36.
They say if you massage this everyday, you will live to be 100. The swiss army knife of meridian points. Deals with digestive conditions, nausea, vomiting, reflux, bloating, low appetite. Improves immune system, treats chills, fever and asthma. The point is 3 finger widths below the base of the patella and a fingers width lateral to the crest of the tibia bone.
Fenglong – Abundant Splendour Stomach 40
The luo-connecting point between the Stomach and Spleen meridians – clears phelgm and all manners of fluids, mucous, constipation, cysts, and other lumps under the skin, but more importantly given its connective function with both meridians, helps a person who is feeling scarcity in their life to reconnect with a sense of abundance. The point is on the outside of the leg, halfway between the knee crease and the ankle bone, two fingers width lateral to the crest of the tibia bone.
The WanderingYogi Yin for Yang Practice
Here is a suggested practice for balancing your Earth element.
The WanderingYogi Approach
No yoga practice is complete without activating all five elements. Remember to balance your focus with its yielding (opposite) element. Always start your yoga practice with mother earth poses. Do poses at least twice. Don’t forget to do left and right sides! Smile and enjoy!
Pranayama – start with Ujjaji, the ocean breath. Continue with Khumbhaka sama vritti, 10 breaths. We hold the spaces in between inhale and exhale for between 10 – 15 seconds. 10 breaths. Back to normal breath, nose closed.
Make all transitions in the yoga poses, earth style – balance between the letting go and holding on, the space in between.
- Chinese 5-star pose, reclining – with the compassion mantra – May I (you, they, all living beings) be happy, May I (you, they, all living beings) be at peace, May I (you, they, all living beings) be free.
- Heaven and Earth pose – Left and Right
- Toe pose with Garudasana arms, left and right
- Bear Pawing, left and right, raising each arm as high as you can, and making as much of a sound as you can bringing your ‘paw’ to the ground
- Rolling Panda – learning how to roll out gracefully, the transition in between, left and right.
- Frog pose – head down and arms forward, look to the ground
- Side plank, half star plank, swing down to full plank, transition to other side. Repeat.
- Reclining sleeping toad – (aka reclining shoelace), start from knees (aka Twisted stumpy tree). Place right knee in front, take garudasana arms, exhale down butt to the floor, roll back with legs still crossed. Grab feet with hands, exhale bring feet towards body, inhale and push the knees away from your chest. Keep your back long on the floor. Repeat for other side.
- Transition out of reclining sleeping toad, up to twisted stumpy tree. Bring other knee forward, move into Pidgeon Pose. Right side, Transition to
- Snake Pose, Transition to:
- Pidgeon Pose Left side Transition to:
- Caterpillar, then rolling caterpillar, left and right. Transition to:
- Reverse table top, lifting up the hips for as high as you can. Transition to:
- Rack pose, both arms, and hold. Transition to:
- Plank Pose, Transition to:
- Snake Pose, transition to one of the following:
- Bridge pose, Snail pose, Transition to:
- Chinese 5 star pose – for savasana.
Meditation practice for Earth:
- Mindful eating – ‘one bowl’ eating – taking one mouthful at a time, completely finishing the portion before taking the next mouthful. Noticing the sensations, the flavours, and the movement of chewing
- Equanimity and gratitude meditation – best done with an experienced guide, learning to love all of you
- Walking meditation – for the worriers.