By: Kali Basman
“Wood element is a delicate balance of asserting and expressing our truths and preferences while accepting other points of views and processes without judgement.”
Yin Yoga is a practice which encourages a softening or surrendering of activity and an observation of present moment awareness. Integrating the Chinese Five Elements into the practice enriches the paradigm of Yin Yoga as a healing modality, as we are each an embodiment of Earth, Fire, Water, Metal & Wood. During circumstances of imbalance, we can utilize the wisdom tradition of Yoga Asana to organize the skeleton and relax the musculature in specific ways which awaken and enliven gentle self-inquiry and a lubrication of the connective tissues and pathways for immunity, longevity, and vitality.
In a world that’s ever shifting, may you use this practice to find stillness.
In thought patterns which engender suffering, may this practice allow you to see the unity of all things, from the shifting of the seasons to the suppleness of the spine.
Wood Element & the Liver Meridian: Finding Nourishment and Grounded-ness
The wood element governs our relationship to order, planning, and control. Feelings of frustration may be the penalty for not growing into and asserting out whole self. Wood energy also involves our physical and mental flexibility. If a constitution finds imbalance in the wood element, the result is stubbornness, and narrow-mindedness like a rigid branch that cannot bend but will break instead. Wood element is a delicate balance of asserting and expressing our truths and preferences while accepting other points of views and processes without judgement.
A wood element practice is one to support the liver in its optimal functioning. The liver is the largest organ in the body, weighing between 3-4 pounds. 2.5 Pints of blood flow through the liver each minute, freshly oxygenated blood from the heart and nutrient rich blood from the stomach, spleen, and pancreas. The liver secretes various substances required by the body including glucose, proteins, vitamins and fats. There are more than 500 known functions carried out by the liver, including conversion of carbohydrates, processing of protein, storage of iron, assembly of amino acids, destructions of toxins such as nicotine and alcohol.
The liver is one of the most congested of all organs in modern day – excess fats, chemicals intoxicants, and denatured foods must all be processed by and through the liver, which need to be in prime working order to filter and detoxify our bodies.
A branch of the liver meridian extends into the eyes and governs our physical and psychological vision, being in tune with a vision for our life’s purpose. Wood energy is responsible for seeing this vision clearly and ordering and planning the steps to make our visions a reality.
Emotion: anger/frustration [this is often the emotion that gets cleared in a wood practice]
One of the first signs of disharmony in liver occurs on emotional level- anger, frustration, impatience, resentment, and explosive behavior. If these emotions not processed, it can lead to disharmony or disease in the system.
Learning to deal with frustration and anger is an essential part of learning to assert and express oneself. Without self-awareness, assertion can become aggressive, or assertion can dwindle to be non-existent as we shrink from aspects of self we are not entirely comfortable with. Often a wood imbalance manifests as being “nice”, masking our true feelings, stifling our truth.
Season: Each element is felt most strongly during a particular season. The wood element is most potently alive in Spring; think of the detoxification processes of the liver akin to a ‘spring cleaning’ where the kinetics of the meridian assume the movement and shifting of stagnation, the clearing out of accumulated debris and tension.
Constitutional Personality Types:
Imbalanced Wood types tend to suppress emotions, staying quietly rigid and unflexible in their views and behavior. Likely to have episodes of explosive reactivity, stubbornness, irritability after suppressing for so long.
Wood imbalanced type can be timid and lack courage to express oneself fully, or on the opposite side of the spectrum can be overassertive in their opinion and the attempt to obtain what they want. Anger and resentment can result from both patterns.
Physical symptoms of imbalance: yellow eyes + skin, stiffness, arthritis, tired eyes/weak/blurred vision/light sensitivity, migraines, weak nails.
Emotional symptoms of imbalance:
- angry, impatient, emotional repression
- aggression, shouting
- lack of direction/purpose
- rigid attitude, always right
- nervous tension
Balanced Wood: Confident and intuitive, patient and able to express emotions as they arise. Able to express their personality instead of assert themselves, smooth and relaxed.
The key lesson for wood is to express oneself and allow growth with patience and compassion and fully accepting themselves exactly as they are.
Wood Element Yoga
A wood element practice is one to support the liver in its optimal functioning. As the energetics are a moving, shifting stagnant energy, we can use twists as a cleansing technique which helps us approach the center line more aptly, and hip openers to clear the debris.
Wood element postures can include:
Supine twist (Jatharaparivartanasana)
Cow Pose (Gomukhasana)