Water, Earth and Ether.

Via Hilary Lindsay
on Jul 20, 2010
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The Elements of the Human Body are Vague and Beautiful

There’s a place on a tennis racket called the ‘sweet spot’ because when you hit the ball there it has the greatest potential to fly right.

In yoga if you want to fly right there has to be a combination of things in just the right amounts. Too much or too little force in either muscular action or breathing will throw off the balance. You’ll still fly but it may not be into the best place.

We teach beginners muscular action and powerful breath to match it because large movement is easy to understand. Until we learn the muscular action necessary to stand on one leg we can’t go into a more subtle part of the mind to do it because there is no memory to follow. Later on, it’s the memory of muscular action combined with intention and control of the breath that turns something that feels like a newly formed lump of clay into a morphing, unwinding, energetic organic body of earth, ether and water.

There’s a place on the inhalation when the memory of feet pressing down and drawing muscle to the bones of the legs reveals the rise of the belly known to yogis as uddiyana bandha. There’s a place where the energy held down on the inhalation and energy released up on the exhalation, cross at the pelvis to lift the perineum (the muscle at the base of the pelvic floor) known to the yogis as mula bandha.

From a muscular-skeletal point of view when you take a full body inhalation with the legs fully engaged so that the thigh bones anchor the pelvis and the feet press into the ground, the downward pull of the diaphragm results in an upward course of the muscle and skin around it.  When the pelvis is still anchored on the exhalation the rise of the diaphragm which happens to connect to the stabilizing muscles inside the pelvis known as psoas and ileo-psoas, lift the supporting muscles of the pelvic floor. You can do this with muscular action only and it will be there but using the breath and by extension the mind to create this is the sweet spot.  However, if you don’t notice anything happening because it’s too subtle I would suggest that nothing is happening. It’s in the noticing that the truth occurs.

I heard an interview with Bruce Lee in which he recommended the martial artist “be the water”.  He said that water becomes whatever form you spill it in to.  I thought of my 80% body of water noticing that it feels more like 80% earth and wood and began to re-visit my ongoing yoga experiment from that point of view. Water becomes whatever form you spill it in to. I am mostly water. What else do I need to add to make this work?  And how intractable is the earth and wood; the bone and muscle of my body to keep this from happening?

I breathe down my body and anchor my feet in my mind and it creates the muscular action as a soft and secondary action. I hold my ground imagining my heels pulling a ten pound tail toward the ground like an anchor and breathe up my body to feel the tide turn at my pelvic floor with the quietest of tugging.  I go again and notice that on the inhalation as the breath passes down my body behind my solar plexus there is a delicate rising of the skin of my belly. Now I’m a running stream rippling in the wind of my breath. The place where the inhalation and exhalation cross creates a current as it washes over the earth and wood of my body. I choose a posture and head toward it. I let the water take me. I will myself to spill into the form I’m picturing. I wait for the wind and the tide and there it is.  I’m not just filling the shape but unwinding as I make my way, much like a stream.  And I wonder if this unwinding is moving me around my intractable knots. I picture a rush hour freeway. White lights streaming in one direction, red lights in the other. I feel the under tow and the next wave together. I picture salmon swimming upstream. These channels of energy are engorged riverbeds crossing along and in my spine but there is also a less obvious feeling of a thousand threads breathing in my skin.

I’ve been here before.  I created Involution Revolution as a lesson in primordial movement within a yoga class but I had been thinking of moving through water like we did as early life forms on the planet, growing in water as we evolve in the womb. I didn’t think of myself as BEING water. I was thinking more of the breath and rocking in the waves. I was thinking of instinctive behavior.  At times I’ve thought of myself as water running through a hose to create core power but there was little softness.  I love this experiment. I’m putting it all together.  It takes layers of knowing and forgetting and relearning in a new way and re-organizing the body and maturing to get to the exciting places in between inertia.

Thanks for the inspiration Bruce Lee and thanks to Jose on “So You Think You Can Dance” for sharing the secret he learned from that mentor.  I’m riding the wave you sent out over the air waves.  All of life is a yoga lesson when you’re in a yoga state of mind.


About Hilary Lindsay

Hilary Lindsay created the first comprehensive yoga program in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, choreographed videos for athletes, introduced yoga and meditation to the Nashville public school system and continues to work one on one with private clients including the Nashville Predators. She has been covered by popular magazines and television shows and has worked for a variety of publications as a yoga expert. She authored a chapter in Yoga In America, a book published at the forefront of the discussion among yoga teachers about contemporary yoga in America. Additional writing can be found at www.bitchinyoga.wordpress.com as well as the Journal pages of her yoga site. Hilary teaches classes and workshops in consciousness through movement. Her medium is yoga. Her method is exploring the language of the body in light of the eight limbs. Find her at activeyoga.com.


5 Responses to “Water, Earth and Ether.”

  1. Thank you for this deliciously evocative writing, Hilary.

    I started reading it fast. Then about a quarter of the way through I said to myself, Whoa there, slow down. This one needs to be, and deserves to be, read slowly, as if out loud.

    All of life is a yoga lesson when you’re in a yoga state of mind. Yes, I have also found this to be profoundly and even ecstatically true.

    Bob Weisenberg

  2. Donna Gamper says:

    Hilary’s yoga classes are like a guided meditation in motion; her calm voice instructing the concepts she describes here. I feel fortunate to have attended a class recently led by Hilary where she discussed the concepts of inhaling in, anchoring down, and exhaling up and out, all while visualizing this flow of water over (or around) the places in my body that have become rigid like wood. Thanks Hilary!

  3. juliannjima says:

    Being a yoga student/teacher of over 30 years you are incredible! Knowing you personally and professionally what you have written about is your truth and experience and I grok it. I understand you. YOU ARE AWESOME! Keep going girl! You’re a true guru! Thank you for your gifts and insights! The world has alot to learn from you as a yoga guru and a human being! You Go Girl!

  4. Beautiful, provocative, inspiring. Just like your yoga classes that you personalize for each one of your students.

  5. ucii says:

    It’s enormous that you are getting ideas from this post as well as from our

    dialogue made here.