Welcome to spring – the wood element and the beginning of the yang season. This evening at 9.24pm (UK time) we will officially enter the season of spring, and I am so excited for this.
The signs have been there for the last few weeks – daffodils, crocus, snowdrops and even a few people have been out cutting their grass. The evenings have been a bit lighter and my morning walk with Jackson hasn’t been in darkness for quite a few weeks now.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the spring season is associated with the wood element and is all about expansion and growth. We can clearly see these aspects of spring and the anticipation has been building since the end of February for the return of the longer days and the brighter weather.
It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter
The water element and winter provide us with an opportunity to rest, to turn inwards and spend a bit of time working on ourselves. This is in preparation for the massive explosion of life and energy which occurs as we enter the wood element. Maybe John Lennon was aware of the 5-element theory when he wrote the song Here Comes the Sun, because everything does feel like it might just be alright in the end.
New season, new yoga focus
Moving into the wood element we are greeted with a wealth of possibilities and the motivation to take these new ideas forwards. This is the time to set those resolutions or intentions, because nature is now on our side to support us in moving forwards with our hopes and dreams. Setting new year goals in the middle of the water element isn’t giving us the best opportunity for success, but now is a great time to revisit what you wanted to achieve in 2023 with a fresh pair of eyes.
The wood element is associated with the sense of sight, this is where we can create our vision of the life we want to live and use the energy of the season to make it a reality. This is a great time to take care of your eyes to help strengthen the muscles around our organs of sight. You can practice this little sequence before your meditation or pranayama session, to help relieve eye strain and may even improve your eyesight?
- Sit tall with a straight spine and take a few slow breaths.
- Without moving your head, keep your chin parallel to the floor, move your eyes to look to the left, take a breath and then return to centre.
- Now look up towards the ceiling and take a breath before returning to centre.
- Next it’s over to the right, again keeping the head centred and taking a breath before coming back to gaze forwards again.
- Finally, look down and hold for a breath before returning the eyes to their natural position.
You can repeat this a few times, going slowly and working in time with the breath.
The eyes are the windows to our souls
It’s often been said that gazing into someone’s eyes lets you see who they truly are. Even our pets use eye gaze as a method of communicating their affection for us. But our eyes and vision can also be a way of measuring the stress we’re experiencing on a daily basis. Ongoing high levels of stress can result in changes to our vision including blurriness and dry or watery eyes. (https://www.opticalexpress.co.uk/magazine/article/how-stress-affects-your-eyes) By taking some time out to rest our eyes , we could be encouraging a relaxation response within our bodies helping to combat the ongoing influence of stress. This could be as simple as finding ways to shift your focus throughout the day – gazing out of the window, placing your hands over your eyes and breathing deeply for a minute or two.
When we step on our yoga mat we have plenty of opportunities to help combat the cumulative negative effects of stress on the body and on the eyes. Drishti is a concept in yoga asana practice where part of the yoga pose encourages us to take our gaze to a specific point. This could be the tip of the nose, third eye or palm of the hand. The idea here is to switch our focus to a dedicated point and use this to encourage us to remain in the present moment with all the sensations we are currently experiencing.
We are all aware of the glazed expression of someone who is lost in a daydream. Their attention is elsewhere, and the focus of their energy is most definitely not to the conversation we’re trying to have with them. It’s the same in our yoga practice, if we’re constantly checking our phones, smartwatches, the clock or anything else then this is where our intention flows to. This can boost the stress response in our bodies leaving us feeling off balance and missing out on a whole host of yoga-related benefits. And let’s face it, many of us come to yoga for a bit of stress-relief. So next time you step on your mat try to notice where your attention heads as you move through your practice – who knows, by focusing on your drishti you might just be improving your eyesight while you’re reducing your levels of stress?