We talked last time about the air constitution and how, when it is out of balance in the body or in the mind, it can contribute to anxiety (see below for that article).
Balance and the Body Types
Today we’ll talk a little more in depth about all of the body types and how they appear when they are both in and out of balance. One thing to note here is that we all typically go in and out of balance all the time. This is part of the everyday ups and downs of life. While it is true that some people seem to have more of a buffer than others (in that they may not be bothered by these daily fluctuations as much as others), we are all at the mercy of the elements. The good news is though, knowing a little bit can go a long way to managing the elements with relative ease and simplicity.
The 5 Elements:
There are 5 main elements that we will talk about. They are: earth, air, fire, water, and ether. Let’s look at each of them individually first.
Please note too that when I talk about the basics of each of the elements, as they appear, this is by no means an exhaustive list. It is just a snippit of how each element might typically appear within the body. Also, although all elements are constantly interacting with (and within) our bodies, we tend to carry more of certain elements within us depending upon our unique constitution. This means that how they appear in us will be different than how others will exhibit those same elements.
For example, I may have a lot of fire within me, and if I know how to manage that fire, I may appear as vibrant, happy, and ambitious. Whereas, someone else who also has a lot of fire, but does not manage it well (perhaps by sitting in the sun, eating a lot of fried foods, drinking large amounts of alcohol, and being overly ambitious at work) may appear angry or irritated quite often. I know this may sound confusing, but bear with me, and let’s go through it here.
The Earth Element
Earth is typically a heavier element.
Qualities of the EARTH element in the body are as follows: Heavy, dry, cold, dense, inflexible, grounded, stable, consistent, does not change quickly, generally likes a routine, immovable.
The Air Element
Air is so powerful, it can create hurricanes that devastate the earth.
Qualities of the AIR element in the body are typically as follows: Light, dry, mobile, quick, nervous, playful, excited, flexible, agitated, spontaneous.
The Water Element
Water has an amazing quality of creating flexibility and fluidity wherever it exists.
Qualities of the WATER element in the body are typically as follows: moveable, malleable, emotional, wet, heavy, flexible, nurturing.
The Ether Element
Ether is important because it allows there to be space for which all things can exist.
Qualities of the ETHER element in the body are typically as follows: Light, dry, wispy, penetrable, static, what permeates the space between cells and organs.
The Fire Element
Fire is the transformer (of food to nutrients, ideas to action, etc.)
Qualities of the FIRE element in the body are typically as follows: Hot, light, inflamed, driven, ambitious, angry, frustrated, having a sense of joy, charismatic.
A Little About the Types
Note that most people these days are a dual body type, meaning they typically have more than one type within them. Most people are NOT all 3 equally. This is actually quite rare.
Note also that you could be one body type, and have a large amount of another type within your mind, making it appear that you are actually a different type. For example, you could be a heavy set earthy body type, with too much air in your mind. This might make you feel anxious even though your main body type would not tend toward anxiety. This is because many people have too much air in their mind, from over-stimulation, too much mental activity, or too much movement. In this case we would treat the mind and body differently, to bring the whole person into balance.
The 3 main body types are AIR, FIRE, and EARTH. Note that each body type is made predominantly of 2 elements (I have simplified their names by calling them the element that they are most closely associated with). And given that most people are a dual constitution, they likely have a predominance of 4 elements within their body. Of course we all have all 5 elements within us, it is just the actual amount of each element that determines our constitution. (Interestingly, our lifetime constitution is what our parents were, combined, predominantly at the time that we were conceived).
Ok, let’s dive in to each of the body types now, here they are:
THE AIR TYPE
This photo is how a AIR person may typically look.
AIR TYPE (made of Air & Ether): generally a SMALL BODY SIZE
In balance they appear: Playful, quick witted, light, clear minded, quick to act, creative.
Out of balance they appear: Anxious, fearful, dry, tendency toward nervous system disorders, weak, restless, very thin in body frame.
How to balance AIR types: Stay warm and well hydrated, get a massage, use warm oils on the body and spine, eat moist heavy foods, try to be in warmer weather more often.
THE FIRE TYPE
This photo how a FIRE person may typically look.
FIRE TYPE (made of Fire & Water): generally a MEDIUM BODY SIZE
In balance they appear: Joyful, radiant, focused, sharp minded, to have good digestion, to be a deep sleeper.
Out of balance they appear: critical, angry, impatient, frustrated, too hot, control freaks, over-ambitious.
How to balance the FIRE type: keep cool and calm, do not push things too much if they are not working, use coconut oil on the skin/or in cooking, drink plenty of water, stay out of the direct sun, do not eat fried foods.
THE EARTH TYPE
This photo is how a typical EARTH person may appear.
EARTH TYPE (made of Water + Earth): generally a LARGER BODY SIZE
In balance they appear: grounded, stable, consistent, steady, strong, to have a kind disposition, to have good endurance.
Out of balance they appear: Stuck, heavy, tend towards having a slow metabolism, can be stubborn, tend toward gaining a lot of weight, sluggish.
How to balance the EARTH type: cardio EXERCISE (when ok’d by your doc), heat, sunshine, light foods, varied routine, drink warm/hot water, occasional fasting (with a trained professional), wear bright colors.
There you have it in a nutshell. This overview can give you some ideas as to where you stand. If you are like me (I am a FIRE and AIR type), then you would have to keep your fire in check in the summertime (or warmer season) by following the ‘how to balance’ for FIRE, and keep your air in check in the wintertime (or cooler season) by following the ‘how to balance’ for AIR. This can all be a balancing act sometimes (pun intended!), but the more you get to know yourself and your type(s), the easier it is to bring yourself back into balance when you go off-track.
If you are interested to learn more about your unique type, sign up here for my free Body Type Session. I will only be offering these for a limited time.
I wanted to take some time today to go a little deeper into why we can become anxious sometimes, because it is not always for the reasons that we think. But first I am going to back up a little bit to explain about Ayurveda, which is the science behind the principles in this article.
Ayurveda is the ancient East Indian ‘science of life’. It is similar to Chinese Medicine in that it encompasses all facets of living, rather than separating them out. For example, humans are part of nature, and we are affected by the elements that are prevalent within nature at any given time. Nature too of course is affected by humans. If all of life is interconnected, then it would stand to reason that one part of nature being out of balance will inevitably affect parts of the same system, and likely cause imbalances elsewhere too. The same is true within the body.
For example, we contain all 5 elements within us (earth, air, fire, water, ether). These elements interact within us and depending upon our habits and influences, will bring us in and out of balance. Did you know by the way that balance is different for everyone?
Most people when we first discuss the elements within their body, think that we should contain all 5 elements equally within us. Not true. If at the time of conception your parents combined were predominantly air and ether within their bodies, then you would be composed of relatively more air and ether, and that would be your primary constitution for your entire life. If you are predominantly air and ether in your body type, then you would be considered the ‘vata’ body type.
I have heard it said that at one time most people used to be predominantly one body type. But today with people traveling and moving, and intercultural marriages being more common, more people are predominantly 2 body types combined. For example someone could have air and ether (vata type), plus water and fire (pitta type) and so their body type would be vata pitta.
Let’s leave this here for now, and today let’s talk mainly about the elements of air and ether within the body. If you thought about it, you might guess that air and ether are light, dry, and highly mobile. There is not much physical substance to them. Think about wind for example, it is earths’ predominant way of demonstrating vata in nature.
If you have vata as one of your main body types, (or even If you don’t but you have a vata imbalance meaning it is high for you even though it is not your main constitution), you will be more likely to experience the symptom of anxiety, and other related vata symptoms. Of course we can all be in or out of balance with these elements.
In Balance Air & Ether (vata) can appear:
When someone comes to me with anxiety, one of the things I will look for is if the air and ether elements are out of balance in their body. Now, I am not an Ayurvedic doctor, so I do not go in-depth in this analysis, and for most people, this is ok, they will still get great benefit from making some simple changes to their lifestyle and diet. But if someone is out of balance for long periods of time, or if air, ether, fire, and water are all out of balance at the same time, then those can be red flags for bigger issues in the body. Then I might refer someone to an ayurvedic doctor or naturopath to have a more in-depth analysis. (The more elements that are simultaneously out of balance at the same time, the more dis-ease there is within the body).
One other interesting thing to note is that sometimes a person can have too much air and ether in their mind, but the body is actually in balance. I see this more often if someone spends most of their days in prolonged mental activity, for example someone who needs to have great mental intellect, or focus all day every day. Lawyers, doctors, students, might be examples of people whose profession or daily activity necessitates them being ‘in their mind’ a lot. In fact increased mental activity is becoming more common for many people, regardless of their profession, simply because we are over stimulated with information, noise, and activity going on around us all the time. (Always having noise on in the background is a sure way to increase vata).
If someone is prone to anxiety or mental stress, and their body is in balance, in this case we will work more with the mind than with the body to bring someone into balance. Usually breathwork, meditation or gentle yoga are suggested.
You should now have an idea about how someone can exhibit air and ether both in and out of balance, what else do we need to consider here?
When people come to work with me, I will usually go over a detailed questionnaire with them to see which body type(s) are predominant for them, and where they might be out of balance.
Say a vata person comes to me. A true vata may typically be quite thin and have difficulty gaining weight. They typically tend to be dry, cold, and quick on their feet/very mobile. Increasing these same qualities (either in the diet or environment) will tend to aggravate the vata type. For example, eating light dry food like chips or dried fruit, or walking outside in the wind, will throw them out of balance quite quickly. Then using that same principle, opposite qualities will balance them. Typically what that means then is that eating heavy moist foods, staying warm, and staying grounded and hydrated can be very helpful for vata types.
So if you find yourself becoming anxious for no reason, it may simply be that your vata has increased within your body or your mind, or both. If this is the case, make sure to stay well hydrated and warm. It is also helpful to slow down, and to find a way to bring some quiet calming activities such as meditation, gentle yoga, or even knitting or doing a puzzle. Long deep breathing can also be really helpful for remaining grounded when you are feeling anxious.
We will go into more detail about how to bring each of the body types back into balance in my next article. For now, know that if you suffer from anxiety, sometimes it really can be a simple as altering a few daily practices, to bring yourself back into feeling grounded, relaxed and joyful in each and every moment.
It seems like yesterday when I went to my first yoga class. In fact I remember feeling like it was much harder work than it looked watching others, but that I also felt amazing afterwords. There were other things that happened as well in the early days. One weekly class that I signed up for had me crying on my mat every week! I was in the midst of ending a long-term relationship and the deep sadness from that ending came up mostly in yoga class (where there was space for it to come forward and be released). UnfortunateIy at that time, I was so embarrassed that I stopped attending that class.
After a number of years of practicing breathing, yoga, meditation, and silent retreats, I noticed that suffering only ever ‘happened’ to me for two reasons. 1. When I did not get what I wanted, and 2. When I didn’t want what I had.
I also noticed that when I was able to drop down into my heart (by returning to the present moment) and get out of my head (my head was usually in the 'past' or 'future'), that everything would ease and feel infinitely better very quickly.
I had been practicing insight meditation, gestalt counselling, breathwork, shamanic and silent retreats, kundalini and hatha yoga, and studying with a spiritual teacher for about 10 years at this point. Having a daily practice was always my mainstay, as it consistently brought me back to myself.
The practice of living in the present could only come forward after cultivating an awareness of this inner landscape. Learning to listen to my body was the first gateway to this awareness, and breathwork and meditation for me, has been instrumental in cultivating this awareness.
That’s the key, I thought to myself. It’s really as simple as staying in the moment. Sure make plans, and even goals, just don’t get too attached to things having to go the way I think they should. Also, learn to relax about life when it does not feel ‘perfect’ in any given moment.
This simple change of understanding made things infinitely easier in my life. And this simple change was possible because of the awareness that doing these daily practices had brought into my life.
I invite you to notice that when you get caught thinking "I don’t like where I am" or "I should be somewhere else", that’s when you suffer. It’s really so simple and yet can also be so challenging for most of us to remember, especially when things feel particularly tough. The other problem is that when we’re down, we tend to have a negative perception, we think it should be more difficult and then proceed to make it so, but it does not have to be. It is always a choice. A moment-by-moment choice.
Any practice that helps you get out of your mind and into your heart will ultimately help you to live in the present more and consequently suffer less. If done consciously, breathwork, yoga, and meditation will help with this a great deal.
In this podcast Sahaj interviews Mandy Walker, divorce expert and mediator. Mandy and Sahaj discuss some of the common mistakes people make when newly entering into the ‘divorce’ territory. Specifically Mandy speaks about 4 practical suggestions to help take the emotion out of the divorce process, so that you can enter into this territory with a clear head that will enable you to make decisions that are more sound and supportive to your success.
Transition is a tricky game. It can leave you feeling scattered like a leaf blown through the skies in the wind, or fragile like a newborn baby. It can leave you feeling sad, having to let go of the things you once knew, or free, feeling like the burdens of the past no longer weigh heavy on your shoulders. Sometimes transition can leave us feeling a little ‘unglued’ so to speak, so we keep ourselves overly busy so that we don’t have to slow down and feel those sometimes terrifying things called emotions…
Have you ever seen this happen with anyone you know? Your girlfriend is freaked out by a bad breakup. Immediately afterwords, she goes out and buys a new wardrobe, or a big trip, or immerses herself in other activities that make her very busy. Perhaps she dove into her kids lives, or a new hobby, or a new group or sport. None of these things in themselves are inherently negative, in fact they can be extremely supportive if they are used with awareness. If they are mere reactions to the breakup, and distractions from the ensuing emotions, then they may not be that helpful. Or perhaps they may give temporary relief which helps to move through a certain painful segment, and in that relaxation, emotions can more fully emerge. In the end it is all okay, sooner or later we will have to come back to our body and emotions.
If we do not allow the emotions to emerge, they can sometimes re-emerge and bite us in the butt. We all have them, so it’s really a human thing, and an art, to being able to allow them to move through us without overtaking us completely, nor denying them. Sometimes they will overtake us for a time, and that is okay too.
Some signs of pent-up emotions:
What to do if you suspect that you are holding your emotions back?
What happens when your emotions really begin to let loose?
Many women feel like if they allow their emotions to go unchecked, that they will really lose it and will not be able to stop (screaming, crying, you name it). Yet, if you allow them to flow, they will stop. It may take some time, but they will stop. Trust me, I know.
I was 32 and had just signed up for a set of kundalini yoga classes. I was in the midst of a breakup with someone I thought I was going to marry and have kids with. Every class ended with me lying there in a pile of tears. It was a devastating time, and completely embarrassing to have strangers see me like this. But it happened, and I moved on. I doubt if anyone other than the teacher even noticed.
It is completely normal for us to have any range of emotions as we’re going through big transitions in our lives. The question is not so much then, will I have emotions or how to deal with my emotions, it’s more to make peace with them. They are an integral part of us, and a part that we must allow ourselves to experience if we want to move on in our lives.
Beyond your emotions…
I remember saying to a trusted mentor one time ‘I am finally in balance, now all I need to do is to stay this way.’ Hahahaha. Good one.
It doesn’t work that way. Being alive means feeling those sometimes painful emotions. Falling in love, opening up to others, having human contact of any sort will leave you vulnerable to your emotions. That one simple reminder that you too are a human being, fallible, imperfectly perfect.
Is the flip side worth living? An existence where you feel some things, sometimes, but not all things, and where you love a little, but not fully.
The Prophet sums it up perfectly in his chapter on Love, as follows:
“But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the season-less world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”