BALANCING THE METAL ELEMENT - SCRIPT FOR YIN YOGA
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) different elements are used to explain the nature of everything that exists in life, including ourselves and our body. The characteristics of the elements help us understand our own mental and emotional patterns or tendencies.
Each element is associated with a particular meridian system, whose health will be linked to the balance or imbalance of the element.
The METAL element is associated with the meridian system of the Lungs and Large Intestine organs. In our body, these meridians are located at the arms. When we practice Yin Yoga we can use poses that create stress in the outer arm to target the large intestine or the inner arm to target the lungs.
The Season of Autumn
Chinese medicine explains this meridian system by making a parallel with the season of Autumn. Autumn is the time of decay, a time of transition from Yang (an active season) to Yin (passive season). It is a period to start separating what is necessary from what is not. We see this change in nature when in this season the expired leaves fall. However they don't completely die but they become the fertilizer to nourish the earth for the next season to come. It is a period of transformation and as such, it requires acceptance of changes and saying goodbye to the old and useless to make space for the new and useful.
Same as we see this transformation in nature we observe it in the function of the organs related to this meridian. Lungs and Large intestine are about separating the necessary from the unnecessary. The Lungs separate the oxygen that goes into the blood from the Carbon dioxide which is released out of the body. The Large Intestine plays the role of collecting the last nutrients from what we eat, separating them from what is not useful and should go to waste.
How the Metal element influences our being: Why is this important?
As the season of autumn explains the function of the organs (physical being), the Metal element explains the mental characteristics associated with this meridian.
The metal element represents structure, rigidity, stability and strength. Someone with a strong metal will be someone disciplined, who enjoys structure, ethical behaviour and respects rules and authority. It is meticulous and efficient, with a deep desire and effort to achieve the best results.
As with every element, too much or too little of it can result in an imbalance which affects our being physically or emotionally.
At a physical level, an imbalance in these meridians can cause diseases related to lungs, chest and throat such as asthma, colds, sinus. It can also generate skin problems such as eczema and dry skin. In terms of the large intestine, it can cause constipation or diarrhea.
At a mental and behavioral level, too little metal results in lack of structure, a behaviour of apathy, not being inclined to one way or the other or not caring. On the other hand, too much Metal results in extreme criticism, being judgemental, perfectionist, and having high standards. It can result in extreme rigidity, which brings inability to accept change and DIFFICULTY TO LET GO. The main emotion associated with an imbalance of this element is GRIEF, which is holding onto something not being able to let go. It is attachment towards a person, a belief, an idea about ourselves or about the world and reality.
Why is this important? Because attachment and inability to let go is what keeps us stuck, away from living in presence. And because it is only in full presence that we can experience deep peace, happiness and Joy.
So, how do we LET GO?
LET GO IS NOT AN ACTION, it is actually the opposite. It iis the release of holding onto something. Stopping the attachment. It is about dropping that idea and expectation that we need that something in order to be happy, complete and full. LETTING GO is the full acceptance of this moment as it is.
When we don’t let go, we can’t experience full presence, and it is the present moment the only moment where we can experience full happiness.
Here is where I like to guide my students and readers to take a moment to reflect on how this element is present in their own lives:
-Are you being too rigid in your life? In your plans, expectations? Do you need to develop flexibility in some areas?
- How do you feel when changes are happening? How comfortable are you with changes?
- Is there any area in your life where change is needed or change is happening?
- Is there any area where you are resisting the change?
- Are there any areas where you can’t let go of something or someone?
- Are you holding onto any ideas you have about who you are or how your life should be that are keeping you in a place of resistance and rejection of reality. And therefore not allowing you to be fully present with what is?
There is a beautiful story that I use in my classes to illustrate the process of letting go and help my yoga students to find their own way to practice this. If you want to know about it read my other post THE MONKEY AND ABOUT LETTING GO.
If you replied yes to any of the questions above, you might be experiencing an imbalance in the metal element and you would benefit from a Yin practice that targets this specific meridian system: the lungs and large intestines meridians. Postures targeting the inner and outer arms help to remove blockages in these meridian channels which are affecting the free flow of energies through your body and therefore affecting you emotionally or physically.
What else can you do? I would say, practice spontaneity. Move out of your comfort zone. Allow yourself to be in situations where you are not in control,so you learn to be comfortable in those experiences and reduce the attachment to specific ideas you have that might have you stuck. You practice being more flexible and less rigid.
Another way is practising “letting go” in a practical way: getting rid of anything that you don't actually need so your mind gets more familiar with that. Learning to let go of little things first so your whole being learns to be more comfortable with letting go of things that are much harder to let go of. I find that cleaning the wardrobe and finally giving away clothes that you are no longer using can really help to learn to do this.
Of course: Meditate. Do yoga. Because that’s exactly what we practice: To come back to presence. To see and accept the moment as it is. Without trying to change it. Without attachment to ideas of how it should look or be. We practice full presence in the breath, in the body. And it is only in the present moment where and when we can find peace, happiness and Joy. And isn’t that what we all want?
I hope this inspires your practice and the practice of your students.
If you liked this post, you might want to check out other posts about 5 elements and chinese medicine:
- EARTH ELEMENT AND AWARENESS OF THE SELF
- THE FIRE ELEMENT & HOW TO STAY BALANCED
- BALANCING THE WATER ELEMENT IN YIN YOGA