It’s a Breeze!
Air is the second Element because of it’s close relationship with Ether (the first element). As the potential inherent within space becomes active, the result is Air. Although air is subtle, its effects are observable and so we have a sense of what it is -- the source of life. The element of Air represents the capacity for motion -- it is the wind in the trees, it moves the birds to warmer climates in winter, the planets around their suns, the blood through the vessels, waste from the body, and thoughts through the mind. Air is called “Vayu” in Sanskrit. It is synonymous with Life energy (Prana) because without it, we die. All cultures recognize Prana. The Mayans, Chinese and Hindi all recognize that the free flow of Pranic energy is essential to a life of health and happiness and all these cultures have practices for working with Prana. (Much of the information contained in this article was taken from The Laya Center’s article on Ether.)
Air represents breath, motion, lightness, flexibility and freedom. It is the key element required for fire to burn. It connects everything, and has to do with any type of communication or exchange. Air is mobile, cool, light, dry, rough, subtle, flowing, sharp and clear. The origin of air is Sparsha, which is the primordial, unmanifested form of touch. Consequently, the body parts associated with the Air element are the skin and hands. Touch and air are inseparable. Disorders of tactile perception and those of grasping are the result of disturbances in the function of the Air element. Air also relates to the respiratory system and the nerves.
The air element is associated with the fourth chakra, “Anahata” or Heart Chakra. This element and chakra are associated with love, freedom, openness, mobility and quick thinking. When the air element is balanced, you are able to freely give and receive love, feel light and open, be compassionate, and feel motivated and innovative.
In our diet, the bitter taste contains the most air. The bitter taste is composed of both Air and Ether; it is Air that provides the uniqueness of the taste. Consuming bitter foods is an excellent way to increase the influence of the Air element. This is wonderful if a person is sluggish or lazy. However, an excess of air in the diet, especially in the diet of an individual with a Vata constitution, can result in too much motion. While this increases activity it also leads to a loss of stability and dryness.
Air, being associated with transition and movement, aligns it with the element of Autumn. The season of air begins as the leaves begin to fall. The weather becomes cooler and there is a sense of transition or movement in the air. Air represents the gradual weakening of nature as it moves away from its full bloom and moves forward to face the dormancy of winter. Nature intends for everything and everyone to become lighter at this time. There is a danger of becoming too mobile and light at this time if the proper precautions are not taken. To live in harmony with this time of year means to spend time reflecting on the activities of the past spring and summer. While motion is natural at this time, excess motion may lead to anxiety, restlessness, or sleeplessness. While it is natural to become lighter at this time, excess lightness may be experienced as depletion.
Just like the seasons of the year, in the cycle of a human life, Air represents the transitional period between being our most productive, and the last years of our life. Women tend to have more observable transitions in general, and specifically in this autumn of life, in that they experience menopause. However, men have physical and social transitions during this time as well. This is a time of reflection, during which we look back on our lives with some perspective and chart a path forward with intention. While motion is natural at this time, excess motion makes the transition more difficult, resulting in anxiety, restlessness, sleeplessness, palpitations, and hot flashes.
The astrological signs of the Air element are Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. Libra is cardinal air -- a sign of clarity, partnering, and artful living. Aquarius is fixed air -- a sign of ingenuity and rebellion. Gemini is mutable air -- a sign of verbal fluency, street smarts, and pranks. Airy people are sharp, intelligent and love to problem-solve. They are alert, curious, perceptive, inventive and clever. They see all sides of a problem, and then discern the best approach. This ability to put themselves in another’s shoes makes them cooperative and empathetic. They have humanitarian tendencies and are often idealistic. Communication comes naturally to them. Their moods tend to run hot and cold, like a summer breeze or a biting winter wind. While these folks are often calm and collected, they can turn cold if their equilibrium is upset, so it is important for air signs to seek balance. ( www.horozo.lt/element/air/ )
When balanced, Air people are witty, personable, and creative. Communication comes naturally for them. They are curious and intelligent. Air carries change, so these people are flexible. If things don’t go according to plan, they can still see the lessons contained in the experience. They have the ability to pivot and can transform negatives into positives. There can be bad news and a beautiful sky at the same time. They can see things from different perspectives, which allows the accumulation of knowledge and understanding. How fast you can change your negative emotions (anger or depression or annoyance or self-pity) into something positive has to do with how well developed your Air element is. (Healing with Form, Energy and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Ripoche)
Air can be out of balance by being in excess (too much air) or deficient (not enough air). When air is in excess, the qualities of earth and water are usually deficient. As you might expect, people who are too airy lack stability and contentment. They find it difficult to stick with anything and think the grass is greener somewhere else. They may be jittery, unable to focus, worried or flighty. They are blown about by the winds of circumstance, and happiness gives way to unhappiness when even a small negativity is encountered. They are easily swayed, and beliefs and resolve crumble easily. People with an excess of air will have difficulty concentrating, so meditation proves challenging. An excess of Air can lead to physical symptoms of dryness: constipation, dry and/or cracked skin, split ends, and dandruff. Digestive issues related to excess air include gut gurgles, gas, hiccups, bloating, excessive burping, cravings for salt, fat and spicy food. Circulatory issues lead to muscle aches, cold hands and feet and stiff or painful joints. Emotionally, an excess of air leads to anxiety, loneliness and restlessness. People with an excess of air, might wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts, tend towards forgetfulness and thoughtlessness. Excess Air can also cause communication issues. On the other hand, when Air is deficient, it is easy to get stuck, and change proves difficult. When worry arises, it’s hard to shake it and it is difficult to initiate change. There is a lack of progress in spiritual practices -- a lack of forward motion. (Healing with Form, Energy and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Ripoche)
Air is the force behind all motion, so disturbances in the air element result in issues related to movement. Air may move too fast, too slow, or become obstructed and blocked. Each occurrence produces different effects depending upon the location of the air that is disturbed. It can cause problems with the heart, digestive system, and joints. Excess motion in the nervous system results in hyper-excitability and hyperactivity. Deficient motion produces sluggishness, dullness and fatigue. Blocked flow results in stagnation. In the digestive system excess flow results in diarrhea, deficient flow results in a sluggish bowel, and blocked flow results in either severe constipation or complete obstruction. In the joints, excess motion results in hyper-mobility, deficient motion results in decreased range of motion, and blocked flow results in a frozen joint. In the circulatory system, excess motion can result in rapid heart rate, decreased flow in poor circulation, and blocked flow can result in a heart attack.
In the Ayurvedic system of the Doshas the Vata Dosha contains both Air and Ether. (The Doshas are discussed in detail in two previous Buzz articles -- the one on Balance https://www.beefreeyogaaustin.com/post/balance-in-all-things and the one on the Ether Element which contains an overview of the Elements). Vata remains healthy when motion is controlled, but able to flow without obstruction. Control prevents excess flow while freedom prevents stagnation. Balance is the key, and can be found in steady routines, a grounding diet, and an attitude of faith and surrender. To balance an excess of Air, reduce alcohol, black tea, coffee, bitter foods, beans, red meat and cold foods and beverages. Leftovers from the fridge can be problematic energetically because of the time they spent cold. Instead, favor fresh, hot foods. Use warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, nutmeg, cardamom, mustard seed, basil, asafetida, cilantro, fennel, oregano, sage, tarragon, thyme and black pepper. Dairy can help pacify Air, especially heated, spiced milk. So can nourishing, naturally sweet foods like fruit, grains (rice and wheat are best), asparagus, carrots and nuts. Don’t overdo the fruits because they have a cooling effect. Make sure all your food is nourishing to the body. Don’t forget the ginger tea. You can add a bit of sour to complement your meal. Just don’t make it a major feature. Try some lemon juice or vinegar to awaken the senses and improve digestion. If you have too much air, it is important to develop good eating habits. Stop “on the run” meals and nervous eating. Create a soothing and peaceful eating environment, and be mindful of the eating process. Schedule your meals, because routine pacifies excess Air. Routine meal times also strengthen digestion, a process often disturbed by excess Air. Try to minimize snacks, as this will also improve digestion and metabolism.
Steady routines balance Vata energy. Go to bed earlier. Try to commit to going to bed no later than 10:00pm, and keep the time consistent. Avoid computer and phone screens for at least an hour before bed. Structure your time in meaningful ways. Too much spontaneity can aggravate the Air element. Create rituals for work, meals and free time. Since people with excess Vata tend to worry and obsess, it is a good practice to create a ritual at the end of the work day to let your body and mind know that it can let go of unfinished projects and relax. Air is associated with coldness and dryness, so an excess of Vata energy can make the hands and feet cold. Staying warm balances this element, so snuggle up under a blanket, and practice self-massage with warming oils like sesame or almond oil. Do quiet exercise in the morning, like a walk or yoga.
You can get creative finding ways to incorporate daily activities that invite the Air element into your life. This is fairly intuitive, so it’s fun to improvise! Let the wind blow in your hair, and imagine the wind blowing away your worries and obstructions. Lay down and watch the clouds. Connect with flying things, like butterflies, birds or kites. Open the windows and fill your house with fresh air. Seek out a high perch with a view to the horizon. Make a wish and blow out a candle. Work out, bringing oxygen to the cells. Take a beginner's course in something that fascinates you. Bring wind chimes into your garden or home. Try Tai Chi or Qigong, two flowy meditative martial art practices. Experiment with aromatherapy. In Yoga, bring awareness to your breath by experimenting with Pranayama practices. In your Asana practice, focus on the flow of your sequence. You can also practice chest-opening yoga poses, like Cobra Pose, Cat/Cow Pose, Bow Pose, Bridge Pose, Camel, and Dancer. It can also be fun to find Yoga poses that relate to flying, such as Bow and Arrow, Archer, Firefly, Heron, Bird of Paradise, Grasshopper, Locust and Airplane,
Although we may have a predominant element/dosha, just like the wind, we are always changing. So the first step, now that you have an overview of the Air element, is just noticing when you feel a little too Airy or not quite Airy enough. As you get in touch with how this feels in your body, heart and mind, you can turn curiosity into creativity, and have fun self-regulating with your diet, habits, and activities. All the elements are inside us, so connecting with Air is honoring a part of nature and a part of ourselves. Simply breathe it in.
**For more information, check out Healing with Form, Energy and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Ripoche, The Laya Center’s article on Ether www.thelayacenter.com/air ), and information on the astrological air signs at www.horozo.lt/element/air/ ) Much of the content of this article was taken from these excellent summaries of the element.