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What Bamboo Can Teach Us

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

I was recently gifted a wonderful picture of a bamboo forest featuring a man with an axe. There is so much in this scene that speaks to me! Bamboo is used often in yoga to represent stability yet flexibility. The wood is strong, resilient yet can bend in the winds.


So many of the Five Elements are represented here. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Wood Element becomes imbalanced when there is too much stress (some stress is positive and drives us to action). This is represented in the physical body as eyes, nails, and muscles, tendons and ligaments, which become tight and unyielding when we feel stressed in our minds. It is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder meridians. The Wood Element is green, just like in the picture, with Springtime qualities such as rising, nurturing, beginning and inspiring.


The Five Elements are interdependent and they reflect the seasonal changes. Winter rains (Water Element) give rise to new growth in Spring (Wood), which in turn is burnt by the scorching heat of Summer (Fire), to create ashes (Earth), from which Metal minerals can be extracted; Metal in its turn is cold causing the water vapour in warm air to appear as condensation in Autumn. Each Element gives rise to the next in the cycle, traditionally known as the Mother-Child relationship (Water > Wood > Fire > Earth > Metal > Water and so on). The strength or weakness of each element affects that of its neighbour; we have seen recently how too much heat in Autumn has resulted in early flowering and some bumblebees coming out of hibernation too early.


There are also controlling influences; wood will absorb water, water can rust metal, metal can break up earth, which will smother fire while fire burns wood - here the Metal axe is going to exert its influence on the earth or wood. Too much wood would dry up the earth.


Every tree in the forest is unique. There is no pressure for perfection. Have you ever found yourself looking at a tree and thinking that it is not the perfect shape? Forests are especially balancing for the soul, inspiring a sense of connection and acceptance, while the practice of forest bathing is becoming more popular, available locally in Painshill Park and Claremont Landscape Gardens.


I love bringing the Five Elements into my teaching, allowing us to be aligned to the seasons and the joys that each one brings. Strala Yoga focuses on softening, taking the edge of the busyness and stresses of modern life, with fluid movements and transitions inspired by tai chi and traditional eastern medicine. Strala Founder talks about softness in her podcast, Feel Better with Tara Stiles, episode, "What is Softness?" She advises, "When things are easy, relax. When things get hard, relax more. You don't need tension and struggle". The Strala way is to slow down, soften, and move in harmony with yourself and it feels really good.


If you'd like to try out a class, simply get in touch via the website. I offer small group classes in Claygate on Monday evening, Wednesday early evening and Friday mornings.




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