Michael, Maui, our minds, and the movement of Air

by

’ Speak the wind ‘ is a beautiful body of photographic work centred around wind, created by Iranian-Australian documentary artist Hoda Afshar, after she visited islands off the coast of Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. There the wind is known as ‘ Zar ‘ and is said to be capable of ‘ possessing people and inducing illness or disease ‘. It was also believed that those possessed, could be ‘ exorcised through various ceremonies that served to placate ‘ this wind. And it’s thought these beliefs were inherited all the way from Africa, being brought over to Iran with those ‘sold as slaves ’. (1) Within Ayurveda, the science born in the bosom of India, it’s understood our bodies also ‘ speak the wind ‘ to us, via the Dosha known as Vata, and that if we soothe and balance her, we too can help keep ourselves well.

Vata is the bio energy inside each of us made of the elements of Air and Space, and it’s the movement of Air that helps explain some of her eccentric personality. And if Vata was to have a mascot, Michael Jordan would surely be a main contender. Not only is the word ‘ air ‘ so closely aligned with his name, but his life has also been largely about movement. In the documentary series ‘ The Last Dance ‘, there’s wonderful footage of him dancing around the court in an endless flow of highly synchronised and skilled moves, as he and the Chicago Bulls attempt their sixth NBA title. And in the Ben Affleck movie ‘ Air ‘, the story of the Nike ‘ Air Jordan ‘ sneaker built around his sporting prowess, is also dramatised. This relationship turned Michael Jordan into a sporting legend, Nike into a force to be reckoned with, and revolutionised the world of sports and contemporary culture at the same time. And if you begin to build a strong relationship with Vata, you too could also become a more powerful force.

Next year the 2024 Paris Olympics will highlight movement in many forms and guises. But it’s the veritable mini Olympics taking place inside each of us every single moment, that we also need to become aware of and pay attention to. If we could see these genius feats of movement televised at close range like the Olympics, I’m sure we’d be equally as mesmerised. Every breath we take, the blinking of our eyes, our muscle and tissue movements, the pulsation of our hearts, and every minuscule motion within the cytoplasm and cell membranes that make us who we are, are just some of the many movements governed by Vata and her Air element. Peristalsis, the movement within our muscle walls that pushes food and liquid down our GI tracts, is another internal sport that’s automatically taking place deep within us, that we also remain largely unaware of. Michael Jordan may be the master of movement, but so are we. And what’s so important to understand, is that when this movement is kept in balanced flow, Vata can then lend us her marvellous traits of creativity and flexibility. But when she’s not, she’s only able to pass on to us her anxiety and fear.

The latest 2023 Mental Health Report from the World Health Organisation ( WHO ), finds that a ‘ staggering one billion people worldwide ( more than one in eight adults and adolescents ) have a mental disorder. Depression ( 280 million people ) and anxiety ( 301 million ) are the largest groups, but developmental disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity, schizophrenia, bipolar and conduct disorders also affect millions of people ’. (2) And unfortunately, in many cases we’re largely complicit in creating these awful statistics, as a result of the Vata aggravating lifestyles we’re building for ourselves unknowingly.

Even when a day seems to have no wind, there’s always still a sense of air’s whispering movement. And when the air inside us is also moving naturally, our lives too seem to have an impression of gentle flow. But if Vata is speaking to you via the signal of constipation, then your Air element is not working with full functionality. And if you’ve ever experienced hiccups, this is an indication your air was moving in the wrong direction. If your thoughts are whirling out of control, the wind in your belly is stuck in a spin, or if your colon is filled with air, then your Air element is out of kilter. These are signs your body or mind is trying to ‘ speak the wind ’ to you, as Vata signals you need to make changes to your daily lifestyle to help her rebalance.

One of the foundational tenets of Ayurveda is that ‘ like increases like ‘. This means if we lead lifestyles filled with an excess of movement, we’re automatically enlarging and aggravating the Vata energies within us. When we rush around erratically trying to complete an over-full to-do list, we’re increasing our energy of movement by scattering our thoughts and dissipating our limited physical reserves. When we exercise to extremes and leave no time for rest and recuperation, we’re also exacerbating our energies of motion. So if we want to become our most creative and flexible selves a la Michael Jordan, we need then to start monitoring our movement so we can make sure we’re doing our best to keep Vata in a balanced state. Shortening our to-do lists, trying not to exercise to extreme, and prioritising time for recovery is a great way to begin.

Then we can start to regulate the movement we do actually have to perform. We all need to eat, exercise and sleep, but if we can exchange constantly moving our schedules around in these areas to instead following regular routines, Vata can be comforted by knowing what’s coming up when, and this will go a long way towards helping limit her anxiety and fear. For by straitjacketing her natural airy tendency to move in this manner, she automatically becomes much happier. And as she’s generically so light and flighty, she needs all the support she can get. It’s also the reason why when practising yoga, it’s so important we synchronise our breathing with each movement, because in doing so we’re helping regulate and modulate the movement of Vata’s Air.

As all five elements are interconnected, Air like the three Doshas doesn’t operate in a vacuum. The recent deadly wildfires that tore through the historic town of Lahaina on Maui, are a great example of this. Mayor Richard Bissen said the fires were largely caused by violent winds fuelled by Hurricane Dora more than 800 miles away. In this instance, the winds not only dried out vegetation, but also helped spread and fan the fiery flames. And inside our bodies, movement of air can do much the same thing. If we let Vata get too aggravated she may begin to fan Pitta’s Fire, drying out everything in her path.

A study by the University of Wolverhampton, found the oldest joke in existence from ancient Sumeria written 4000 years ago was about the wind. It read : ‘ Something which has never occurred since time immemorial. A young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap ‘. (3) How our bodies ‘ speak the wind ‘ has been an issue down through the ages, as the Air element is as old as the stardust that forms us. What is Vata whispering to you about Air’s state of play in the very depths of your being? Are the Olympian movements occurring inside you in sync with the natural rhythms found in the world around you? And what patterns of behaviour are these movements creating in your life? It’s time to become ‘ aware of your air ’. Your body, and most especially your mind, will thank you for it.

KNOW YOUR DOSHAS

References:

(1) ‘ A Curve is a broken line’ by Isobel Parker Philip, senior curator contemporary Australian Art, AGNSW

(2) ‘ The WHO World Mental Health Report : a call for action ‘ Cambridge University Press online 16/2/23 , Pom Cuijpers, Afzal Javed and Kamaldeep Bhui

(3) Daily Mail Science ‘ Revealed : The world’s 10 oldest jokes – so, would YOU laugh at any of these ancient gags? ‘ 22/10/23 by William Hunter