Water is an incredible element from which we can learn so much! It has a depth that goes far beyond its shimmering surface and it is receptive, parting to allow anything to enter before gracefully resuming its undisturbed surface. Water receives change so easily and continues to flow even under pressure, all while never losing its grace, fluidity and flow. Water is powerful without needing to be hard. If you were to hit a rock with a hammer, the rock would chip piece by piece. If you were to hit water with a hammer, all you would end up with is a rusty hammer.
'Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.' - Lao Tzu
I have always felt deeply at home in and by the water, as many of us do, especially when moving underwater twisting, turning and diving. There is nothing quite like the complete quiet, stillness that comes from being submerged. Body fluid, mind still. It is this element of yoga practice that most so inspires and excites me as it does many others. Body fluid, mind still. Interestingly this fluid way of moving and dancing tends to be more of a pull for women than for men. Perhaps this could be traced to our intrinsic link to water, a link that is both age old and time tested, as the myth of the mermaid shows us.
‘The mermaid is the archetypal image that represents a woman who is at ease in the great waters of life, the waters of emotion and sexuality. She shows us how to embrace our instinctive sexuality and sensuality so we can affirm the essence of our feminine nature, the wisdom of our bodies, the playfulness of our spirits. She symbolises our connection with our deep instinctive feelings, our wild and untamed animal nature that exists below the surface of our outward personality. She is able to respond to her mysterious sexual impulses without abandoning her more human conscious side.’ Anita Johnson
So many of us feel an innate love for water,
a sense of coming home. We are drawn to stories of mermaids, mysterious sea creatures and sunken cities with rapture, our babies are even born buoyant, breathing under water and swimming instinctively and our conscious control of our breath (unique only to humans and aquatic mammals) means that overtime we can learn to free dive and spend long periods of time under water.
So why do we feel this deep connection to water as earth bound creatures?! We could say that we all came from the water but that was far beyond the memory of our bodies or the bodies of our ancestors. Far more interesting and enticing is the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis.
The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis says that many of the unique features that differentiate us from other primates are due to a period of time during our evolution spent as aquatic or semi-aquatic apes. The theory suggests that the change from ape into Australopithecus Afarensis (an extinct hominin that lived between 3.9 and 2.9 million years ago) took place in a short space of time by evolutionary standards and that such rapid speciation is almost invariably a sign that one population of a species has become isolated by a geographical barrier such as a stretch of water.
Some of the features that are unique to both us and aquatic mammals but to no other primates are; the dive reflex, volitional breath control, loss of body hair, skin bonded fat deposits (as in seals), secretion of oil (for waterproofing), habitual bipedalism (for wading), face to face mating, a hooded nose and fat and buoyant infants.
Suddenly our innate love of water seems incredibly logical yet even more mysterious and intriguing.
So the next time you practice yoga, dance or make love imagine you are underwater. Body fluid, mind still.
'We inter-breath with the rain forests, we drink from the oceans. They are part of our own body.' - Thich Nhat Hanh