Over the past several years of deepening my yoga practice, I feel I have tapped into a personal truth - the human body certainly cannot create a sense of optimal peace or health without working on all four aspects of well being - mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional. As I continue to study as a holistic health practioner and yoga teacher I seem to be more and more intrigued with the studies, traditions, and teachings of the Indian people and the philosophy of the medicine wheel.
As I understand, four, is one of the most sacred numbers used in the aboriginal culture.
The number four powers provide the organizing principle for everything that exists in the world. The symbol of the circle is evident and the concept of the medicine wheel is divided from the middle into the four directions: East, South, West, and North. From there everything is also done in fours.
The Seasons - Spring, autumn, winter, fall
The Races - The colors in the medicine wheel (Red, yellow, black and white) have some very significant meanings behind them. Amongst some indigenous nations, color symbolizes the aspects of a human being. The Lakota people say that these four colors represent the four original colors of man. They symbolize the human family as it once was.
Elements of the world - fire, earth, wind, and water
The stages of life and human behaviour – Childhood, youth, adulthood, and elderhood.
So what is the medicine wheel exactly? I am not qualified to give my own definition or theory in this area, I can only share what I have found to be interesting or true through my own personal studies in books and from the internet. Again to my understanding there are slightly different ways and beliefs when it comes to the teachings from the Elders. The following is a description from Tree – Song that I found to be a very brief but helpful breakdown.
What is A Medicine Wheel? by Tree-Song
A Medicine Wheel is a physical manifestation of Spiritual energy - an outward expression of an internal dialogue. A mirror in which we can better SEE what is going on within us. It is a wheel of protection and enables us, and allows us, to gather surrounding energies into a focal point and to commune with Spirit, Self and Nature (ALL elemental forces)........Creation!
It helps us with our "Vision," to see exactly where we are and in which areas we need to develop in order to realize and become our potentials. That we are all connected to one another, and by showing us the intricacies of the interwoven threads of life, what our part in it all is. It helps us understand that without our part in the tapestry the "Bigger Picture" is not as it should be. We add colour, dimension and life to each other, to all of life. No matter what colour, race or creed we are, we need each of us to create a beautiful existence and expression of the Whole.
It is a model to be used to view self, society, or anything that one could ever think of looking into. The wheel, once learned how to dance within it, offers a picture to you and also helps to add clarity to a foggy view. Like so many other things...it is a tool to be used for the upliftment and betterment of mankind, healing and connecting to infinite. We are all but one realization of "God" trying to realize self...so let’s see what part we ourselves are.
Please remember that all that I am to share with you although taken mainly from Native teachings, are also of my own teachings provided from Spirit and my own experiences. It is with an open heart and mind that I ask you receive these teachings. Not all will be for you. Take what is yours and disregard the rest or set it aside for another date. There are many interpretations and symbologies applied to the Wheel, but the basic principle is the same.
Through the teachings of eastern medicine, the medicine wheel, and my own personal practices, I cannot help but to consider as well as believe that our chances of illness will increase when there is an imbalance through the four aspects of our physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental well being.
I have discovered through my yoga practice, all four elements of the human body are activated and exercised in practice both on and off my matt. The connection to Yoga, yoga teachings, and the medicine wheel from my personal perspective, somewhat fall hand in hand. That being said, each person develops there own identification with the teachings of yoga and what it can offer them as an individual, but there seems to be a common thread in the yoga community. Many people start yoga for merely the physical benefits, but will find that there is a deeper connection to ritual, to life, breath, movement, exercise, expression, season, spirituality, and connection to ourselves, one another and mother earth.
Encouraging you to study your health from all different directions, and open up to all the beautiful cultural teachings on this planet.