Week Five: Who Am I?  The answer is in the five elements.   The five elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water and Ether reside in nature but also within us. Nature is truth, and within ourselves through the elements we may find our truth in who we are.  We have been experiencing the five elements in class to connect to our mind, body and spirit. When we embrace our present moment we are connecting the external with our internal elements so we may circulate energy, create focus, generate power and promote clarity.  The five elements originated from Buddhism and are used in Chinese & Japanese philosophies, Chinese medicine, Japanese architecture, feng shui, Zen gardens as well as in martial arts. The kanji word used in Japanese for the 5 elements is GODAI (Go for five and Dai for great); meaning the Five Great.  In kanji the Five Great are: Chi* (earth) associated with strength, stability Sui (Water) associated with power, emotions, adaptability Ka (Wind/air) associated with resiliency, will, wisdom Fu (Fire) associated with energy, passion Ku “the void” which penetrates all things and is universal truth. It is the enlightened mind. Power and creativity. (*not the same as Chinese Ch’i - energy) Over the next few weeks we will go deeper into each of the elements. Today we will explore the element of Air (Ka) which is associated with resiliency, will, wisdom. To connect to the element of air we use our breath. The air we breathe in flows through our body unconsciously, though without effort or mindfulness, the quality of breath will affect our well being. When we take shallow breaths, ones that are barely filling our lungs, we lose the opportunity to cleanse ourselves as we barely get enough oxygen to flow throughout our body into our muscles, organs, bloodstream and brain. Instead, a more mindful deep breath and breathing exercises where we breathe deep into the Dan Tian (just below the navel), we expand our air intake by breathing right into our lower stomach area.  When we breathe into our Dan Tian ensure you are expanding your stomach, opening it up to allow the breath to enter. Breathing into the Dan Tian creates strength in the body and clarity in the mind. As well, when we do deep breathing it circulates the chi throughout our entire body, cleansing, purifying and filling us with energy.  Cobra Pose is a stretching exercise that promotes opening of the chest in order for the air flow freely through the lungs and down to the Dan Tian. With all stretching exercises it is essential to breathe into the pose and when you feel you reached your limit, inhale deeply again and with all that oxygen circulating into your muscles you nourish them to take the stretch deeper than ever.  We also use our breath in our katas, basics and kumite, with hard or soft breathing you can add power and energy into your techniques and pace in order to create impact and to increase endurance or to sustain any blows you may encounter.  In life it is essential to use our breath so we can be patient, resilient, control our emotional reactions and most importantly to connect to the present moment and centre our being.  Below is a moving meditation exercise you can do alone or with the entire family.    By Kohai Dianne Hadad 3rd Degree Black Belt, Renge Dojo Certified Professional Coach, SHINE, Family Wellness Club