There are few public monuments that attract visitors the way a fountain does. In parks, in town squares, in front of public buildings and hospitals, these beautiful statues with running water seem to immediately calm us and fill us with a sense of serenity. City workers congregate at fountains to eat their lunch, more than at any other public venue. An increasing number of people are creating fountains and water features in their own yards. These people want to bring that multi-sensory experience into their every day lives. Fountains speak to our inner well being using most of our five senses: we can hear the trickling, burbling water, we can feel its cool refreshment, we can smell the fresh air that the moving water creates and we can become mesmerized, gazing at the rainbows, and patterns, formed by the water's path. As many mothers will say, shaking their heads, there have been more than a few toddlers who have tasted fountain water, as well.
Fountains simply relax us. We find the sound to be rhythmic and peaceful in a noisy world. The most popular sound, for people who use 'white noise' machines, is that of a light rain...which creates a similar effect in establishing a restorative mood. Considering that fountains date back to, at the very latest, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, we can understand that human beings have an innate need and response to fountains' beauty and healthful qualities. As long as human beings have been able to control water's path and direction, we have used water for calming purposes, in addition to watering crops and fields. Because of our attraction to the sound and magnificence of running water, we have used metaphors to describe our feelings of joy, of peace and of tranquility, all using fountains as their basis. We use running water as the way to best describe how we are feeling or what we hope to accomplish.
King David wrote, in the Book of Psalms, "For with Thee is the fountain of Life. In Thy light, we shall see Light." long before the new millennium. "Look within. Within us is the fountain of good, ever bubbling up when you choose to dig." wrote Marcus Arelius in the first century A.D. More recently, the beautiful Sophia Loren said, "There is a fountain of youth. It is in your minds, in your talents, in the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of those you love." Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Pope, Cummings, Twain and Wollstonecraft, among countless other of the greatest writers, use fountains as a metaphor for the way in which we live our lives. We speak of welling up, of springing forth, of bubbling over and of overflowing from joy, from sorrow, from hope and from delight. The emotions we feel can be thought of as 'polluted' fountains, if we are in despair, as polluted water can't be cleaned. However, if we are intensely and powerful joy-filled, we cannot contain our glee, just as if we ourselves are fountains bubbling powerfully.
As with many disciplines, Yoga has a number of variations. There is my own discipline of Ashtanga based yoga, as well as Kundilini, Restorative, Power, Bihkram (hot room) and Kripalu. There are as many styles of yoga practice as there are teachers. However, one element that is often consistent between instructors and styles is the Flow. In my own classes, as well as those I have attended, there is generally an actively moving time of asana work. Entire classes can be taught in the flow technique, allowing students to move in and out of poses as their own pace dictates. The flow sequence that feels nearly water-like to me, in its power and grace, and moving throughout the Triangle series. As the yogini moves from her right side to an upright position and then flows over to her left side, before moving back again, I am always struck by how much this sequence resembles a fountain: both in appearance and allegorically. We flow gracefully, traveling up and then spilling over our legs. It's one of the most elegant, and "watery" sequences in my classes. There is a strength and a rhythm to practicing Triangle in flow mode, rather than still.
Fountains are not only a part of literature, hymns, art work and gardens, they are a part of who we are. Whether we're standing under a steamy shower, or eating a picnic with a friend at a water containing monument, we are refreshed, restored and renewed by these fountains. Not only does the water inside us move, much like a fountain, but our spirits, our emotions and our thoughts can take on those same characteristics. Let's take care to allow all the hope, all the generosity and all the love possible flow from us...to those we love, and to those we meet every day. But, most of all, let's take the time to allow ourselves those moments of refreshment, inside and out, and sitting by flowing fountain can bring.