Chances are that you practice yoga with some desire for transformation. Whether that means changing the shape of your body, your thought patterns or your perception of reality, it’s fire element that drives this transformation.
Fire Element and Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, fire element powers your capacity for digestion. Everything you encounter, from food to thoughts and emotions, has to be digested and transformed so that it nourishes you. When you can’t transform something, it causes indigestion — that late night spinning-worry mind is like emotional burping.
Fire element expresses as hot, sharp, bright, upward-moving, and spreading. When you express clarified fire element, you are affectionate and compassionate, naturally joyful, generous and enthusiastic.
Fire element brings intelligence and an ability to “cut through” the surface appearance of things to reach deeper understanding. When it is balanced it means a balanced appetite, good digestion and elimination, healthy skin, and bright, clear eyes.
However, it can build up too much under pressure to achieve. The hot and sharp quality of fire can express as anger, irritability and judgment. When fire burns to excess, our intensity may be overwhelming to others and we feel hot and bothered all the time.
When fire is depleted, we feel cold, flat, depressed and unmotivated. The mind can’t digest new information. A lack of drive and enthusiasm leads to laziness and we withdraw from others.
Fire Element Sequence
In my last two posts, I offered poses for stabilizing with earth element and nourishing with water element. The sequence below could be used on its own or mixed in with the other postures to create a sequence which awakens earth, water and fire — invoking a sense of balance between transformation and growth.
The first four poses all emphasize the strength around the navel center, kindling your digestive fire and providing a strong crucible to contain it, while increasing circulation of blood and warmth in the body. The final pose opens the side channels of the body (associated with the liver and gall bladder) encouraging the free flow of bile, and releasing tension in the large intestine.
One more ingredient will really super-charge this practice: evoke an attitude, or “bhava” of focused intent. Breathe deeply and concentrate your awareness on your navel center, the “home” of fire element. Here are five poses for connecting with fire element:
Plank Pose (Santolanasana)
Starting on your hands and knees, extend both legs backwards to form plank pose. Make sure that your palms are directly under you shoulders and check to make sure that you aren’t tenting up the palms of your hands, leaving a gap between your palms and the floor.
Engage a bit more through your core, by pulling your palms back towards your feet and your feet forward towards your hands. You won’t really change position, just engage the muscles as if you were going to pull your hands and feet towards each other.
Try to hold this position, breathing deeply, for at least 5 breaths. Build up over time until you can hold for 20 breaths.
Yogic Push-Ups (Dandas)
Starting in Downward Dog, take a few moments to connect deeply with your breath and a sense of rootedness through the hands and feet. Once again, press your palms into the mat to close gaps between your palms and the floor. Inhale deeply, lengthening your spine and lifting your hips.
On your next exhalation, slowly drop your hips forward, through Plank, towards Upward Dog. Don’t force the posture and avoid sagging your lower back. Lift your chest, but keep your toes tucked under. On the next inhalation — leading with your hips and engaging through your core — lift your hips back up into Downward Dog.
For increased challenge, add a Chaturanga into the movement: inhale in Downward Dog, exhale into Upward Dog, release down into Chaturanga with an inhalation and then back up to Upward Dog with an exhalation. Return to Downward on the next inhalation.
Repeat 5-20 times.
Lying flat on your back, take a few deep breaths, connecting your low back to the earth (this will start to gently engage your abdominals). Inhale, lifting your right leg. Exhale and lower. Inhale the left leg. Exhale and lower. Focus on keeping your low back in contact with the floor.
Repeat 10-20 repetitions with each leg.
Start as for the above pose. Inhale, bend your right knee towards your chest and then straighten your leg up towards the ceiling. Exhale, lower your straight leg to the floor. Repeat with the other leg.
For increased challenge, try to move both legs at once, as if you were cycling.
Swaying Palm Tree (Tyryak Tadasana)
Standing with feet about shoulder distance apart, interlace your fingers. Inhale, lifting your arms. Exhale, relax your shoulders and lengthen your low back. Inhaling, lengthen the right side of your body and arc over to the left. Keep both feet rooted deeply and breathe long, deep breaths. Make sure you don’t bend so deeply that your breathing is compromised.
After 5-10 deep breaths, return to center, lower your arms and notice the difference in sensations between the 2 sides of your body. Repeat on the other side.
What are some of the ways you experience transformation in your yoga practice? Try this sequence out and let us know: did it leave you feeling hungry?