In this, the third blog in a series of 'your home yoga practice' musings, I am bringing in the element of Fire.
*Blog 1 'Finding Your Perfect Space'
*Blog 2 'Move Like the Wind'
Ayurveda's philosophy of the Five Elements explains that within everything and even within every explanation of every thing are the five natural manifestations of energy called:
If you try to describe anything you hear, touch, see, taste or smell - that description will bear some resemblance to the five archetypes above. One particular quality will stand out from the rest. But, when we look deeply enough, it will, in fact, resemble all of the above to some degree or another.
Today, we are pulling the thread of Fire out from the explanation of a home yoga practice and examining it in order to create an expansive, personal, enjoyable and meaningful 'at home yoga practice.'
We have our designated space (first blog) and movement (second blog). Today, we will bring forward an intention for that movement (Wind) within that space (Ether).
When we think of Fire we think of heat and the transformation it causes (wood to ash; melting of candle; destruction and, perhaps even, the pheonix rising from the ashes). In Ayurveda, this heat and transformation has it's seats in the heart and mind as well as the digestive organs, eyes and skin. In each of these parts of the body is a fire that glows hot and strong when healthy and weak and cold when unhealthy. Your yoga practice should entice the above 'seats of fire' to glow.
You can use three methods to ignite the fire:
- Start to breathe in a way that fills the belly (seat of fire) as you breathe in and also feel the navel move backwards to the spine as you exhale. This will blow on the embers of the Fire and make them strong. Rather than focusing on the movement of the spine (blog 2) as the intention, let the movement of the spine intensify this slow pumping of the navel which lights the Fire of the belly.
- Use your mind and your gaze (drsti) to move energy. There is a saying that 'where the mind goes, prana follows'. Your mind is another seat of Fire. The stronger the mind, the brighter the Fire. Using your mind in your practice this way will help brighten the mind's focus and healthy intensity. You can see this brightness of the mind in the eyes and also you can focus your gaze (softly, as if looking from the back of the eyes and using peripheral vision) so that you can 'watch' your own practice. You will feel the two techniques above transform the feel of the practice and also the warmth and circulation of blood and oxygen and nutrients that your practice generates.
- Start your day with warm sesame oil abhyanga (self massage); leave on for at least 10 minutes - longer if convenient and then take a warm shower. Wear 'breathable' clothing. Our skin is an important Fire seat and when given the proper care, can also transform the feel of our yoga practice. This step may not be possible on every occasion, but sometimes is better than never!
Your home yoga practice is now taking shape with the tools called 'Panchamahabhuta' in Ayurvedic traditions. Pancha means 'five' and maha means 'great' or 'important'. Bhuta is a word that doesn't have any direct translation into english, but the english word 'element' is often used. It's not a great translation, because we rarely use this word in the sort of context I am writing about now. It is more helpful to think of the word Bhuta as a manifestation of energy. The World around us is, ultimately, pure energy. This energy vibrates at different frequencies and, according to ancient Ayurvedic knowledge, creates sound and space; feelings and movement; warmth and appearance; taste and texture; mass and, with that, an odour. Energy is now 'something' that has manifested into a form we can smell, taste, see, feel and hear. A Bhuta!
All things have all five Bhuta within them (Space/Air/Fire/Water/Earth). Today, we have incorporated the Fire Bhuta into our daily home yoga practice. Here's some more ideas to work with the Fire Bhuta at home:
- As you get ready to get onto your mat, light a candle to symbolise the Fire that will build because of your light your practice will bring.
- Set an intention for your practice. Dedicate it. This will connect your heart and mind Fire to the movements that you make. Make this dedication as an offering to another rather than as a wish for yourself.
- End your practice with Trataka (candle gazing meditation). Find a 'fire meditation' on my mini immersions page of my website
Above all, find joy in your home yoga practice and the warmth of that joy will be like touchpaper to all the Fires within!