The body is a microcosm of the cosmos.
As individuals, we contain and reflect the five elements in the atmosphere: earth, air, fire, water, and ether.
We use the qualities of the elements to gain an understanding of the ways we interact with the world and ourselves. Fire is sharp, acidic, and mercurial. It is an expression of that which is unpredictable, mutable, emotional, and wild.
To step into the element of fire is to open ourselves to the possibility of healing through confrontation and manifesting our desire.
To move with the intensity of the fire, we examine our inner longing, our deepest desires, and how we want to create and will our thoughts into action.
Once anything touches fire, it is never the same. It changes physically and chemically. Once we enter the fire, we are also physically, mentally, and emotionally changed.
Why We Connect to the Element of Fire
Fire gives the impetus to burn off impurities and shift our current mental/physical/emotional state.
Bringing fire into the flow of your yoga class will help the muscles stay supple and strong to support you in life. Holding yoga poses longer, and pranayamas such as Kapalabhati (skull shining) breaths build heat and strengthen the core.
Another way to bring the fire into your yoga practice is by engaging in slow and repetitive movements with a resistance band. This style of exercise helps target the core stabilizers and muscles we don’t activate when moving through a typical yoga class.
Here are some of the ways a fiery yoga practice benefits your body and mind:
Build equal parts strength and flexibility.
Typically, individuals tend to be more flexible or more sturdy. Those who are stronger require lengthening exercises to release the tense muscles, while those who are more agile require strengthening to avoid injury.
Unlike slower-paced practices such as yin or restorative yoga, a fiery vinyasa or core yoga class will provide postures that lengthen and strengthen the muscle groups.
Activate slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers.
Slow-twitch muscle fibers are used in endurance training. They are the smallest and least powerful. Refinement in action, focus, breath, and longevity activate slow-twitch fibers.
Yoga asanas that are held for a duration stimulate the slow-twitch fibers.
Fast-twitch muscle fibers are the leanest and longest. Any exercise that features short, sharp, and intense movement to build strength and muscle mass involves fast twitch fibers.
Band work in a yoga class uses fast-twitch fibers, as do chaturanga pushups and core work.
Improve body awareness and discipline (tapas).
Breathing into the sensation of each pose and sustaining the yoga practice will create more body awareness and self-control. Holding the poses and connecting to breathing will help you increase your understanding of how you feel, from movement to moment. It also intensifies the sense of discipline we uphold as we progress and commit to the practice.
Sadhana: How We Tend the Inner Flame of Desire
A sadhana is a spiritual exercise to accomplish one’s goal to enhance the expression of reality. Sadhana is “an effort exercised towards the achievement of a purpose.”
One who undertakes a sadhana practice would cultivate a practice to honor their desires and overcome the limitations of the ego to pursue the divine state of consciousness. Sadhana in yoga may look like meditation, mantra, and asana practice, where you would take the discipline of completing your sadhana for a specific interval or period.
Sādhanā is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. Abhyāsa is repeated practice performed with observation and reflection. Kriyā, or action, also implies perfect execution with study and investigation. Therefore, sādhanā, abhyāsa, and kriyā all mean one and the same thing. A sādhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies…mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal.
– B.K.S. Iyengar