There is much talk of fire in most Yoga texts and teachings. Fire is one of the 5 elements, the others being Air, Water, Earth and Ether/Space. Fire is felt to transform matter from one state to another. Its sinuous flames remind us nearly of liquid, so despite its “hot” quality, it is also intimately associated with Water, Water being its equal and opposite.
The path of yoga is one of transformation. We learn new ways to move, think, breathe and be still, and thus we transform ourselves from one type of person into another. We are still ourselves, but we have changed, shed a skin or grown a new one. Thus, stoking the fire of transformation is of utmost importance.
In hatha yoga, we do this mainly through postures associated with the abdominal region. We also practise breathing techniques that emphasize the inhale and breath retention with lungs full. Other lineages may follow other methods, and these are all legitimate. You are always in control of your yoga practice, and are free to choose the branch of yoga that most satisfies your heart and soul.
This winter, I have learned to tend the hearth. I have never before lived in a house with a working fireplace, let alone relied upon it as my main heat source! But, I am open to change. I had call to be the sole firelighter for a period of nearly two weeks. I struggled mightily at first, sitting near it, blowing desperately on rapidly dwindling sticks and leaves and bits of paper. Once, I managed a roaring inferno on the first go, but most nights heard me cursing the whole rustic life and yearning to go back to the city and central heating.
But I persisted.
I discovered that the paper I use on my massage couch serves perfectly as a recycled firelighter. Light, and slightly oil-streaked, it takes immediately and burns hot. I learnt the value of the small bits of kindling that my partner lovingly chops, and how to tell if wood if green or dry. I am now a one-match woman. I can set and light a fire in about ten minutes, and tend it carefully for hours. I watch it and poke it and generally feel it to be a living presence in my home.
I think that our inner Fire is the same. It needs the right material to start it up, and the right material and rhythm to keep it burning brightly. We need to pay attention to it, feeding it more when it needs it, and leaving it to rest when it doesn´t. Cared for properly, our inner Fire helps us efficiently transform our food into healthy tissue and keeps us energetic and motivated.
Weak Fire leaves us sluggish, uninspired and waterlogged. We feel like we are walking in soaked through clothing. A Fire burning too brightly manifests in a flushed face, quick temper and impatience. Remember, a person may have imbalance of one Element in the physical body, while having a completely different Elemental layout in the realm of the Mind.
So, tend your Fire, dear souls.