Working with Fire energy this summer on and off my mat has produced big results. The one I am most excited about is that after working consistently on my book, a major section of it is complete. Today I want to share a small excerpt from the Fire chapter and specifically how this element can be used on the yoga mat.
Fire on the Yoga Mat
For the Elemental Yin Yang yogi, Fire practice is one of connection.Yoga after all means to “yoke” and recognizing your union with the entire universe you are part of is one simple yet profound spiritual mystery. On the mat, asana practice is the opportunity to remember that you are connected to the universe and other people both basic and profound ways.
In my Fire themed Yoga classes, for the last Yang posture (usually the most vigorous or challenging of the practice) I ask students to get into groups. In those groups the student must rely on their partners for support in the posture of the day.
At first it may be awkward.
Most people are used to practicing yoga in parallel with others but it is rare to step out of the boundary of your own mat, meet another student and search for a new insight on a posture together.
Suddenly you may be practicing a physically demanding pose while depending on a complete stranger to assist you. In a supported handstand you may come face to face with your own vulnerability or boundaries around trust.
For the Fire element, this intimate sharing of the practice can be a colossal challenge for a number of reasons. You may dislike having to break out of your own flow to get into a relationship with the person practicing beside you. You may have an aversion to the possibility of having someone else touch you or offer constructive criticism on your practice. These are fair feelings to have and should be investigated.
However, you might also find that working with another student is a breath of fresh air. They see something you didn’t notice or encourage you not to believe that you “can’t” do a pose before you give it a try.
These moments specifically in class are what I live for as a teacher.
Seeing someone believe they aren’t strong enough or “good” enough to attempt a pose and have a group of peers inspire them to playfully give it a try, promising them support and an enthusiastic cheering section is a beautiful thing.
Whether the person “gets” the pose or not isn’t important.
The mutual love of yoga and the kindness and connection between yogis is the real heart of the moment.
At that apex of the class, the room bubbles over with laughter and very often, the same person who claimed a pose like handstand was impossible for them, has surprised themselves as they smile at their team happily hanging upside down.
This begs the question, if you can achieve the “impossible” on your mat by simply and playfully giving it a shot, what have you been shying away from in your life that may also be within your grasp?
For yogis the flip side of believing that you aren’t strong enough or experienced enough for a certain posture is pushing yourself in the name of asana glory. Since the Fire element deals in the realm of boundaries through the Pericardium or Emperor’s bodyguard, working with this element is especially important for A-type students who are driven not only on the mat, but in all aspects of life.
The Fire postures include a collection of “heart openers”. Typically backbends, these poses require not only supple shoulders, hips, thighs and a healthy spine, but also a tremendous amount of strength. If you push a backbend too far using brute strength to muscle your way beyond the flexibility you lack, it could result in serious injury. Likewise if you are hyper-mobile, without the stability needed to safely navigate a backbend you open yourself up to injury.
Healthy Fire energy in a yogi is exhibited by being open to deeper possibilities for themselves while still respecting that “openings” mental, physical and even spiritual may take time.
Unfortunately, many yoga practitioners become addicted to their practice and yearn for deeper, ever intensifying sensations of stretch or the glory of a more aesthetically beautiful practice.
In the yoga world the phenomenon of gymnasts and ex-dancers posing for beautiful pictures in advanced asana has driven many a well meaning yogi to believe that one must bend themselves into elaborate shapes (that have little value for the average body who only practices a few times a week if that) in order to be an accomplished yoga practitioner.
Working with Fire energy on the mat can allow you to stay connected not only with greater possibilities for yourself but to maintain healthy and mature boundaries concerning what is realistic for you during your practice on any given day.
In this place there is a pure joy as you train youself to be joyful as you continue to grow without pushing yourself out of safe borders.
Have you worked with these themes in your own practice? How do you determine what is a healthy boundary vs. a limiting belief about what is possible for you both on and off the mat? Share your thoughts on this short excerpt in the comments below.