Fire: Practice Lesson #2

In Chinese Medicine the element Fire is related to the Heart. If there is too much heat in the body it eventually spreads to the Heart and causes agitation, sleeplessness and mania. If there isn’t enough heat in the body everything slows down and the mind gets foggy from the build up fluids.

Fire is crucial. Think of it physically. Agni or digestive fire according to Ayuverdic medicine and yogic philosophy is the fire of life. It is the 3rd chakra and the seat of the will. How you manifest or take action in your life.

This is how fire seems relevant in the discussion of starting or improving a practice. Don’t start a practice without fire. It would be like starting a romance without a spark. Opposites attract because of a chemical combustion of two parts uniting. I’m married to a perfect extravert who loves the outdoors and speaks in a very loud voice.

Maybe just maybe, there needs to be a little seduction in the start of a practice. You may think I’ve just got sensuality on the brain, but stick with me.

Disclaimer: I’m going to use the metaphor of yoga practice because a lot of you are yogis, but you all are smart enough to take this into your own life if you are non-yogis.

We are busy people. You have all had the moment at the end of a busy week when even the prospect of hanging out with friends sounds daunting. Or even the time it takes to cook your favorite meal isn’t worth it so you end up eating cereal for dinner. We’ve all been there. But what is it about the things that do keep us coming back, the friends we actually get excited about seeing, the meal that is quick and easy to prepare in addition to tasty. What are the characteristics of the things in our life we never actually dread doing?

There is another reason I want to talk about fire. One of the amazing things about the way I’ve been practicing on the mat lately is thinking about building fire. This time of year before the heat figures itself out inside the house, I walk arou  nd with a lot of layers and a lot of grumpiness. When I show up, really show up with all my layers on the mat and tell myself that I can take as long as I want and move as slowly as I need to in order to build heat it sounds like a lot more fun than holding plank for a minute and then doing 20 pushups and then going to do the dishes. If I start slowly and let the passion for the yoga and the internal heat build together an hour has gone by without my noticing.

There is a difference, thank heavens, between seduction and coercion. You are not tricking your body into a routine. You are not manipulating yourself into spending time on your health. You are instead enticing your body with things that feel good and sharpen the mind.

The 3rd chakra is related to fire and it is related to the muscles. When the muscles work in a way that builds fire the mind immediately goes clear. If you don’t believe me get on the ground and do 10 pushups.

The body is easy to convince, it loves to move and stretch. But the mind either wants to be productive or it wants to take a break. It can easily make a list of more important things to do. What if you could figure out a way for the brain to feel powerful, clear and certain? Wouldn’t that be worth a practice?

Thinking points for the week: What are your main passions right now and how are they related to your practice? What aspects of sensuality or pleasure could you bring to your practice to make it enjoyable, delicious and worth returning to day after day? How much fire is there in your life? What parts of your life need more fire?

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