As the third of the five elements, fire is the most subtle element that is actually visible. In its highest expression, it is not just heat but transformation. Integral to all success in life, heat provides a way for us to move through challenges, raise ourselves up, and effortlessly burn through what no longer serves us, leaving us light, clear, and more brilliant than we imagined possible.
Further, this practice offers you the opportunity to learn how to cultivate fire and to offer back what is no longer working in your life to your own internal digestive fire, so you might transform poison into nectar and blockages into freedom.
To initiate a fire-based practice, consider moving through 12 sun salutations of your liking to kindle your internal tapas (discipline) and agni (digestive fire). Then try the eight-move sequence below. Fire practices are best initiated during the early to midday hours of the day, so the fire within you can align with the fire and heat that is moving across the planet.
One-Arm Downward-Facing Dog (Eka Hasta Adho Mukha Svanasana)
After completing your sun salutations, find your way into downward-facing dog. Take five breaths and then raise one arm, spreading the fingers wide, palm facing the outside flesh of the hip, as if to radiate heat away from the shoulder through the fingers. Be sure to keep the integrity of the remaining points of contact to the floor, while hips and shoulders remain square. Take three breaths and then switch sides.
One-Leg Downward-Crouching Dog ( Eka Pada Adho Avalambhita Svanasana)
Return to your full downward-facing dog and exhale. Raise one leg to the sky on an inhale. Exhale as you bring your shoulders over your wrists and round your back into a crouching position as you draw your knee to the same-side armpit. Inhale and raise the leg to the sky again. Repeat three times and then switch sides. (Note: To increase your heat significantly, you can then do a revolved version of this same pose, bringing the knee across the belly to the opposite armpit for three cycles.)
Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
Release the body back to downward-facing dog and take three generous breaths. Shift forward on an inhale to full plank pose and then exhale as you rotate your torso to the right and take side plank, resting your right hand on your hip and sliding your right shoulder blade toward your midback. Inhale while in side plant and then exhale as you shift back through full plank. Take one full inhale, and exhale as you repeat side plank with breath on the left side.
Four-Limbed Staff (Chaturanga Dandasana)
Come back through full plank on an exhale, lowering yourself down on a continued exhale to four-limbed staff pose. Take three to five breaths here, finishing on an exhale.
Upward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Gently holding your breath, release your knees to the floor and then open the body to upward-facing dog on an inhale, expanding the heart, gliding the shoulder blades down the back as you raise up and out of your four points of contact: tops of two feet and palms of two hands. Take three breaths here. Return to downward-facing dog on the final exhale.
One-Legged Sage Pose (Eka Pada Koudinyasana)
Inhale as you raise your right leg to the sky. Exhale as you bring your shoulders over the wrists and slowly draw the right knee across the midline to the left armpit. Inhale to prepare, and then exhale as you bend the elbows as in four-limbed staff pose, shifting your weight forward, snugging your elbows to you sides, and resting your outer knee into the crook of your left armpit. Extend and lift your left leg on an inhale. Stay here for one to three breaths. Return to downward-facing dog and repeat this challenging pose on the other side. (Note: You may instead choose to repeated one-legged downward crouching dog or the revolved variation of that pose described in Step 2. Both will prepare you for one-legged sage pose in the future.)
One-Legged Plank Pose (Eka Pada Kumbhakasana)
Once again, return to downward-facing dog and shift again on an exhale to full plank pose. Lift one leg off the floor 6 inches above the other heel as you inhale. Take three complete breaths and repeat on the other side.
Simple Seated Pose With Fire Gesture (Sukhasana With Agni Mudra)
Shift your weight through your legs or around your base to simple seated pose and bring the palms of your hands together, with the heels of your hands, and soft flesh of the inner wrist resting on your belly, an inch above your navel. Exhale down the body completely to settle into the pose. Spread your fingers and flare your nostrils gently as you inhale, up the body and though your nose. Exhale down the body with the jaw falling open and the breath sounding “hhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaa.” Ha is one of the sound symbols that represents fire, transformation, movement, and complete satisfaction. This sounding is easeful and potent and is intended to balance the fire you have raised in the body. Do this 12 times to honor the 12 stations of the sun, the eternal fire that lives within.
Take a few moments to rest into the benefits you feel as a result of your practice before going into your day. Fire requires some time to assimilate into the body so that it can positively transform one’s body and mind.