In my yoga classes next week, we shall take a look at Enthusiasm (one of the six qualities you need to succeed in yoga). What does the word enthusiasm make you think of? For me, it conjures up the word Fire: People who are enthusiastic get all fired up. It all conjured up the idea of passion: You tend to enthuse about things you are passionate about.
Yoga teaches us that we have an engine room in our bodies, situated around the navel area, and in this engine room there’s a special kind of fire called Agni. The job of this fire is to burn all the rubbish that builds up in our system – impurities brought on by energy blockages, poor breathing habits and some things that are outside our control We call this rubbish Apana.
Our yoga practice can include physical postures and breathing techniques aimed specifically at burning the rubbish – sending Apana to Agni. Learning to extend the out-breath, until it is twice as long as the in-breath can help us, as can practicing inverted postures.
So this week I’ve chosen Downward Facing Dog as the peak posture, a) because it’s an inversion and b) because it’s beneficial to hold this pose and work on extending the out-breath at the same time.
Getting rid of your rubbish means that you can fill your system with Prana (the opposite of Apana), the energising life force that connects us all. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali likens this to a farmer irrigating his fields – if he has designed his irrigation channels well, he only needs to open the the dam at the top for the water to flow even to the furthest field. (Yoga Sutras 4,3). So if we unblock all our energy channels, we can send our breath to the farthest reaches of our system, infused with life-giving Prana.
(I am indebted to Mr T K V Desikachar for his book ‘The Heart of Yoga’ Developing a Personal Practice, Inner Traditions International, 1999,)