It's a new month & that can only mean one thing; A new theme, a new focus & a renewed sense of self as we move through the Elements in the month of March.
The 1st of March is often said to be the first day of Spring. Looking out my window I see liquid sunshine falling from the clouds as opposed to feeling the warmth of the suns rays on my face but rain is good because it nourishes the Earth & encourages new life to blossom.
This month, in honour of Spring, we're drawing our attention to the 5 Elements; Fire, Water, Earth, Air & Spirit, sometimes referred to as Ether. Or in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the fifth element is Metal. We begin this week with Fire, often considered to be the most powerful element; Nothing can exist before the most brilliant of flames.
Fire is the symbol of both the beginning & the end. It is a light source. It is our soul. Being native to nature it is indeed extremely powerful & transformative. As humans we are able to harness its power & even produce it ourselves. Being prevalent in many "Pagan" traditions, fire symbolises truth, knowledge, wisdom, purity & divinity. In Hindu it is called Agni. Agni is one of the first mentioned Gods in the Vedic text; son of Brahma, Agni constitutes one of the original trinity alongside Indra (ruler of heavens) & Surya (ruler of the skies). The Celts too, had many words for fire depending on which tribe you refer to. In Welsh, for example, we call it Tân. Emphasis on the "A" almost like "aaahhhhhh". In Celtic tradition, Belenus was the God of fire, and Beltane; a great fire festival held at the beginning of May, was in his honour with many bonfires lit for purification & in celebration of the mid-way point between Spring & Summer.
In modern Abrahamic religions fire is often depicted as a destructive & evil force. We've probably all heard the saying "The fiery depths of hell", and indeed fire does hold a destructive power. We only have to think back to 2020 when Australia experienced some of the worst forest fires in their history.
Inside of us we hold a fiery energy. As we move up through the Earthy & primal energy of Muladhara Chakra, through the watery flow of Svadisthana Chakra, we find ourselves warmed & energised by the fiery Manipura chakra; our "City of jewels" at our Solar Plexus.
But how can we apply this energy to our asana (physical) Yoga practice?
Well in a Restorative or slow Vinyasa practice we might think about building heat in our body with our breath before moving through a slow & considered practice where our energy & focus is centred on Mnaipura chakra. Perhaps even calling on Uddiyana Bandha for some specific & gentle core strengthening shapes, stoking the fire before it begins to rage & instead becomes more of a smouldering heat that we can control within us through application of Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (focused concentration), & Dhyana (meditative absorption).
By stark contrast an energising, early morning or power asana practice may involve lighting the fire in our belly with Kappalabhati breath (I always feel so much warmth in my body when I practice Kappalabhati breath or Surya Bhedana, and it never ceases to amaze me). The flames will start to burn brightly with some core strengthening shapes (my favourite!) & maybe even some twists to stoke the digestive fire some more; applying Uddiyana Bandha to enhance the feeling of strength within.
I've been playing with shapes like Bakasana (crow) & Parsva Bakasana (side crow), which not only require a good amount of core strength & stability; so lots of focus on Uddiyana Bandha! But they also require a strong foundation to begin with, since both are an arm balance it's important to ensure the hands form that strong foundation through even distribution of the weight so we feel strong in these shapes & can move into them from a place of knowledge, confidence & empowerment as opposed to forcing ourselves into a shape from a place of ego because "It looks cool".
This week's practices are all focused on setting up a strong foundation for Bakasana & Parsva Bakasana as we feed the fire in our bellies so if you want to move through the elements with me this month & can't make it to an in-person practice, then fear not! My weekly flows will be recorded & uploaded every week for you to practice in your own sweet time & our Fire flow will be winging its way to your inbox next Tuesday so keep an eye out!
In the meantime why not give this 10 minute Courage to Core Power flow a try...
Alternatively, give this 10 minute Power Vinyasa a try focused on the core with 3 of my favourite shapes...