Agni is the Hindu god of fire, he who accepted sacrifices and is mentioned in the Rig Veda. We also have a manifestation of this transformative power within our bodies, the fire of our digestion that transforms the food we eat into nourishment. At times this agni burns very brightly and we are able to assimilate both food and experiences completely. However at other times our fire begins to go out and we are sluggish, fatigued and even constipated, and are not able to use this natural power of fire well within our bodies and minds. This week's practice will work on activating agni at the solar plexus with mudra, breath and movement.
Abdominal Activating Forward Bends
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Clasp hands behind the back or hold opposite forearms if clasping the hands is difficult. Inhale and sit up tall, extending through the spine, exhale and lean turn to the right, leaning over the right thigh. Inhale return to center with an extended spine, exhale and lean forward between the legs to the center. Inhale sit up with an extended spine, exhale and turn to the left, leaning over the left thigh. Repeat 5 times with the breath.
Benefits: Puts pressure on the abdomen in the direction of the intestinal peristalsis to assist in digestion and assimilation.
Begin sitting cross legged and inhale to draw the arms overhead. Exhale and first twist to the right bringing the left hand to the right knee, the right hand on the floor behind you. Inhale return to the center with the arms overhead. Exhale and twist to the left (shown) bringing the right hand to the left knee, the left hand on the floor behind you. Repeat with the breath 5 times.
Therapeutics: Gently opens the ribs, massages the organs and muscles along the spine, builds agni.
Curl tip of the ring finger into the base of the thumb and press thumb on top, extend index, middle and little fingers; rest back of hands on thighs.
Benefit: Activates energy at the solar plexus, stimulates metabolism, lengthens breath
Practice Tips: Use when feeling a lack of energy
Contraindications: High blood pressure
Bhastrika (Bellows Breath)
Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Begin by watching your natural breath pattern for a few moments. Then begin to forcefully push breath out the nose quickly and inhale quickly through the nose. Repeat for up to 10 rounds at a time, monitoring the affects.
Benefits: This breath activates agni, the digestive fire. It also assists with clearing nasal congestion and iincreases energy
Balasana to Bhujangasana (Child's Pose to Cobra Pose)
Begin in Balasana with the arms overhead on the floor. Inhale keep hands where they are and move torso through arms to come into a backbend with pelvis pressing towards floor. Exhale return to Balasana.
Repeat 5-10 times with the breath.
Benefits: Alternately stretches and strengthens front and back of body to build agni.
Balasana to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Child's Pose to Downward Facing Dog)
Begin in Balasana with the arms overhead on the floor. Inhale and rock up to an all fours position with the toes turned under. Exhale and life the knees as you press the hips back into Adho Mukha Svanasana. Inhale and lightly land on the knees in the all fours position. Exhale press hips back over heels in Balasana. Repeat 5 times with the breath.
Benefits: Alternately compresses and expands the front of the abdomen to build agni.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose or Queen's Pose)
Sit in front of two long-fold blankets or a bolster parallel to mat. Place soles of feet together and let knees move apart resting on blocks or bolster. Place looped strap around back of pelvis between thighs and over outside edge of feet to help lengthen low back. Lie back over bolster and place blanket under head. Rest 5-15 minutes, then release
Therapeutics: Relaxes floor of pelvis, opens belly and chest, creates a sense of safety and calm
Flapping Fish Pose
Lay on belly with hands under forehead and elbows out to the sides. Draw right knee up and lean upper torso toward the right so that the elbow and knee come close together.
Hold for up to 3 minutes per side
Benefits: Activates intestinal peristalsis.
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.