During my yoga journey, I discovered 'Agni Yoga', or 'Fire Yoga'. But 'fire' here extends beyond physical warmth to a spiritual, transformative energy that resides within us. Agni Yoga combines practices that ignite this inner fire, steering personal growth and transformation.
Agni, a divine symbol in yoga and Hindu mythology, embodies transformative power and creative energy. It's more than heat; it's passion, discipline, purification, and illumination. Agni Yoga is a yoga practice focused on harnessing this divine fire. Through disciplined practice, we generate physical and metaphorical heat, purifying our body, mind, and spirit.
As I began to integrate Agni yoga into my practice, I noticed the shifts it brought. I want to share with you what I’ve found in my study and practice and let you decide where you want to explore further.
Tapas: The Fire of Discipline in Agni Yoga
In my first 200 hour yoga teacher training I was introduced to the Eight Limbs of Yoga and the concept of ‘Tapas’. Stemming from the Sanskrit word for 'to heat', Tapas is one of the Niyamas, or observances, in the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
Tapas, as I've experienced, is the deep-seated discipline that drives change through friction of the old story to the new story. As the practice begins, the most resistance to change occurs creating friction and friction creates heat.
Eventually as you maintain your discipline the new story or way of doing something changes. For me I found this in how yoga shaped my own physical body to better perform my asanas.
Tapas, for me, is the heart of Agni yoga. It's the internal heat that allows us to forge new patterns and habits from within, breaking down our resistances and propelling us towards growth.
The Heat of Transformation in Agni Yoga
There’s an amazing phenomenon in nature that I find relevant here. If you've ever seen a forest after a wildfire, you might be amazed at how life slowly but steadily begins to emerge again. Fire, as destructive as it might seem, also has the ability to cleanse and make way for new growth. This process is called fire ecology.
Imagine the action of striking a match (does anyone still use matches?). The friction, when the match is dragged across the rough surface, generates enough heat to ignite the flame. This is precisely what Tapas in Agni yoga symbolizes - the heat or 'fire' generated from the friction of actively participating in personal growth.
I embraced this friction, this heat. Was it comfortable? Not always. But just like the match, it was this very discomfort, this friction, that kindled the flame of transformation within me.
Every challenging pose, every moment of self-doubt, each instance of stepping out of my comfort zone – they all created friction. But instead of turning away, I chose to lean in. And each time I did, I could almost feel the heat purifying and shaping me to fit my new story.
This is why I named my cork yoga mat ‘Flux’. Flux means to flow but it also means a substance used to melt and fuse together. When you are properly heated like an ingot in a smelter, you become moldable. You can flow into any shape you wish.
The flux added to metals in this state promotes fusing of the metals to form a stronger and lasting bond. And the same applies to the Asivana Flux cork yoga mat and you.
Agni Generating Practices in Yoga
To truly immerse ourselves in the concept of Agni yoga, we must learn how to generate and sustain that transformative heat, the Agni, in our practice until we’ve had the opportunity to make the bond and lasting change.
Dynamic Yoga Sequences
Integrating more dynamic sequences into your yoga practice can generate significant heat. Think Sun Salutations, or any flow sequence that pairs movement with breath.
Bandhas, or energy locks, are another excellent way to stimulate Agni. For instance, the application of Uddiyana Bandha (upward flying lock) during my practice has often helped me stimulate internal heat and energy. Please note, it's crucial to learn and apply bandhas under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher.
Pranayama practices also play a significant role in generating Agni. Ujjayi (Victorious Breath) can help bring control and energy flow to the body. But there's one pranayama that I've found particularly effective in kindling Agni, and that is Kapalabhati, often referred to as the Breath of Fire.
Kapalabhati: Agni Yoga Shining Skull Pranayama
The literal translation of Kapalabhati is 'shining skull', indicating the cleansing and intoxicating effect this practice has on the mind and body.
The pranayama involves a series of rapid, forceful exhalations followed by passive inhalations. Each sharp exhale is like a gust of wind, fueling your internal fire. This breath work method is not only effective in generating internal heat but also works wonders in purifying the body and mind.
With that said, it's essential to approach Kapalabhati mindfully. Although it's a powerful practice, it might not be suitable for everyone. Especially if you're pregnant, have high blood pressure, or any heart conditions, it's advisable to avoid this practice or proceed only under expert guidance.
While I am a yoga teacher, I am not able to safely walk you through the practice of Kapalabhati online. Please find a teacher in the physical world if you have not been taught properly already.
Agnisara Kriya: Stoke Your Internal Fire
Agnisara Kriya, when broken down, means 'cleansing with the essence of fire'. This kriya stimulates the Manipura Chakra while using the full Uddiyana Bandha but there are stages to it.
It is best to practice this on an empty stomach, preferably in the morning. Begin by practicing deep, gentle exhalations full expelling all air in the lungs, then engage Uddiyana Bandha (press the belly button in, and up). When you need a breath, let it go and breathe comfortably.
Beginners might find Agnisara Kriya a bit challenging initially, but don't worry, that's perfectly normal. We all start somewhere, right? Begin with just a few rounds, take it slow, and gradually build up your practice.
There are many stages of Agnisara Kriya. Find a yoga teacher to help you go further in your practice.
Surya Mudra: Channeling the Sun's Energy
The term 'Surya' translates to 'sun', and sun symbolizes fire and heat. This specific mudra, when practiced consistently, is said to stimulate the fire element within your body, intensifying your Agni.
To do this, you can place the tip of your ring finger on the base of the thumb, then press the thumb onto your ring finger. This mudra is thought to stimulate the metabolism and body temperature.
I often hold Surya Mudra with various poses such as Natarajasana, Skandasana, and Utthita Parsvakonasana among others. Try it and see how it feels in your own asanas.
Agni Mantra: Infusing Agni Yoga with Sound
Om Maha Agni Yei Namaha
- Om - the primordial universal vibration
- Maha - great or big
- Agni - fire, or the deity of fire
- Yei - a call to
- Namaha - reverence, honor, bow
I often perform this mantra around my mala or whenever I work with fire either externally or internally.
Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation): Igniting Agni through Asanas
Surya Namaskara, more commonly known as the Sun Salutation. Popularized through Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. If you’ve been to a few yoga classes then I’m sure you’re familiar with at least a variation of this sequence.
A Sun Salutation is a beautiful, flowing sequence of ten yoga asanas (postures), that fires up your Agni and warm the body for the remainder of your yoga class. Each posture in the sequence harmonizes your body with your breath.
Now, here's how it usually goes:
- Start standing tall in Mountain Pose (Tadasana).
- With an inhale, reach up to the sky with Hands Overhead Pose (Urdhva Hastasana).
- Exhale as you fold forward into a Forward Fold (Uttanasana).
- Inhale, extending the spine into Half Bend Pose (Ardha Uttanasana).
- Exhale and step or float back into Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana).
- Inhale pressing forward and up into Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).
- Exhale back into Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Stay here for 1 or several breaths.
- Step or float forward at the bottom of your exhale and on an inhalelift into Half Bend Pose (Ardha Uttanasana).
- Exhale into Forward Fold (Uttanasana).
- Inhale back to Hands Overhead Pose (Urdhva Hastasana).
- Exhale, bringing your hands by your side in Mountain Pose (Tadasana).
Practicing Surya Namaskara every day is a great practice to generate heat in the body and strengthen. It is very common to do sun salutations at the beginning of an asana yoga class. While it’s a simple flow, there are numerous nuances to master.
Understanding the Manipura Chakra for Agni Yoga
What exactly is the Manipura Chakra? In Sanskrit, Manipura means "city of jewels," a fitting name for this radiant energy center. Sometimes referred to as the ‘yellow chakra’, it is situated around the navel in the solar plexus area, this is the third primary chakra according to the standard 7 chakra system. It's associated with the element of fire.
The Manipura Chakra is the powerhouse of our system, the fiery furnace if you will. It is said to govern our personal power, will, autonomy, metabolism, and self-esteem. You can feel it firing after an intense yoga flow or workout. It pulses with energy.
The Manipura Chakra is symbolized by a glowing yellow ten-petaled lotus, with a red downward-pointing triangle in its center. This red triangle, a symbol of fire, points downward signifying the transformative power of fire, turning matter into energy. The energy of the Manipura Chakra feeds and stokes this flame.
When your Manipura Chakra is balanced and active, it feels like you have a calm fire within, fueling your confidence, igniting your motivation, and powering your self-esteem. You're at your transformative best, able to turn challenges into opportunities and dreams into reality.
A Chance Meeting with The Fire Yogi
During my travels in India, I had the incredible opportunity to meet Rambhauswami, a man often known as "The Fire Yogi." Meeting him was a blessing.
I walked into his home as the sun was setting with a small group of my friends. Inside the entrance way we removed our shoes and cleaned our feet. Then we walked into his family's sanctuary, a small temple dedicated to Ganesh. His son performed a puja for us, blessing us before seeing The Fire Yogi.
We then crowded into the Fire Yogi’s room where he proceeded to share his wisdom with us. Focus on your heart. Perform pranayama, mantra, and prayer every day. Distilled simplicity for a healthy, joyous life.
Understanding Jatharagni: The Digestive Fire in Agni Yoga and Ayurveda
Agni, as you know, is a significant concept in our yoga practices. But, it's also integral to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine. Viewed as the cornerstone of good health. Agni represents the body's metabolic processes, primarily digestion and assimilation of nutrients. In Ayurveda, Agni refers to the 'digestive fire,' or Jatharagni.
Jatharagni is the Agni that is present in the stomach and plays a key role in the digestion of food. It's believed to convert the food we eat into energy that the body can use. You can think of it as your body's internal furnace that powers up your body, very much like the fuel that keeps a fire burning.
This might sound a bit abstract, but I like to visualize it as a real fire in my belly that helps break down the food and turn it into energy. It's helped me become more aware of how I fuel my body and how my food choices affect my energy levels and overall health.
In Ayurveda, maintaining a balanced Jatharagni is crucial. It's believed that an imbalance can lead to health problems, including digestive disorders. Understanding this concept helped me better appreciate the connection between what I eat, how I feel, and how I perform on my cork yoga mat.
Meeting Agni: The Fire Deity in Hindu Mythology
Okay, let's switch gears a bit here. We've talked about Agni yoga, the elements of Agni in Ayurveda, and in our body's energy systems. But let me introduce you to another dimension of Agni - the deity in Hindu mythology.
Agni, the god of fire, is one of the most ancient and respected deities in Hindu mythology. In ancient Vedic practice the elements were personified. This is to demonstrate the qualities of the elements themselves in an easier method to understand.
To understand who Agni is, meditate on what a living, personified fire would be. When you practice yoga and feel the heat and fire generating inside you, you are embodying Agni. In this way, you can understand this deity.
Agni is symbolic of transformation. As a deity of fire, Agni is all about change and transmutation - turning the raw into the cooked, the impure into the pure, and the gross into the subtle. That's something I resonate with deeply in my practice of Agni yoga, as it's all about transmuting our energy, our consciousness, our understanding of ourselves.
But Agni is not just about transformation. As the acceptor of sacrifices, he teaches us about giving, about letting go. When we 'offer' something to the fire, we're actually letting go of something - maybe a habit, a thought pattern, or a self-limiting belief.
An Introduction to the Agni Yoga Society
The Agni Yoga Society, founded by Nicholas Roerich and his wife Helena back in 1920, is a non-profit educational institution based in New York, NY. They are supported by the kind contributions and membership dues of people who feel aligned with their purpose.
The Agni Yoga Society carries the name of Agni Yoga, a philosophy that's much like a bridge between ancient Eastern beliefs and modern Western thought. It's a bridge that connects the spiritual and the scientific.
Unlike other forms of yoga that focus on physical discipline or meditation, Agni Yoga finds its practice in the pulse of daily life. It's the yoga of fiery energy, of consciousness, of responsible, directed thought. It's about understanding that we can play an active part in the evolution of our collective consciousness, one thought, one action at a time.
What resonates with me deeply is their affirmation of the center of the Heart being the link. It's about recognizing the interconnectedness of all beings, all worlds.
Helena Roerich beautifully summed up our role in this: "the greatest benefit that we can contribute consists in the broadening of consciousness, and the improvement and enrichment of our thinking, which, together with the purification of the heart, strengthens our emanations. And thus, raising our vibrations, we restore the health of all that surrounds us."
Integrating Agni Yoga into Western Yoga Practices
In my personal journey with yoga, I found that bringing the concept of Agni into my practice allowed me to deepen my understanding and connection to the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga.
I started viewing my practice as tending to an inner flame, which completely shifted my perspective. The asanas were no longer just physical exercises; they became a way to stoke my inner fire, to build strength and resilience.
Today I cherish Agni and allow it to naturally transform my life as I meld with any experience that comes my way.
The Flux Cork Yoga Mat: Your Catalyst for Harmonious Fusion
Now, I want to introduce you to something I personally cherish in my own Agni Yoga practice. A piece of gear that has transformed the way I experience my journey towards inner peace and unity. This is no ordinary yoga mat—it's Asivana's Flux Cork Yoga Mat.
Here's the thing about 'Flux': In metallurgy, flux is a substance that aids in the fusing of metals. It enables two seemingly distinct entities to meld and fuse together into a seamless whole. And this is precisely why our cork yoga mat has been named the 'Flux.'
Just like a skilled blacksmith uses flux to unite different metals, our Flux cork yoga mat acts as the catalyst that fuses together your body, mind, and breath. It's the surface upon which the magic of your Agni yoga practice unfolds.
This is not merely about doing yoga; it's about becoming yoga. It's about moving from being a collection of fragmented parts—thoughts, sensations, emotions—to experiencing yourself as a seamlessly integrated whole. It's about the flow, the flux, the fiery dance of life energy coursing through you.
Harness the power of the flux. Experience how the practice of Agni yoga on the Flux cork yoga mat helps to fuse your body, mind, and breathe together into a seamless flow.