Moving to Charlotte has meant many things to me and to my practice. Definitely, it has meant that my yoga has changed yet again. When I was first diagnosed with CLL, and struggled to breathe, my yoga had to change. Over the years at varying intervals depending on what my body needed, my practice has gone through its iterractions. And as I have moved around the country, as well, my yoga has had to change due to the climate, types of studios around, and yes, my body's needs. Now is no different.
How and What We Practice Matters
Yoga in Charlotte is mostly hot yoga. The temperature in most yoga classes is about 102 degrees, and upon entering the room, the air is thick and the perspiration hits before one can even lay down their mat.
I don't mind a hot class but too much for someone like me who is a Vata- Pitta dosha, constitution can bring overwhelm. So I find that I practice at home mostly and grab a hot class once a week to push myself and breathe in community.
Everyone has a constitution to attend to. Try this quick Chopra Dosha Quiz to see what your routine can entail and how to work with the elements in your body.
The time of year is approaching when the sun shines longer. The fire increases, not only in the environment outside of the body but, inside the body, too. So, it is important to consider the element of fire during this time. This will set us up for the Spring Equinox and eventual Summer Solstice and its energy of new beginnings.
Our Relationship to Fire
Without fire there is no life. In many cultures, fire ritually consumes and alights wisdom within. it is used to smug, protect and heal. It can light the path or burn it down. We need fire, but in excess , it can cause us pain: aggression, agitation, or inflammation, among other firey emotions, depending on our default settings. And, if one element is imbalanced, it affects all of them.
I have always been pretty firey. My astrology is full of fire signs, and I have always been a go-getter. I am passionate about those things that matter to me. Knowing this about myself, I take care to find balance by grounding my energy, finding the right amount of air to keep the fire lit, water to contain it. and space to digest what is not needed. We must all deal with all five elements in order to balance the body-mind.
What do you know about the fire in your body?
The fire inside the body is just as important as the fire outside it. We can nurture the fire and provide it a container, or we can let it run rampant. We can digest our emotions or let them fester in imbalance and cause disease. We can focus our attention on what matters or be battered by the veil of distractions. We can let things go or hold on to them to be burned in stagnation. All of this is about our fire.
When we move the body, we create heat. When we create thought, this rubbing together of ideas, shows fire to be at the forefront. An image emerges from our relationship to fire. Our intellect is purified and sharpened as the fire in us is held with care. And yet, anything in excess, again, breeds excess. Too much of anything, even a good thing, is no longer good. Our body-mind will reveal this story of excess first through our excessive sweat, urination, and loose stools.
Knowing When and Where to Light the Flame
When it is time to purge and start anew, we need fire. Living in California with wildfires, this was a natural and yet heartbreaking occurrence to experience. However nature does not care that we have houses where once there were none. What it cares about is balance. When fire is not contained, it will rush through a neighborhood and leave remnants of what was. It is the same within the body.
We have to know when and where to light the flame for it to be most beneficial. Adding fire to an already arid, hot environment is not a good look. Just like adding spice to a spicy person's meal can ramp things up. And the same: eating or moving too fast can create friction, making metabolism and digestion problematic.
About a year ago, I was able to be a part of a sweat lodge experience. I had just finished reading a book called Native Healer by Medicine Grizzlybear Lake that inspired me to find a sweat lodge in the area. I approached my naturopathic, shaman doctor who directed me to a lodge happening the next weekend. He joined me. The healing and cleansing experience of the fire within the lodge was like no other place I have known. Nine rocks heated to their apex were brought in and honored one by one, the heat building awareness and spirit within the tent.
There were times during the experience when opening my mouth to sing with the group was too much, bringing pain to my teeth. Yet, knowing how to manage my breath and cool down my body-mind gave me confidence, and I was able to stay upright while some people in the lodge had to lay down under the pressure. Being able to release my internal valve allowed me to be observant to the purge in order to let go of some of the baggage I was carrying and to purify what was left. I not only sweat out toxins, but thought patterns and emerged cleaner.
After the event, speaking with a sister who attended, I saw a spider in her curly fro. I attempted to get him out, but he broke apart in my hands and became ash. Though we spoke about experiencing the blessing of the fire, its clarity and efficiency, the spider, who was at the tip of her curl trying to emerge from her tresses, did not have the same experience.
Balance the Heat in the Body
Since we can not always change the environment outside, yogis learn how to address and balance the internal flame. One of the things that makes yoga so unique is its ability to address the whole body-mind and spirit. Knowing what yoga practices to deploy in a hot situation makes all the difference. Here is one practice to calm, balance, and support your use of the heat in your body for creativity and more clear intellect and being.
Sitali/ sitkari breath (Calm)
Breathing through a curled tongue or hissing through the teeth
Reduces excess bile
Controls hunger and thirst
Relaxes the body and mind
Helps lower blood pressure
Benefits those fighting insomnia
"Sitkari and sitali pranayama are also recommended by practitioners of the traditional Indian medicine of Ayurveda as a treatment for a pitta dosha imbalance. The pitta dosha is the body bio-element that controls metabolism, energy production and digestion (yogapedia.com)
There are many other practices we can use when we find ourselves in hot situations. For example, moving purposefully and thinking of what makes us angry using a Kundalini practice called Fists of Anger can help us to purge. Or we can equalize our inhales and exhales and pump the belly using the Breath of Fire to move the heat up and find balance. We can also consider rest, and our food and cooling herbs to support us as well. We can use our fire when we acknowledge its power to rejuvenate and invigorate us. We can use our fire to get things done and then cool it down when it is time to take rest.
This season let's create the environment that our body needs. Let's learn how to open to creation, movement, metabolism, digestion, and then rest in equal measure . We need them all for a happy, healthy and free life. Join me this coming Sunday at Begin Within Yoga and Wellness in Blythewood, SC for two classes. Let's practice using the fire and then resting in all that is possible. RSVP below. I hope to see you there.
May the fire within and around you this season be all that it needs to be in all the moments that it is required, and may it help you to let go of what you do not need and redeem that which you do. You are a star!