Agni and Samana Vayu – The Path to Balance
Agni, or the fire element, is the energy of transformation and assimilation in body, mind and spirit. It is the energy in the body that digests our food and breaks it down into nutrients to be dispersed throughout the body, the energy of the mind that allows us to transform sensory stimuli into information about our world and the energy of the spirit that inspire us transform the mundane into the extraordinary.
Samana vayu is the movement of energy inwards the core of the body around the space of the navel. It is uniquely harmonizing and balancing for body, mind and emotions. It creates our self-confidence, motivation and our ability to move forward in life. It helps to keep our thoughts and emotions in balance so we might make decisions from a clear and stable mindset. It even helps keep our digestion even and happy!
Lack of motivation is the primary experience of depleted agni and samana vayu. We all experience this from time to time depending on the season or particular life situations. Luckily we have fire practices that get our energy flowing again so we can light up our inner radiance and balance our lives. Try experimenting with one of these techniques regularly over the course of a week and see how the quality of your experience (mental – physical – emotional) transforms and ignites!
Asana: Any yoga asana that cultivates sensation in your core will stimulate both agni and samana vayu. Standing twists are a particularly wonderful way to provide challenge as well as invigorate us through the stimulation of these two energies. From standing lunge, bring the opposite hand as front foot to the ground/block or bring your elbow across to the thigh. The opposite hand moves up into the space above you creating a twisting sensation in your abdomen and upper body. Stay for 5-8 breaths and bring the navel into the center of your body with each exhale and into your chest with each inhale. Exit the pose to stand and observe.
Pranayama: Kappalabhati or skull shinning breath consists of short but powerful exhales followed by passive inhales through the nose. The exhales are generated by powerful contractions of the lower abdomen which push the air out of the lungs and allows air to be pulled passively back in. Sit upright and place one hand on your abdomen. Take a deep breath in and exhale about ¾ of the air out then begin to quickly contract your lower abdomen to push the air out the nose like you are blowing out a candle flame. Allow the contraction to release and air to follow in easily. Go slow at first until you feel confident. Repeat 15-30 rounds and observe the effect.
Mudra: Surya mudra, or the sun mudra, helps to increase the fire element in our body. Sit comfortably and bring the thumb to rest on the last knuckle of the ring finger with the rest of the fingers extended. As you rest with eyes closed, cultivate a deep sense of vitality and radiance as well as a deep sense of harmony. Practice for 2-5 minutes then sit quietly and observe.
Bhavana: The quality of agni and samana vayu is one of balanced power and self-will. It is the space of equanimity – calmness in the face of challenge. Life is a challenge and our yoga practice should prepare us to deal with these challenges in a graceful and balanced way. Whether you are practicing asana, pranayama, mudra or even meditation and you perceive a challenge instead of shying away see if you might approach it from a place of skillful attention. Connect to the core of your body and your self confidence and move steadily toward the resolution of the challenge. Be with the challenge, let it ignite the fire of transformation inside you and learn from every experience.