Thursday, June 02, 2005

Wild Fire, Burning Desire

Fire is a powerful force in our lives.

It creates light. It gives us heat to cook our food and keep us warm. It burns off impurities. And it can destroy.

I feel like a message about fire today was "meant to be." I kept being confronted by it.

I learned late last night that an arsonist went into our church and set two fires, one of them right on the altar. This was very upsetting to me and my family. The headline on our local newspaper today asked, "What kind of person would set a church on fire?"

This morning I heard a news story on the radio about a thief who was siphoning gasoline from someone else's car last night. It was dark. He couldn't see. So he lit a match. He survived but with third degree burns to his face and mouth.

My wife told me this afternoon that Lydia, the 6-month old baby she's been baby sitting went home early today with her mom. She had a horrible diaper rash. Her bottom was on fire. Off to the doctor she went. (Happily, relief came later this afternoon.)

The Sanskrit word for fire is agni. I only know one yoga pose with the word agni in it: agnistambhasana.

It's a seated pose. In this pose your thighs are approximately parallel to one another. One shin is stacked directly on top of the other, like two fire logs in the fireplace. (By the way, don't forget to do the pose on both sides. After you've had one leg on top, switch and put the other one there.)

agnistambhasana, firelog pose Posted by Hello

It's appropriately named. Agnistambhasana means 'fire log pose' When you first do it, you feel fire on the sides of your buttocks. (If you're a person who has a taste for wasabi, jabanero, or horseradish, you can add a forward bend to this seated position. The fire really comes on with intensity.)

It's similar to the pain you feel on the side your buttock the first time you do eka pada rajakapotasana, the one-legged Lord of the Pigeons pose.

Linda Munro in eka pada rajakapotasana ( Posted by Hello

I use this pose in classes as a preparation for lotus pose, padmasana.

Many people come to yoga with a burning desire to sit in lotus pose for meditation. To them padmasana is the ultimate pose. In their zeal to get into lotus pose, they fail to give their hips enough time to open.

Specifically, you've got to learn to externally rotate your thigh bones in your hip sockets in order to do padmasana. If you don't, you end up torquing the knees.

I think it's a tough trade-off to make. "I can sit in lotus pose to meditate, but I can't walk because me knees are blown out." No thanks.

Learn to roll your thighs out and you can close the hinges of your knee joints the way they were meant to close, even while sitting in lotus pose. Agnistambhasana helps you get better at rolling your thighs out.

Make haste slowly, some wise person said. Progress. Walk before you run.

Prepare before you do lotus. Build a foundation in agnistambhasana, and other postures, before you move on to "the big one."

There's one other thing you might consider. Sit in any comfortable seated pose. If you're at your computer (LOL) just cross one leg over the other knee. While you're there, flex your feet instead of pointing your toes. (Technically, this is called ankle dorsiflexion.) When you flex your feet you can feel the your knees become more stable. If you had any aches in your knees, they diminish.

So when your doing lotus pose, or fire log pose, or any seated pose in which your knees are tender, flex your feet to add some protection against short- or long-term damage to the knee joints.

Don't just read about it. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

p.s., Speaking of knee a previous Daily Yoga Tip, I mentioned using SITA (shins in, thighs apart) to help a knee condition. The proper Anusara Yoga term is actually SITO (shins in, thighs out). Daily Yoga Tip reader John Friend graciously reminded me that just like it's good to use standard Sanskrit names for common yoga poses (rather than personal pet names), it's also good to use the standard terms of Anusara yoga, to avoid confusion and to make communication more efficient and precise.

p.p.s., You can communicate more efficiently and precisly with other yogis if you know the Sanskrit names of yoga poses. And that's not all, knowing the names of poses and why they're named that way, improves your practice of poses. For example, did you know that the Sanskrit name for shoulder stand is salamba sarvangasana? The Sanskrit name is interpreted "the supported whole body pose." Your pose instantly improves when you use your whole body, not just your shoulders! It's fun. And it's unforgettable. The next Experience Sanskrit workshop is June 25th at YogaSource in St. Louis. Sign up today at

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved, Mo Yoga LLC.


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