“Fire and Ice” my friend said to me when we were discussing our theme for celebrating Imbolc last week, an old Celtic holiday to honor the “in the belly” phase of the seasons. Right now in the cycle of the seasons, we will observe the first stirrings of spring, birds returning, little shoots perhaps popping out on a warm day, the light of the sun returns, but the big awareness is to acknowledge that there is a lot going on below the surface.
Yoga is all about there being more than meets the eye.
In our asana practice, we learn to understand how to engage, wrap, soften, press, and move our inner body in ways we have not experienced before, acknowledging a level of internal noticing and skill in our weak Western bodies. What happens is a release of hot and cold energy, or in Sanskrit what we call HATHA, Ha being the warming energy, and Tha being the cooling rhythm.
This month, as you recall from my last post, I was in desperate need of a month of self-love, so I set out to make sure that the asana practice that gets me into a nice balanced state with my body and mind, the Ashtanga Primary Series, played a big role into this months sankalpa. This morning I got up, set my dedication to exploring this Fire and Ice complex within me.
Immediately, when I stepped on my mat, it took me through a time warp.
I did this sadhana last year, at the same time for 30 days, and greeted a weak body, a broken heart, and unsettled emotional spirit that I had ever experienced. This year, I stood tall, strong, but a little fearful of what I might uncover left from that time in my life. So, I let it pour over me, but did not let it get in my way. My breath started right up, my mind clear and focused, and ready to harness my body into a familiar folding and movement pattern, while paying attention to what I could do better.
Hard work pays off.
My flow was well paced, strong, and confident, even at 6am in the morning. Last year I remember being so stiff, weak and tired when I would start and on edge that my baby girl would wake up or my son, and I would be called into the throws of early motherhood without getting my edge out of me. This time I was like, hey whatever happens, happens, at least I am getting this far!
Before I know it, I am through the 10 rounds of Surya Namaskara, and past the standing asanas where my old physical weakness plagued me last year and greeted my first keystone asana that I am excited to really work on: ardha baddha padmottanasana or Half Bound Lotus Pose. I have not been able to execute this asana on both sides ever, but since having children even doing my loose side has been a challenge. So I breathed and payed attention and know once I grow my lotus, I am on my way to way deeper asana practice.
You see, if I put too much fire into the pose, I will injure my already healing knee on the right side, if I put too much ice into it, I won’t get anywhere. So, in my life, where am I too hot? I am a fast thinker, always ready for anything, and sometimes I don’t stand still enough to really absorb what is coming at me, hence my word of the year, Patience. When I fall off my rocker, or am pushed in the wrong way, I get too much Ice, I want to be reserved, and cool as a cucumber to show you can’t get to me. I guess we would call that a fear of vulnerability.
So, I approach my newest asana challenge with an open heart for myself, and an excitement to explore. I am not worried about what comes after this pose in the series, I am excited to just be with it for awhile, because the reward of what comes after with bring me much growth. That for me is a big accomplishment in balancing out the fire and ice. But first, before the balance, we must explore what comes up for us.
10 Step Introspection Exercise
- Write out where you run too hot in your life- is it anger, quick tempered, overly needy or passionate, self-absorbed?
- Write out where you run too cold in your life- emotional numbness, withdrawn, unable to express yourself, hard to change or move on?
- Write out examples of situations where this seems to come up a lot. (Relationships, work, family functions, when you are alone…)
- Write what balances you out: Yoga, Massage, Writing, Working, Research, Meditation… (note some of these things might be your triggers too) Take a few days to do all of this, as you go through this, you will see you will have new stuff you want to address each day, so jot those ideas down.
- Once you feel you are clear on what you want to address, now you can do some exploring. You can do this by simply sitting in meditation, and start with fire and let your “stuff” rise up, or in my case I like to come into a heating asana practice to let it rise, like Surya Namaskara or asanas that make you feel fiery. I remember pigeon used to make me sooooooo heated, and uncomfortable until I started to learn how to release in a pose. After a little fire, then sit for your meditation and just noticed your thoughts.
- Do the same for Ice, either in the same practice or different days. All you are doing are practiced of introspection. You can actually invoke these elements, and simply use the element themselves, like take a cold shower, or sit close a hot fire or in a sauna and see what comes up when you try to manage these extremes.
- After some exploration, and you can take an hour for this or many days, it is up to you, go back to your writing and see what you noticed. Be with what you notice for a bit of time.
- Now that you have some good solid information on yourself, you are ready to assess and release. Write down 10 key words to what really is strongly too hot or cold in your life.
- At some point in the above, do the thing that balances you out, and you will notice some clarity will usually arise if you get stuck.
- Finish by closing with releasing statements like: I release the ice around my heart. I release the fire of my anger. I am ready to warm my heart. I am soothing my past…. continue to practice these statements every day until they are true in your life.
Try These Asanas for Full Body Balance: