As the Summer Solstice approaches – the 1st official day of the warmest season of the year – the fire element once again predominates. Temperatures rise, days become longer, and the sun even appears brighter.
The inner fire is stoked as well. In yoga, this fire is often referred to by the Sanskrit word Agni. This is our fire within, responsible for transformation. In the physical body, it can manifest as our digestive powers, metabolism, or temperature. It is also sometimes referred to as Tejas – the subtle essence of fire that not only permeates the body, but radiates in clarity of thought and the light of consciousness. Tejas is like the “fire” that can be seen in the radiance of someone’s eyes.
Celebrate this radiance and fire returning in strength to nature and ourselves. Feel it in your increased energy (before the fire gets too hot in July and August), strong digestion (hence, why Summertime is the best time of year for eating fresh salads, fruits, and lightly cooked or even raw veggies), and clarity and focus in the mind. Early summer is a good time to complete projects, before the increasing heat of the summer burns up this extra energy.
In nature, the radiance and intensity of Agni is revving up. Many flowers bloom in the month of June, an outward expression of this inner vibrance. Bees are busy, babies of all animals are active and stretching their legs and wings. Everything is in full activity and vitality while the sun is shining and the temperature is just right. We can get out and enjoy these natural energies alive around us now while the weather is still mild and pleasant.
Yoga for summer
Until the heat increases, these last weeks of Spring are great for full exploration of your yoga practice. Play, challenge yourself, go for it! Then, when temperatures rise for the remainder of the summer, we need to respect the powers of Agni, that inner and outer fire, and start to cool off in our intensity. Adding fire to fire just leads to burn out and burn up, so stay cool and calm in body and mind. Exercise is best restrained to the cooler times of early morning and evening, and backing off before creating a lot of sweat goes a long way to sustaining your energy through the day and the summer. Moderation keeps fire in balance.
Becoming familiar with cooling yogic breath techniques, like Sitali Pranayama, can make a difference on those upcoming hot summer afternoons. Forward bends (especially with wide legs), light-hearted flows, supported backbends (on your back with blankets or bolsters underneath to open the chest and belly), and restoratives are great ways to enjoy your yoga practice without overheating.
Burning just right
Mentally, it’s a great time to pursue creative and artistic endeavors, where that inner fire of transformation can express itself through new media, color, and form. Be careful of anger, impatience, and tendencies to argue, as the increasing energy of fire can make thoughts and words more sharp and burning. Staying cool and calm, at any time, but especially at this hot time of the year, with keep the mental flames of Tejas burning just right.
Agni, the element of fire, is a powerful energy. Respect its power as it begins to burn brightly these coming months, like the brilliance of the sun. And see its joyful light come through in nature’s full celebration!
Copyright © 2004, 2008 by Constance L. Habash