SpaceWind Fire Water – Earth

This is the third of a series of posts on the 5 elements of Ayurveda and yoga. My previous posts were on space element and  wind element.

Fire Element

The friction created by the movement of wind element gives rise to fire. The transformative nature of fire  liberates the potential power and energy of wind.

Fire element is the principle of transformation. Most obviously in the body, this manifests in the flame of digestion. Fire element expresses as hot, sharp, bright, upward-moving and spreading.

When we are expressing undistorted fire element, we have great capacity for affection and compassion.

Fire element originates in the potential for vision. The arising of fire moves us from the perceptible subtlety of sensation (wind element) to the birth of form. Stated more simply, we can see fire. Because of its relationship to vision, in the body fire element governs the eyes. Fire element also manages all of the transformations that happen in the body—from digestion of food to the conversion of ideas into understanding.

“Uncramped” Fire

When we are expressing undistorted fire element, we have great capacity for affection and compassion. We are naturally joyful, generous and enthusiastic. Fire brings us intelligence and an ability to “cut through” the surface appearance of things and the capacity to transform what we find to reach deeper understanding.

When fire is un-cramped, our hunger matches the amount of our exertion on a given day. Digestion and elimination are regular and easy. The skin has a healthy luster and warmth and the eyes are bright and clear.

“Cramped” Fire

Intensity and ambitiousness are rewarded in modern society. Fire element builds up under the pressure to achieve. The stress of trying to be the “best” fuels the intensity of excess fire. The hot and sharp quality of fire often expresses as anger, irritability and judgment. In addition, when wind element is in excess it can act like oxygen on flames and cause fire element to flare up even hotter.

When fire is in excess, our intensity may be overwhelming to others. The mind become too sharp and the ambition to out-do everyone around us may drive a ruthless expression of Titan Realm fixation. At other times, the heat and sharpness of fire element may fuel rage and an experience of struggling against a punishing world—the persecution complex of the Hell Realm. These strategies mask deep doubt of self-worth.

Surplus fire element leaves us feeling hot and bothered all the time. Red, burning skin rashes appear at the slightest provocation and there is an increase in sweat and urination and bowel movements become loose and frequent. Fever and bloodshot eyes are also common expressions of excess fire element.

When fire is depleted, we are cold, flat, depressed and unmotivated. The mind cannot digest new information. A lack of drive and enthusiasm leads to laziness and we withdrawal into ourselves like an animal retreating into its den: the dullness of Animal Realm.

Lack of sufficient fire slows digestion and leaves the skin cold, clammy and grayish. Food may pass through us without undergoing transformation. The eyes become dull or glassy and a thick coating may cover the tongue.

Some Remedies

For excess fire:

  • Under-achieving and true “team-work” (especially when there is no personal “reward”)
  • Slow yoga practice with long, deep holds; heart opening postures
  • Chandra Namaskara asana sequence (Moon Salutation)
  • Moon-bathing–spending time under the full moon
  • Simhasana—“Roaring Lion” pose: This is particularly good for physical heat symptoms. Sit in a kneeling posture with the knees spread. Place the palms of the hands on the floor between the knees with the fingers pointing back towards the body. Lean forward and inhale deelply. Stick the tongue out and exhale with a strong and steady “HAAAAA” sound, drawing in the belly as you exhale.

For deficient fire:

  • Exercise
  • Surya Namaskara asana sequence (Sun Salutation)
  • Ginger tea or ginger used in cooking
  • Most culinary herbs increase fire element (and therefore, agni)
  • Light, easily-digested food
  • Media-fasting—minimizing use of media entertainment such as movies, music, books, etc.