Agni or fire is the third of the mahabhutas. Fire does not just give us warmth and light. It also transforms. Just think of what happens to the humble ingredients of flour, water, yeast, and salt when they are baked. When working with agni in our asana practice, using the Anusara principles of alignment, I have drawn on the intersection of pelvic loop and kidney loop (which together create the action of uddiyana bandha, using these principles as I understand them to activate and strengthen my core.
One of the niyamas of Patanjali’s eight-fold path is tapas, which means heat or austerity. We are exhorted to bring fire or fervor to our practice to experience bliss, to know true consciousness.
Fire without balance, without a sense of detachment or surrender, though, will burn us up. We must be careful how we work with agni as the element.
Note: Agni is also the name of the god of fire. Not only do we need to be careful how we draw on the fire element — this town’s culture places perhaps too much value on “fire in the belly,” but we should be wary of how we invoke the gods: India’s nuclear missile program is named “Agni.” Of that invocation of the gods and of fire, I am afraid.