The author in the woods outside Missoula, MT
I’ve always wondered how ascetics stay warm.
And it’s a practice. In Robert Beer’s The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, he writes of the “yogic practice of ‘inner heat’, a breath retention technique known as ‘vase breathing’ which compresses air and distends the abdomen into a vase-like form:
“This fans the inner fire at the navel centre, causing it to ignite and blaze upwards through the central channel like a twisting needle of fire and to melt the white bodhichitta at the crown, causing great bliss to arise in the blazing and melting” (145).
But does this work in real life?
It’s springtime in Missoula and in the springtime here, the weather fluctuates from blizzarding to baking in the split second that it takes a horse to break into a gallop. This can be problematic if you’re planning on doing a yoga photo shoot outside.
But I wasn’t cold at all. In fact, I was almost sweating. The baby ponderosas were shivering and dusted with snow, but I was mostly warm. The truth is that you have heat burning inside you…you just forget about it.
It is crucial to analyze the symbolism and physical attributes of the meditative seated position…padmasana. In the seated Buddha form (or yours…because we are all Buddha-ful!), take note of the upward direction of the crown as an aperture into the god realm, the reservation of the throat, the focus of the heart, the emphasis on the navel center, rigidity of the spine and the foundational nature of the root.
There are sacred places in the body (24, to be exact).
There is an extensive body of knowledge as to the association of the body with the wheel. In the body, there are 72,000 nadis, or channels, which “emanate like petals or the spokes of a wheel” and “alternately arch towards each other along the central channel” (Beer 144). The blood running through you, powered by your heart, is scientifically proven to carry warmth.
Even holding a pose in complete stillness generates warmth.
And maintaining all of these channels, this posture, this structure…it all takes energy. And energy keeps you warm. Yesterday, I didn’t have a mat to root myself on. I had dirt, pine needles, boulders, water, trees, roots. Sunshine. And I was warm.
Grasping onto these things…trying to balance on soft, uneven tufts of grass. Gazing upward at the sun. Finding the light. Plants do this every day, and they live. They thrive. Feeling my own blood coursing through my veins kept me warm.
The original Sanskrit meaning of asana relates to animals, flora, and objects that the poses reflect. And there are over eight million of them—formally. Some are meant to be cooling and feminine and some are meant to be warming and masculine.
But really, any of them would warm you up…especially outside in Montana springtime.
The point of all this is to instill in you the fact that you carry a fire inside you. Your spirit…it’s a blazing furnace! You are powerful, you are sexy, you are happy, you are beautiful you are kind! You can be anything you want to be if you take the proper channels and paths (nadis, koras). And in the face of violent acts in the world, it’s important to remember that you can control only the things that you choose to do:
”The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.” ~ Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
Keep the fire inside you. Find growth and warmth where things may seem cold and dead. Cultivate an understanding of your own mind, body, and soul. Burn hot. Grow and love yourself, another—and everything around you.
I love you too.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise