Emily Anjali O’Sheehan
What is it about a flickering candle flame, a blazing campfire, or a glowing hearth that is so entrancing? Why might we stand transfixed by a show of spinning fire-dancers, or gawk at an explosive array of fireworks? It could be the radiant, shape-shifting contours that captivate our senses with pattern and possibility. Maybe the flames are reminiscent of our own life cycles and their part in nature’s continuum. Or perhaps it’s the energy of combustion we find so inspiring- the fire’s transformation of solid matter into light, heat and motion. For whatever reason, flames are of universal appeal, and are certain to draw a crowd.
“one’s first experience of traditional yoga could very well spark a life-long passion.”
With this same elemental attraction, people of all shapes and sizes, ages and ethnicities are being drawn to the the age-old and ever-popular practice of yoga. ‘Yoga’ is to unite. Like moths to a flame, in all corners of the world, human beings are coming together to meditate, to breathe, to bend, and to cultivate a sense physical, mental and spiritual wellness. Be it in an upscale metropolitan yoga studio, in a rural community center, in a park or a neighbor’s backyard, one’s first experience of traditional yoga could very well spark a life-long passion.
“yoga reveals itself in a variety of shapes and expressions.”
Like the ephemeral outline of a crackling fire, yoga reveals itself in a variety of shapes and expressions. Yoga offers a practice for every individual, from the urban achiever to the mountain recluse, providing them each with a more profound understanding of the self. ‘Hatha’ yoga, or asana, refers to the physical postures which have evolved into a myriad of modern-day yogic routines. From the slow and passive Yin yoga to the active and determined Ashtanga, yoga spans the spectrum. A person who seeks to unleash dormant energy might practice Kundalini, while the musically inclined could practice Bhakti, a devotional form of yoga that uses mantra and melody to reach higher levels of consciousness. An intellectual might study Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a compilation of Sanskrit verses written some 1500 years ago that outlines the path towards self-realization. Pick and choose your own style of yoga. There is a pattern for every persona.
Just as fire transforms organic matter into boundless energy, yoga helps us to evolve into something more powerful than mere muscle, flesh and bones. Through the physical practice of asana, which in itself strengthens and purifies the body, one learns to endure the fleeting discomforts of everyday life. With practice, we learn patience, self-control, self-mastery and clarity of thought.
“Call it a place of truth, peace, light, love or universal awareness, it’s within each and every one of us,”
Akin to the powerful Hindu deity Shiva, the destroyer and the creator, yogis incinerate old, ingrained, negative thought-patterns, and ignite new flames of compassion, serenity, and luminous potential. Through meditation and breath, the yogi conditions him or herself to see things from a different perspective. Call it a place of truth, peace, light, love or universal awareness, it’s within each and every one of us, and yoga can unveil its mystery.
Should the parallels drawn here between fire and yoga seem like a stretch (pun intended), consider the Indian meditative technique of Tratak –candle gazing. Focus your vision on a burning candle flame, placed at eye-level and surrounded by darkness. Hold your gaze without blinking until tears cleanse the eyes, and repeat. As simple as that, you are practicing yoga: increasing mental alertness and stability, improving memory, focus, and concentration. It wouldn’t be too bold to surmise then, that each and every one of us who has stared into a fire, bewitched by the brilliance of its sparkling flames, is already a nascent yogi…
Inspired to stoke your own yogic flame? You are welcome to join ‘Kaohsiung Yogi’. Find us on Facebook, or join us Wednesday mornings, 10am at Kaohsiung’s Art Museum. Free yoga classes amongst fellow open-hearted beings…
Emily Anjali O’Sheehan is a Hatha, Chakra and Ashtanga teacher; Graduate of ‘Pyramid Yoga’, Koh Phagnan, Thailand (2008) and ‘Himalaya Valley Yoga’, Dharamshala, India (2011).