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April 27, 2015
Agni is the fire of life. What happens within this movement of prana and apana? According to yoga we have a fire, agni, in the body, situated in the vicinity of the navel, between the prana-vayu and the apana-vayu. The flame itself is constantly changing direction: on inhalation the breath moves toward the belly, causing a draft that directs the flame downward like in a fireplace; during exhalation the draft moves the flame in the opposite direction, bringing with it the just-burned waste matter. It is not enough to burn the rubbish; we must also rid the body of it.
A breathing pattern where the exhalation is twice as long as the inhalation is aimed at providing more time during exhalation for freeing the body of its blockages. Everything we do to reduce the rubbish in the body is a step in the direction of releasing our blockages. With the next inhalation we bring the flame back to the apana. If all the previously burned waste has not left the body, the flame will lose some of its power.
Certain physical positions are beneficial for the meeting of fire and rubbish. In all inverted postures, the agni is directed toward the apana. This is the reason yoga attributes so much significance to the cleansing effects of inverted postures. Cleansing is intensified when we combine inverted postures with pranayama techniques.
All aspects of pranayama work together to rid the body of apana so that prana can find more room within. In the moment when waste is released, prana fills the space in the body where it really belongs. Prana has its own movement; it cannot be controlled. What we can do is create the conditions in which prana may enter the body and permeate it.
The beauty of prana is that through this, we can influence purusa, the essence of life. Yoga suggests that we can influence prana via our breath and mind. By working with these through pranayama, we create optimal conditions for the prana to flow freely within.
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