Fire is mesmerising. At some point or another all of us will have stared at a flame, watching the way it dances unpredictably and temporarily takes us beyond the realm of human experience. It hints towards greatness, almost as if it is bridge between limited human potential and infinite possibility. Dancers have imitated fire, painters have drawn it and singers have mused about it; most memorably, the orangutang King Louie in The Jungle Book; “What I desire/Is man’s red fire/To make my dreams come true” .
The fire on the altar in Jerusalem burned continuously, regardless of whether it was day or not, Sabbath or not, in states of purity or impurity*. The sacrificial fire had to be visible to everyone by being placed on the external altar and in some ways it reflected a heavenly fire that would come down to join the humans’ fire**. The very idea of sacrifice is about giving up something so that we can connect with greatness. This weekend is Shabbat HaGadol (literally ‘The Great Shabbat’), which is all about gearing up for the cleansing of Passover and preparing ourselves for spiritual and emotional freedom.
By choosing to give something up, which in Biblical times was represented by money or the favourite cow in your herd, we open ourselves up to infinite possibilities. We make space. On a more mundane level, if our garden is full of weeds then there ain’t much room for flowers to grow. All gardeners need to have a bonfire from time to time, although it’s best not done in the middle of a Sunday afternoon (which tends to be something of a well-rehearsed antisocial custom in the Home Counties of Great Britain).
Yoga is all about internal fires and sacrifice. Words such as tapas (heat) and agni (fire) appear throughout early yogic literature and when we hold a posture we burn away parts of our ego and aspects of our personality that limit us. I have seen people transformed by their yoga practice. Today’s Kosher Sutra is about strengthening this internal fire*** and unlocking our potential. Today’s pose was nearly going to be King Monkey pose (which is nearly ‘King-of-the-Swingers-asana/hanumanasana) but that's the full splits….so instead we’ll go for the seated firelog pose. There’s a pic attached and instructions below. Hold the pose for as long as you can, fan the internal flames and follow your passions to greatness. We didn’t start the fire, but we can keep it burning.
THE KOSHER SUTRAS © MARCUS J FREED/BIBLIYOGA 2010/5770
*Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma, 4:6 as quoted by Lubavitcher Rebbe in Likkutei Sichot, Vol 1pp217-219, trans. Lord J.Sacks in ‘Torah Studies’.
**”Although fire comes down from Heaven, it is a commandment also for man to bring fire”, Babylonian Talmud Yoma 21b.
***We’ve previously discussed how each part of the Temple, including the fires on the altar, correspond to the internal processes in our body.
FIRELOG POSE – HOW TO DO IT
Firelog pose is terrific for opening the hips and a brilliant – if not essential – preparation for Lotus.
i. Sit on the ground and bring your left shin parallel to the front of your yoga mat. Make sure it really is parallel rather than bent, because this will enable the deep hip opening that comes with Firelog pose.
ii. Place your right ankle on top of your left ankle, so that your shins are stacked on top of one another (like firelogs!).
iii. Inhale lifting your chest upwards and exhale leaning forwards. Imagine you are pushing back into your hips. You shouldn’t be feeling this in your knees at all as the fold is coming directly from your hips.
iv. Bring your right knee downwards so that it is sitting on top of your left ankle.
Variation: A helpful variation is to place your right foot on the ground to the left of your left knee. You can then lean towards your left so that you achieve the deep fold in your right hip.
Advanced: Inhale your hands above your head and exhale them forwards on to the ground in front of you. Work your fingers forward with every inhale.
Benefits: Increased flexibility in the hip flexors, soothing for sciatic pain, stretches the groin and brings a sense of peacefulness when held for a longer period.