From the many parts that make up an engine, the carburetor ,where air and fuel are mixed together to create a volatile mixture, is most instructive to understanding how a fire can be manipulated. Anyone who has driven a car knows that the engine is controlled using the gas pedal. I am guessing that few people realize that the gas pedal does not control the flow of fuel – rather it controls the flow of air. A more proper name for it would be the air pedal.
The air pedal controls an opening through which air flows into the carburetor. Pressing down on the air pedal closes this opening – which affects air flow in two ways:
- The first, and obvious result, is that less air gets into the mixture. This creates a rich mixture that has more fuel in it – which will burn stronger & faster.
- The second, less obvious result, is that the air gets sucked in faster (the chamber into which it flows is a vacuum that wants to get filled). The speed of air flow causes more fuel to get sucked in to the chamber. This creates an even richer mixture.
In a similar fashion, air (Vatta) is the primary control mechanism of the fire inside the body – it is regulated through breath. Breathing is a unique action in the body – it is both autonomous and controlled. Breathing takes place all the time, including when we are not conscious of it (for example when we sleep). Yet if we choose to become conscious of it, we can, at almost any time, control our breath – the next time you inhale, stop for a few seconds and hold your breath – you have just manipulated your breathing.
The breath has four parts that can be consciously arranged into breathing patterns – formulas. Breathing formulas have an immediate & accumulative effect on the fire that burns within. Their effects may vary from one person to another – we all have unique engines, and each engine responds differently to changes in the flow of air. Breathing formulas can be used in asana practices (assuming that conscious breath & movement is a part of the practice) and they are a cornerstone of Pranayama practices.
Fuel (water) represents what we take it. An obvious aspect of fuel is nutrition – the food we eat provides it’s with physical qualities and resources for keeping the fire burning. A less obvious aspect is lifestyle: how you eat is as important as what you eat; how you digest is affected by how you feel; how you feel is affected by pretty much everything you encounter in life. You can change much in both the gross (food) and subtle (lifestyle) aspects of your life – and through them the fire that burns within.
A combination of on-the-mat practices (such as Asana & Pranayama) and off-the-mat practices (nutrition, lifestyle, relationships, etc.) come together to affect the inner workings of the physical body. Everything we take in is an inevitable mix of desired qualities and impurities.The dance of the three doshas offers us a perspective to the inner working of the body. Yoga & Ayurveda offer us tools for purging impurities (purification by fire) so that our true nature and potential can shine through.