Fire has been an important symbol for humanity throughout history. In ancient India, however, the symbol of Prema Agni is translated from Sanskrit texts to mean ?Fire of Divine Love.? Just as fire has had many meanings for us ? warmth, destruction, food, nourishment, light, absolution, the symbol of Prema Agni represents many things. Within it you can observe many other sacred symbols ? the Crucifix, the Holy Trinity and fire, the Egyptian Ankh and the Sanskrit symbol of Om. Within the triangles of the symbol are nine zigzagging lines that represent Kundalini rising and Krishna?s lightning bolt (the spark that lights the Divine Fire). Fire can be used for so many glorious things, and without the fire of the sun, life on our planet would cease to exist. With yoga practice, we are often looking to find and connect to this ?Divine Fire,? but as most master yogis will tell you, it does not lie outside of you, but within. Sometimes life can seem as if it aims to put out the tiniest spark we still have left inside of us, but with concentration and the freedom which accompanies spiritual evolution that tiny spark can smolder into an intensely burning blaze. Agnistambhasana is a yoga asana named primarily after fire, and with its practice we can come to know the light of an egoless mind.
Benefits of Agnistambhasana
Agnistambhasana comes from the Sanskrit words, ?agni? meaning ?fire,? ?stambha,? meaning statue, and ?asana,? meaning pose. Thus we arrive at Statue of Fire Pose when translated to English. This is often interpreted however, as the Fire Log Pose, due to the position of the legs. You may often also see it referred to as Knee to Ankle Pose. One ankle rests upon the knee and vise versa so that the shins resemble logs stacked in a fire. The posture?s main focus is a deep opening in the outer hips. There are additional benefits though that include a strengthening of the legs and hips, a massage and vivification of the abdominal organs including the large intestine, kidneys, pancreas and liver, a gentle stretch of the buttocks and groin, relief of lower back pain, relief of anxiety and tension, and a calming of the mind. the pose also encourages introspection once the practitioner is able to fold forward over the knees. The asana greatly opens the second Chakra, Swadhistana, which is associated to our sexual and creative energy, and its proper expression. This chakra is often referred to as the ?dwelling pace of the self.? It governs the reproductive organs, all the liquids of the body including the blood, urine, menstruation and even our tears. It controls the health of the hips, sacrum, lower back, and kidneys. Consistent practice of this asana will allow much more advanced hip openers to be more obtainable in a student?s future practice.
How to Perform Agnistambhasana
To practice this asana begin in a seated position with a tall spine. Allow both legs to start in front of you as if in Staff Pose, (Dandasana). Bend the left foot and weave it underneath the right knee. The shin of the left foot should be parallel to the edge of your yoga mat. Try to keep both sitting bones resting equally on the mat. If you want an even more intense version of the asana, place the left ankle instead of the foot on top of the right knee. Take a deep breath and elongate the spine from the root to the crown. Take several breaths to allow the hips to start to open. Most beginners will experience the top knee floating in space if the hips are extremely tight. If you want to go a little further into the pose, then gently press the top knee down towards the lower ankle until the shins do indeed ?stack?. Again, make sure that both sitting bones stay anchored to the mat. If you have even more space to move within the hips, and your spine feels long and open here, then slowly bow over the shins, taking either the forearms to the floor or the forehead can come to the floor, but down round the spine on the way down, keep the spine long and bend from the hips. Reach the tailbone back and use the hands to prop the torso up so that the spine can stay long on the fold forward. Throughout the practice of this asana, the breath is vital to allow a deep opening in the hips. Be sure to make the breath deep and even, but not forced or with intense effort.
When releasing the asana, if you are folded over, make sure to release slowly, and rise on an inhale. Extend both legs out in front of you in your seated position to release the outer hips and then get ready to do the same practice on the other side, bending the legs with the opposite leg on top.
It is advisable to not force the body if you experience more tightness in one side than the other. We are not as balanced in our bodies as we would like to think ? so be mindful of this difference and do not go too far too fast.
There are several asana which are appropriate to follow Agnistambhasana, including Reverse Plank, Table Top, or Cobbler?s Pose. Find asana that will stretch the groin muscles more completely and release the forward fold (i.e., back-bending asana) to balance the mind and body in your practice.
Contraindications for Agnistambhasana
Agnistambhasana is contraindicated for those with knee, hip or ankle pain or recent surgeries in this area. It is also not recommended for those with severe low back pain but can be beneficial as a preventative measure for back pain and healing if practiced mindfully if it is mild. It is also not recommended in its full form for those in late term pregnancy, but if practiced without the forward fold is very beneficial in preparing the hips for women soon to give birth.
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