The Fire Element: Enlighten Up!

woman doing yoga, meditating and relaxing in Padmasana Lotus Pose) with chin mudra outdoors

Fire is the element that governs transformation. It affects metabolism and the flow of energy supporting our ability to rest, work or play. It also sparks changes in how we think about and express our authenticity. We embody these ideas in common phrases like:

  • I’m fired-up.
  • Don’t burn yourself out.
  • She has a fire in her belly.
  • We need to light a fire under him.
  • There’s fire in their eyes.
  • She’s no ball of fire.

​My last post explored the element of water and how to stay afloat with all that life brings. In this post, we’ll explore the element of fire and how we can use it to enlighten up.

The Fire Element: Physical, Energetic and Psychological Levels

Four elements isolated on black.This article focuses on the fire element.

Fire has three forms, physical, energetic, and psychological.

Physically, fire is the process of liberating energy from its source. Think solar, hydroelectric, nuclear, fossil fuel or bio-diesel. Fire has the power to transform solids into liquids, liquids into gas, and back again. The same process generates energy in the body just as the sun generates energy for life on Earth.

Energetically, fire is hot, subtle, dry, light, intense, sharp, and direct. It’s important for us to balance these qualities by reducing the fire element when it burns too fast and hot. We do this by building it up when we lack purpose, discipline, and courage and by keeping it in balance as often as possible.

For example, when I was younger my fire element burned brightly for eight hours a day. I’d be on the move, no stopping and no rest needed. Now that I’m older it burns for four hours in the morning and four hours from late afternoon until bedtime. It’s still an eight-hour stretch but there is an undeniable need for quiet time or a nap in between. When I ignore this, it’s harder to keep my fire element in balance.

Psychologically, fire governs how we embody and express our personal power. It symbolizes our ability to be self-actualizing. It represents the discipline, effort, and willpower we apply toward our life goals.

Working with the fire element starts with sensing when and why there may be too much or too little. This is followed by a conscious decision to shift or balance it. To help with your process, try the following practices.

When the Fire Element is Too Hot

An excess of fire may manifest when you feel nervous and anxious or when you experience poor digestion or difficulty sleeping. You may find yourself working overtime with a burning need for perfection, and competition, which can result in feelings of irritation, frustration, and anger. You may find yourself being aggressive instead of assertive. To slow the burn, think “cool, calm and relax.’ Here’s a helpful technique to use when you sense an excess in your fire element.

How to Practice Two-to-One Breathing

Beautiful older woman in white clothing sitting in yoga meditation position with candles against neutral wall background

This practice slows the breath, lengthens the exhalation, calms the nervous system, and induces relaxation. It can be done anytime, anywhere.

  1. Bring yourself to a comfortable seated position.
  2. Notice how long it takes you to inhale (1, 2, 3, 4 counts or more).
  3. Over several breath cycles, consciously allow your exhalation to grow up to twice as long as your inhalation (2, 4, 6, 8, counts or more).
  4. Continue for two to three minutes or for as long as you are comfortable.

When Your Fire is Cooling

Deficiencies typically hit after an extended period of long to-do lists, lack of sleep, feeling sad, or overeating carbohydrates—you know, bread, pasta, and potato chips, the ultimate comfort foods. You may find yourself quietly fuming and repressing your reactions to situations you find difficult to navigate. It may be hard to find your voice and express yourself assertively and confidently. To light your fire, think, “move, stimulate, and energize.”  Here’s a helpful technique to use when you sense a deficiency in your fire element.

Shaking Horse

Yoga Practice Exercise Class in mountain Pose as prep for Shaking Horse Pose.

This practice is typically done standing but can be easily done seated in a chair. Shaking Horse will energize your body, increase oxygen levels in the bloodstream, stimulate your nervous system and help with mental focus.

How to Practice Shaking Horse

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees slightly and begin to shake your legs.
  3. Move the vibration up into your torso.
  4. Next shake your wrists and move the shaking up your arms to your shoulders.
  5. Invite your head to join the party if that feels comfortable.
  6. Feel free to raise your arms or bend forward or backward.
  7. Shake your body for three to five minutes (or more) a few times a day.
  8. When done, simply stand, or sit, quietly.
  9. Feel the effects of shaking your body and shifting your energy.

How to Balance The Fire Element

Group Of Mature Female Friends On Outdoor Yoga Retreat Walking Along Path Through Campsite

When the fire element is balanced, you are more likely to find yourself feeling calm, stable, and grounded. Your digestion improves and sleep comes more easily. You find appropriate ways to respond authentically to any situation. You feel more connected to the physical world, your family, friends, and support communities. Here’s a helpful technique to create more balance in your fire element.

How to Practice Gesture of the Mountain in Yoga

Hands in Hakini Mudra by Indian man isolated on white background. Hakini is god of the forehead chakra

This is called Hakini Mudra in the yoga tradition. You can think of mudras as a global positioning system (GPS) for your energy. They provide direction to help you tune into the specific goal you are working with.

  1. Hold your hands in front of your body.
  2. Touch the tips of fingers and thumbs on one hand to the tips of the fingers and thumbs on your other hand.
  3. Allow space between the palms as though you were holding a tennis ball.
  4. Relax your shoulders.
  5. Rest your hands on your lap.
  6. Breath normally. Hold Gesture of the Mountain for two to three minutes (or longer if you feel comfortable).

When we are able to balance the fire element, we become more effective at finding clarity, contentment, and resilience in a complicated world.

Reprinted with permission from Beth
Beth Gibbs, MA, C-IAYT, Writer and Yoga Therapist

Beth Gibbs, MA, is a faculty member at the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy. She holds a master’s degree in Yoga Therapy and Mind/Body Health from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She is the author of Soul Food, Life-Affirming Stories Served with Side Dishes and Just Desserts, Enlighten Up! Finding Clarity, Contentment, and Resilience in a Complicated World and Ogi Bogi, The Elephant Yogi, a therapeutic yoga book for children. Beth is an experienced workshop leader and public speaker. She blogs at

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