On one hand, I like to dance. I like to dance hard. Like a wild African trance-healer. And on the other hand, I like to sit still. I meditate like a silent sturdy mountain and I feel like Shiva’s best student (or even better, his consort). On one hand, I like to laugh – loudly. I like to run through trees and make love. On the other hand, I know I need to lay down, rub my self in oil and get intimate with my deep belly breath.
Being a yogini means you can KNOW and to DISCERN when you need to be a wild African trance dancer. And when you need to sit in the silence of the present moment.
Most systems of organizing the universe – including Ayurveda, Tantra, and Traditional Chinese medicine – understand this dyad as the two polarity-forces permeating all of nature. The Tantrics referred to these forces as Agni and Soma. The Ayurvedically-inclined called this duo Brahmana and Langhana. The Chinese called it Yin and Yang. You can call it, as does my dear friend and mentor, Dr. Claudia Welch, Ginger and Fred.
You see, the words don’t matter. It’s the way in which we begin to see these two polarities in our own life that will bring insight. For the sake of ease (and because I like saying the word “nectar,”) let’s use Dr. David Frawley’s terms – agni (fire) and soma (nectar).
What is agni? Agni means fire. It is both living and conceptual, metaphorical and practical. Fire is transformational. It is the eater, the enjoyer, and is related to your Spirit as a transforming process. It is related to pitta dosha, purity, digestion, clarity of mind. On the hormonal level, it is related to our stress hormones, and our need for activation and stimulation.
How do I build agni? Through things like asana, cleansing techniques (diet), bhanda, tapas, tejas, certain pranayamas and meditations that bring more focus and silence.
What is soma? Soma means nectar. It is both living and conceptual, metaphorical and practical. Soma is related to earth and water. It is what is eaten and what is enjoyed. It is the body and the moon. It is related to the kapha dosha and to our core vital essences. It is the nectar and enjoyment of life’s experiences. It is the rasa, the lymph fluids, the immune system, our sexual fluids and the subtle electro-watery secretions of the nervous system from brain to root. It is the Divine Spirit linking all creatures in the “flow of bliss.” In the endocrine system, it is related to our sexual hormones.
How do I build soma? Dr. Frawley says, “When the mind is still and calm like a mountain lake, it will produce its own inner soma.” Inner soma is built through re-attuning to natural wisdom, meditation, mantra, and the descent of “grace” that comes through stillness and silence. Outer somas can be built through balanced sensory enjoyment, the flow of releasing stagnant emotion, through imbibing sacred plant essences (herbs and diet), smells (incense, oils and other aromatics), ritual, and restorative yoga.
Photos by Naomi Huober