Prana - Life force - Breath - Energy?
Prana is a Sanskrit word that translates as 'vital life force'. It is the universal principle of energy or life force. It is the sum total of all energy that is manifested in the universe. All the forces in nature, powers which are hidden in men and which lie everywhere around us.
Prana is the link between the subtle and the physical body.
Okay, what does this actually mean in a way I can understand?
Our outermost layer, the physical body, is what we tend to associate with most because it's tangible - we can see it, feel it, touch it, and therefore rationalize it. My skin is dry. My hair is getting longer. I have a graze on my knee.
Less tangible, but no less real, is the energy that exists within and around the physical body. In Yoga, we call this energy Prana, the vital life force that sustains everything. You may even have heard of it as Qi, Chi and Ki in other eastern practices.
In our physical body, blood flows through veins, capillaries, and arteries. In our energy body, Prana flows through energy pathways called Nadis. Nadi translates as flow, channel.
Prana rides on the breath, so when we breathe in, we take in Prana. When we expand the breath and improve the quality of it, we are expanding and improving the quality of this vital life force within and around us. This is exactly what yoga breathing techniques, or Pranayama, are designed to do.
An important aspect of the pranic body are the Chakras, or energy centres. In Yoga, we focus on the seven major Chakras (will expand on the Chakras in detail in future blog posts!) that exist along the line of the spine, each one connected to specific glands and organs of the physical body, as well as areas of our mind that influence our personality.
It is believed by many that health and wellbeing comes when there is a balanced energy flow through each of the seven major Chakras.
On the other hand, when Prana is prevented from flowing naturally, either becoming blocked or overactive at a certain point, it can create disharmony on both a physical and emotional level.
How Can We Help Prana Flow Freely?
By practicing Yoga :)! Yoga postures, particularly the traditional or classical asanas, activate specific Chakras. For example, Bridge Pose (you may notice it is one of my favorite postures, we practice it each class) work the energy at the Throat Chakra, which can have a direct influence on how we communicate with others. On a physical level, the throat Chakra corresponds to the thyroid and parathyroid glands, and can therefore have a nourishing and balancing effect on our metabolism.
Breathing exercises, Mantra chanting, Mudras and meditation all have a positive affect on our energy and helping to expand Prana in our physical and subtle body both.
Do not worry if it is too much to take in, just remember to breathe in your practice and all will happen naturally.