Prana is Life Energy, Breath & Soul.
Life is energy. Energy defines life. Energy as defined by physicists, according to Dr Daniel Siegel, is the movement from possibility to actuality. Very similar to ancient and traditional philosophies.
And Prana is the Sanskrit word for the intelligence of life’s energy and movement.
WHAT PRANA IS & WHY IT’S VITAL
A seed holds Prana, and with it, the potential to become a tree and forest. Cut that seed open, and though we won’t see anything, once cut, the seed has lost it potential and ability to become- live, thrive and give. That invisible, unfathomable intelligence and life force is Prana. The primal life force and breath of life itself.
This subtle intelligence behind all psychophysical functions is also responsible for the movement of breath, senses, mind and emotions. The vital life force responsible for the animation of every organism and the life of everything in the universe.[i] Without Prana nothing would exist. This life energy fuels evolution, powers the vital life processes in all life forms, and becomes the thoughts and desires of the mind[ii] ready to be redirected or stored.
HOW IT AFFECTS US
Because energy is the basis of all life, all creation is made up off energy. The first living forms on earth, were self sufficient, able to sustain themselves merely through energy synthesis, using sunlight, carbon and water. Stem cells removed from the body still hold life intelligence and form into diverse cells to perform different and intelligent functions. This wonderous feat is the power of universal Prana, or Self.
On a physical level all organisms use energy to survive, grow and thrive. The process of changing energy from one state to the next, transformation, allows growth. Our primordial DNA. Einstein understood energy as eternal, continually changing shape and state. A process of transforming from potential energy to kinetic, heat, light, electrical and chemical energy, releasing and condensing into another form. From potential to solid and back.
On a universal level Prana is the eternal energy, breathe and soul which can’t be destroyed or created. It’s the all-vibrant, intelligent essence of life, the continual movement of awareness pervading all. All energy follows a movement of inhalation and exhalation, like the breath, expanding and contracting in a perpetual ebb and flow.[iii] And life changes from one state to another. As do we, when we allow Prana to flow freely through us. This is when we feel most alive.
On an spiritual level our soul enters this world through Prana. Our first act, to breathe. We live because of this breath and when we breathe out our last, our soul leaves along with our individual Prana to merge once more with universal Prana.
Like waves or currents, gathering and dispersing.
It’s the movement that enlivens and transforms.
ANCIENT WORLD KNOWLEDGE
Cultures all over the world honour this invisible life current with name and purpose. The Chinese call it Chi, Japanese, Ki, Polynesian, Mana, Islam, Baraka, Hebrew, Ruach Adonai, and Christians, the Holy Spirit. In Greek, Psyche, literally means breathe, life and soul, and in Latin the same word means animating spirit within mortals.
Prana sustains our individual life energy from the moment of birth to our very last breath. With it comes and goes the love, passion, purpose and desires with which matter is imbued. It invigorates, innervates and initiates every change, movement and growth through cellular intelligence. The difference between a body that breathes fully and one that has limited breath, is the quality of our Prana. It lets us feel alive, exuberant and awake. It’s the transforming power to becoming.
It’s the source that nourishes, sustains, maintains and transforms all living things. It’s universal presence within us for a time. And Prana is only in the present. Pulsating in us, as we live, move and breathe because of this wonderous force. Bringing to life each and every cell, system and body, with it’s intelligence and incredible gift of life. And we are most present when we’re aware of our breath and energy.
PRANA AS A PRACTICE
Prana embodies all knowledge of life because it is the awareness and intelligence behind creation. Bridging the manifest to Unmanifest, as breath mediates between ego and spirit. Because of this prana is the single most important factor for wellbeing. All Ayurvedic therapies work with prana to bring about balance. All higher forms of yoga work toward developing prana[iv].
We can enhance our Prana through breathing well, called Pranayama. The control and extension of breath. Breathing techniques from Yoga and other integrative traditions help us to clear, clean, strengthen and relax the muscles and organs that support healthy breathing.
To function fully the lungs need to be supported, held and free to move fully. Remember movement is the expression of energy and life. Without a full range of movement we can’t expect the body, brain, nervous, endocrinal, immune and cardiovascular systems to function well, let alone in an integrated way, Which leads to optimal wellbeing. And healthy pulmonary system affects all physiological processes.
The part of the brain that affects breathing is intimately connected and effects our emotional and sensory part of the brain. In turn affecting our mood, energy, sense of safety and feelings. A Yoga teacher well versed in Ayurveda, Pranayama and mindfull breathing can help others self-regulate, regain health and even retrain the nervous system, if they themselves have been able to do so in their own journey of becoming a good enough being.
IMPROVE YOUR BREATHING & ENERGY
The most basic practice is also the most effective practice. Breathing out fully while sitting with dignity and allowing the belly to be relaxed.
It will clear the lungs, calm the nervous sytem through the vagal nerve moving into parasympathetic mode, make space for more incoming breath, and give relieve to asthmatics who tend to breathe in more than out. This allows the empty lungs to rid itself of old stale air, making way for more fresh vital breathing.
An average adult has a lung capacity of 3.5 litres. The average person only takes in about 0.3 litres. That’s less than 10%!! That explains why most of us feel exhausted most of the time. Another factor is we breathe in the upper lobes of the lungs which absorb less effectively. Combine that with poor posture and compression of the lungs, and we lose that refreshing and energising inspiration of vitality.
So let’s get back our vitality.
Just sit yourself up on a block, bolster or something so the hips are higher than your knees. This relaxes muscles of the pelvis, lower spine and belly. Allowing you room to move, breathe and be. Focus on the out breath moving out slowly, smoothly and softly. Let the in breath come by itself. With each out breath feel the belly muscles mving in and up. Let them actually move the breath out from underneath the ribs.
Do that for 3 rounds.
Then extend the out breath to a count of 6, letting the in breath also become 6 counts by relaxing the belly and pelvic muscles. Do 10 rounds. Repeat this everyday for a week. Once this is easy and comfortable, you can extend the count to 7, 8 and so on until a count of 10. Always let the practices of prana be comfortable and easy. Remember breathing is closely linked to emotions, when it becomes strained so will our emotions.
This is called Sama Vritti, meaning same movement. It calms the mind and nervous system and is the basis of all other breathing techniques, which build on this foundation.
Let’s start reclaiming our health, wellbeing, intelligence, nature and world, starting by ourselves.
[i] Vasant Lad, Marma Points of Ayurveda, (2008), The Ayurvedic Press
[ii] Eknath Easwaran, The Upanishads, (2010), Jaico Publishing House.
[iii] David Frawley, Ayurvedic Healing, A Comprehensive Guide, (2000), Motilal Banarsidass.
[iv] David Frawley, Yoga & Ayurveda, Self Healing & Self Realisation, (1999), Lotus Press.