PRANA LIFE ENERGY BREATH SOUL

PRANA LIFE ENERGY BREATH SOUL

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 anciet and traditional philosophies.

And Prana is the Sanskrit word for the intelligence of life’s energy and movement. 

WHAT IS PRANA & WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

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 ON ALL LEVELS OF LIVING

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 & LIFE 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.


[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.

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR

A body is so complex, complete and incomprehensively perfect, alive and whole. An organism that regenerates, integrates, is self aware and self healing, self regulating and self conscious. A body that heals and knows what it needs to boost and nourish itself, on every level. Improving posture directly affects our breath and transforms our wellbeing.

THE BODYMIND CONNECTION

Here’s another article celebrating the natural beauty, intelligence and ability of our bodies. Science has no way of recreating such a perfect organism apart from the power of procreation. But science can help us understand its intricacy and teach us how to intimately work with it. Every challenge that arises in our life invites us to grow. The consciousness of our bodymind attracts these teachings, so we can step into a bigger, brighter and more brilliant version of ourselves. Whether we feel ready to take on the challenge depends on our self-image, self-confidence and self-awareness. These 3 self’s depend on our wellbeing. Our state of mind, emotions and stance of body Self-confidence and awareness are intimately connected to our breath. And our breath is affected by our stance in body, life and living. So how do we enable, or better said, reconnect to the intelligence of our body? How do we inspire that self-regeneration, self-regulating healing aspect?

Enhancing Wellbeing Through Posture

In Spinal Love we explored how posture improvement nourishes our spine and all our organs. Today we’re going to lunge into the lungs.  Many studies have investigated the relationship between posture and breathing and the spill over effects. What’s evident is posture affects not only the spine and organs but all the muscles of the trunk. Many of are directly related to our breath, some indirectly. And if you know, like I love to say, “All is connected”. Through fascia, and many other tissues and systems, then this affects all the muscles, nerves, joints and tendons, all the way down to your toes.[1] Think the diaphragm, intercostals, neck and shoulder muscles,[2] but also the pelvic floor muscles, right down to the legs and feet.

When we sit all day, without body awareness, our shoulders and head begin to round forward. The chest muscles are compromised and tighten over time. Especially if it’s a day in day out habit. Our lungs become limited, our breathing shallow and rapid.[3] This causing our nervous system to become overstimulated, fight or flight switches on. Our nervous system is constantly told, “a bear is chasing us”. While at the same time, our muscles, organs and limbs get less activity, mobility and agility. Sending another contradictory message to the rest of the body that says, “we’re disengaged, rest and digest”.  But our body can only choose one of these pathways at a time. So, its in a perpetual state of discomfort, confusion and compromise. I believe this is the cause of our species present epidemic of chronic, inflammatory, immune and misdiagnosed health issues. But again, THIS is the body’s natural beauty, intelligence and ability to speak to us. Asking us to seek new pathways of living, moving, breathing and being. Our body consciousness, neuroception, knows autonomously and ceaselessly communicates with us.  Whether we listen or not is a different story.

Studies on Breathing & Posture

A Yoga study explored the difference between breath centred yoga and yoga without breath awareness. The group with practices to extend breath and engage in breath awareness, improved not only their breathing, but physical functions of whole-body strength and flexibility, especially of the lower extremities![4] Breathing affects our nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, immune system and eventually all these affect our endocrine system.[5] Imagine your lungs encaged in twelve pairs of ribs. And between each rib, many strong bands of muscle connecting one to another above and below it. These muscles, the intercostals, run diagonally internally, as well as externally,[6] like a grass woven basket. Intercostals pull and release our lungs, contracting and opening. The contraction pulls the ribs together, exhale. And on the release a breath of fresh air is drawn in, inhale. This constant and beautiful rhythm goes on, from the moment of our birth to the day we die. Our exhale clears toxins, calms the nerves and centres the mind. It’s dependent on our ability of muscle contraction. And just as important their ability to relax, allows us to take in that new, clear, lively breath.

Improve Posture – Breathe in Life

In Yoga we say of breath is our life. And within the breath lies our life energy. When we breath fully we live fully. When we breathe shallow we only live to that depth. And this ongoing relationship of the in and out, reflects of our way of opening and closing to the vicissitudes of life. So how does can we breath more fully? How can we live more completely? Improve posture! Yep, that simple. There are a few essentials to breathing fully.

Posture Improvement

And allowing our posture that open and free space of the chest, by slightly bringing the shoulder blades toward each other, and softly down the back. Lifting the ribs up and away from the hips so the abdominal muscles lengthen, and the diaphragm becomes free, are foundations of better breathing. Making sure when we sit that the sitting bones are more elevated than the knees and ankles ensures our belly muscles can relax. Only then can the psoas and back muscles release and give the space to the lungs. Did you know that letting the pelvic floor muscles soften even affects the lungs? 

Body Awareness

Connection to our body, it’s ability, it’s limits, it’s needs, desires and vitality, live in this part of yoga practice. Tuning in to our sense of embodiment takes time and it helps if you have a teacher who practices what she preaches, so she can guide you into your body deeply. So, you can attune with it intimately.

Muscle Stretch, Strength & Integrity

Again, movement can’t be overstated for improving breath, breathing and cardiovascular health. I used to think Yoga was the be all, end all pill for all life activities. But I’ve since come to realise we need to run, dance and swim to fully appreciate, celebrate and integrate who we are and what we’re capable of. Cardio is vital to heart rate variability, a response of our vascular system to environmental stimuli. So, get up and get your heart pumping! Remember what it means to be embodied!!!

Relaxation

Restorative yoga, Yin and any other gentle form of yoga, that allows the body to stay in a position for at least 2 minutes, allows muscles to relax which are tight, and/or weak. This retrains muscles that have adopted constricting and compromised holding patterns. So, here’s to our beautiful, intelligent and able bodies! Here’s to living fully, with integrity and ambivalence simultaneously. We’re only human, and yet that’s already so much… Breathe fully and with integrity of your entire body. Live and love yourself, no matter what!

Love to you, your body, your breath and the life you choose to live,

Shira.


    References 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329219/ 

[2] http://rc.rcjournal.com/content/59/4/543 

[3]https://www.healthline.com/health/breathe-deeper-improve-health-and-posture#posture-and-breathing

[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329219/ 

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3482773/

[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/intercostal-muscle