What do we mean by Prana? What is life force? What is energy?
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, written around 1650 by Maharishi Swatmarama, is one of the most detailed and complete manuals describing the techniques of Hatha Yoga. It explains that 'Prana is the vital energy force sustaining life and creation, permeating the whole of creation and existing in both the macrocosmos and microcosmos.
There is no denial that there is an energy that permeates and animates all life, and when something dies, this energy departs and there is decay. The ancient sages and yogis were quite aware that harnessing, controlling and increasing this 'life force' within us was the key to happiness, optimum health and a balanced, clear thinking mind.
The practice of Hatha Yoga was given to us to help us to increase our prana. In future classes I'll go into much deeper explanations of what prana is and the different ways that prana moves in our bodies, but for now, I just want to share with you the basic and very important concept of prana, how to understand what it is and how to control it. This is crucial in increasing and maintaining your health.
As I mentioned before, prana not only exists within us, but there is a universal prana that enlivens the universe. Because we have limited awareness that often begins and ends with the human body, we don't see our inter-dependance with our environment. Through the food we eat, the air we breath, nature and the sun we take in universal prana every moment. By controlling our breathing and taking deep cleansing breaths, we are feeding our own prana with universal prana. This energy that we are adding to our life force prana affects the brain. It is supposed to create the “awakening” effect in our brains and consciousness expanding our mind and deepening our conscious awareness of our deep connection to this amazing universe that we live in.
Everything is made up of energy. Although you can’t see prana energy, it is within and surrounding all things.We can’t see radio waves or electromagnetic fields, but they are a very real part of our environment. In most cases, to truly attune yourself to the universal prana, you must be able to reach a higher state of consciousness through meditation.
By controlling the breathing and focusing thought, the mind is eventually elevated to an Alpha state or an awakening.This is available to any person with a serious practice. In meditation, awareness becomes focused. With focus, you can develop a heightened awareness of light (which is the physical manifestation of prana). You may see and experience this light with your mind’s eye or in the physical world.
Hatha yoga practices, including asana (physical postures), pranayama (breath practice), and traditional cleansing techniques (known as the kriyas), can profoundly affect prana in all of its forms. These practices balance and enhance the physiological system and the functions of the mind. The asanas create an inner structure in our physical bodies which supports the efficient work of prana. Pranayama or breath practice augments and expands the vital life force, and, along with hatha yoga cleansing techniques, it purifies the energy channels of pranic flow that exist within all of us.
As we learn more and more about Prana in our classes, you will begin to feel the incredible effects that a regular yoga practice will have not only on the way you feel physically, but also how you'll experience increased energy, better sleep, and a clearer more focused mind.
By living a life of beneficial exercise, pure and positive thinking, correct relaxation, and healthy diet, and sufficient sleep, we can increase our longevity and gain control over our lives in such a way to bring true and lasting inner happiness and glowing health. It doesn't matter where you're starting from. People are turning their lives around every day by beginning a regular yoga practice and sticking with it. If you're still alive that means you still have your prana, and if you still have a desire to take hold of your own health, peace and serenity, you can begin today. No one is too heavy, too weak, too old, too inflexible, too injured or too sick to begin.
Yoga is for everyone, yoga is for you.