Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Prana - a new way of looking at wellbeing

The word "prana" means our "Vital life force energy." It is crucial to our experience of overall health and a sense of wellbeing. It can be described as the energy which animates us and makes us feel alive and vital.

The term "yogi" or someone who practices yoga, has been sometimes described as "someone who contains and holds prana within." This experience can be felt as:
Physical: feeling light, energetic, open, flexible, healthy, strong, vital
Mental: clear thinking, open mind, calm and centered, positive thoughts
Emotional/Spiritual: happy, at peace, grounded

A lack of prana can be felt in these ways:
Physical: feeling drained, tired, fatigue, heavy
Mental: mentally dull, muddy thinking, negative thinking
Emotional/Spiritual: emotionally down, depressed

Where does prana come from?
If we think of prana as energy, we get energy in many ways:
Physical: eating good food, exercising, playing or enjoying life, resting deeply
Mental: concentration on a task or meditation, focus, rest
Emotional/Spiritual: prayer, positive emotions such as laughter, joy, compassion, love, positive energy from others or from a higher spirit. In chinese medicine they call this "chi" - prana is a comparable term.

In yoga practice, Prana is strongly associated with breathing because of the term "pranayama" which means "prana expansion or control" and is a term for a series of breath control practices. But prana is larger than just the breath. We experience this by the fact that we are breathing all day, but we can still feel a "lack" of prana - even though we are breathing we can still feel tired or drained. Pranayama practices exist to harness prana THROUGH breath practices as one way to bring more prana inside our being. But, the breath alone is not prana, it is a means to which prana can travel.

Prana can definitely be harnessed through the practice of asana, which opens the body, and pranayama - breath practices which help to irrigate your being with prana. But prana can also be harnessed in other ways in our daily lives. Yoga understands that our five senses can either serve to take us out of our higher self, or they can be utilized to bring us back to our center of bliss. There is another practice called "pratayahara" where the senses are drawn inward for a higher purpose. Here are some daily things which can heighten our senses to bring more prana into our lives:

Food gives us energy, but it can also take it away if it is old, spoiled, processed, hard to digest, or not made with care and love. Here are some of the ways we can eat or make food with a higher vibrational level:
1: eat / make food from fresh and high vibrational ingredients: food that is non-toxic, fresh, not processed, organic, pure, in season, grown with love an respect for the earth and you and that is locally farmed. Light foods like vegetables and fruit carry the most prana because they are easy for the body to digest and have the most nutrients
2: make it with love or eat food made with love. There's a reason why mom's food always tastes better than any restaurant. If you make it yourself, prepare it mindfully or say a blessing of gratitude before eating and feel grateful as you eat. Don't overcook food, so as to keep as many nutrients as you can instilled.
3: food that looks beautiful makes you feel beautiful and thus, brings more prana to your body. Prepare your food in an artful way. Eat food from various color groups. More natural colors = more nutrients
4: Don't eat too much or too little, prepare and serve just the right amount. If you are at a restaurant that serves large portions share with your neighbor. Too much food taxes your digestive system and promotes a sense of lethargy in the body. Try not to waste food, make just enough so there are no leftovers. Leftovers lack prana.


BEAUTY: If something is beautiful or pleasurable to you, then I feel it brings more prana into your life. It is very sad that our modern world does not put importance on funding for the arts, or even state parks and public playgrounds. A sense of enjoyment and play are vital to our sense of health, no matter what age we are. Here are some examples:

MUSIC & DANCING: If there is music you find uplifting or that fills you with energy, then it is bringing more prana into your system. Take time to see a concert or to listen to music when you feel fatigue or stress and notice the effects it has on your being. Dancing also brings more joy and prana into your being, such as salsa dancing!

ART: Looking at beautiful images evokes our sense of wonder. Notice the images you surround yourself with, as these have an affect on your being. If you enjoy art, take a trip to see an exhibit that interests you, or even create some artwork to hang in your home that makes you feel happy.

THEATER / MOVIES / BOOKS: watch uplifting or inspirational ones to bring more prana into your body. Read books that expand your awareness such as poetry, inspiring stories, philosophy or spiritual books.

talk a walk in the park, try hiking, biking, kayaking, go to the beach, climb a mountain, garden or play a sport outside. Just being in nature brings more prana into your system as well as more oxygen!

BEAUTIFUL & CLEAN HOME: a clean home, free of clutter and filled with only necessary and objects that bring you joy, have an affect on you make way for prana to flow

THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU: we can't always chose who we spend time with, so it's best to cultivate a sense of detachment and equanimity to those who are unhappy. But if we DO have a choice, try to only surround yourself with people who do not drain your energy ("energy vampires") or promote negative thoughts or habits. Surround yourself with positive, inspiring and happy people. They are hard to find, so if you are lucky enough to know some treat them well, so they stay close to you. Also it's even more important to BECOME the inspiring and happy person that people want to be around. BE the Change you want to see in the world, it's even better.

REAL REST AND RELAXATION: it's so important to relax, unwind, unplug, de-stress, have alone time, get a good amount of sleep. There is no way we can ever feel fully vital without proper rest and this means "doing nothing" just being, it does not mean going on a vacation where you are running around and need a "vacation from your vacation." Do yourself a favor and just chill out, and this does not have to cost a dime. I highly suggest practicing Restorative Yoga for this area.

I am sure you can think of even more ways to bring prana into your life. If you have some of your own you'd like to add, please comment below.

with love, light and lots of prana, Namaste!
- Jennifer

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi jennifer- it's been a long time since we've seen you, but i really enjoy your blog! you are a very good writer. blade and i have been doing mysore for about a year now and really liking it. but i totally agree with you on mixing it up. i love
a lead class class now and then. love, p(and b.)