Since beginning yoga practice with Shanti Hot Yoga, I’ve really enjoyed the physical benefits of doing a weekly Vinyasa class. The feeling of breathing from posture to posture is incredible, and has lead me on a deeper exploration of what it means to practice. Focusing on the energetic aspect of the movements can help my form and has branched into new areas of my life. So, being the curious yogi that I am, I did some research into what it was that was causing this energetic shift each time I took class. Before long, I made a discovery that will forever hold strong as I focus in during class, it’s called Prana. This blog post is dedicated to all the fascinating things I’ve learned about Prana, and how it has changed the way I view the physical body.
PRANA is a Sanskrit word that means Vital Life Force. It refers to energy that flows in and around our physical bodies. According to Marta Puig author of Prana World, the main sources of Prana are Air, Earth and Sun. That’s why on a sunny day we can feel the lift in our spirits as the level of energy increases.
Prana has many names that you may have heard of including: Qi, Chi, and Kei. Tai Chi and Reiki are examples of healing methods for blockages in Prana. As well, medicines such as acupuncture can be sought out to balance your “Qi”. In yoga, Prana is the Sanskrit word to describe the force expanded by the breath and practicing asanas.
It can be felt. In my own experience I’ve felt the sensation of its’ balance and imbalance many times. The feeling involves the blockage of Prana to a point of anxiety, or a rushed and hurried feeling throughout the day. After a good hot yoga session the feeling has melted away and I’m ready to take on the day in a calm, balanced way. This, I can only attribute to a rebalancing of energy throughout my body.
There’s a man called Hiroshi Motoyama whom conducts experiments to prove the existence of Prana. His machines quantifiably measure the existence of vital energy and have been used to actually diagnose cancer by detecting very low measurements of energy. He also has pointed to theories that what we know of as fascia, a system of fibres wrapped around muscles, is a physical pathway for the transference of Prana.
Fascia is linked to the storage of trauma in the body. Along with yoga I’ve been to several massage therapy sessions (yeah, my body goes through a lot with dance) and conversed with my massage therapist about the storage of memory in your body, causing painful trauma blockades throughout. If Fascia is the physical link to Prana, then by stretching it and rerouting its’ patterned movement into relaxing, one can release these held memories and heal not only physically, but emotionally.
Ujayii Pranayama is the harnessing of Prana through breath. Ever wonder why yoga teachers are so obsessed with breathing while we flow? Probably not, because yoga and the breath are inherently connected. But when we practice Ujayii Pranayama we are using our breath to distribute and expand Prana through the body. This is why as you breath you can feel the sensation of a deeper relaxation throughout your physical body as the energy redirects and unravels itself from blockages.
Every class leads to a greater understanding and harnessing of Prana. Feeling the energy balance through my body is similar to the elevated state of listening to a musical piece by one of the great composers. At times I’ll be in warrior II and feel the flow of energy circulating not only through my body, but extended beyond. I’ve begun to focus on letting go of unnecessary energy, not even judging if it’s good or bad, just knowing when I feel too much of it. In difficult poses where my breath constricts, I imagine the energy expanding and levelling. I release this excess and use only what I need, settling back into my natural state of being; ready to take on the day.
*Special Thanks to Olivia Aubrecht who agreed to do an impromptu yoga photo shoot!