Have you ever wondered why asana practice (yoga postures) is so powerful? You simply make some movements, focus on the breath and then lo and behold- you feel like a new person. All rearranged, reconfigured and the whole world looks better!
The simple answer is: prana.
Our mind and body is reliant upon prana for its vital energy. Without prana the body and the mind would die. Quite simply prana is the power behind every aspect of life. Pra- means constancy and Na- movement. So prana is a force in constant motion. And this force has the power to hold the physical body together, to fuel the cells, to make the heart pump, to create electrical impulses through the nervous system and a million other functions.
Pra-na = constancy and movement
As a force in constant motion you can imagine the prana like a series of rivers interlocked with the seas. The prana of the universe- the Maha or great prana, is essentially the same force as that which enervates and enlivens each creature on the earth.
Prana needs to flow, and within the human form, we sometimes limit this movement of prana in a number of ways, not least of which is the tendency to sit at a screen all day- or and sometime sin the evening too! And when the prana becomes restricted, we feel a little less alive, a little less enlivened. Whereas when we see animals and children the joy in movement is clear and through this movement the prana is also stimulated and flows.
Yoga asana- postures, are quite precise in design and execution, when we align the body correctly, we direct the release into those areas which hold the most tension, or in other words where the prana is most restricted. This is why good alignment is so important in order to really open up the body and mind to the flow of prana. This flow of prana releases tension in the body, and also supports good health by freeing up the flow of lymph (improving your immune system). But beyond the physical dimension it also facilitates a connection to the more subtle form of cosmic “Maha prana”.
And so back to that blissful, expanded feeling at the end of class. Through breath and body awareness, by releasing and aligning the body precisely, we also align ourselves with that which moves both through us and beyond us- that which is called prana.
Laura Gilmore is the Director of BCY. A long term student of yoga, she loves to grapple with the ancient and mystical teachings of yoga to find their relevance for modern life and to share this with her students.