By: Stephanie Miller
“At its heart, hatha yoga is more than just flexibility or strength in postures; it is the management of prana, the vital life force that animates all levels of being. Prana enables the body to move and the mind to think. It is the intelligence that coordinates our senses, and the perceptible manifestation of our higher selves. By becoming more attentive to prana—and enhancing and directing its flow through the practices of hatha yoga—we can invigorate the body and mind, develop an expanded inner awareness, and open the door to higher states of consciousness.” (Sandra Anderson)
Prana is so special because it carries awareness. It is the vehicle of consciousness. If we want to send our breath to our pinky toe, prana will carry it there. When we have a steady flow of prana we can spread our consciousness everywhere within.
There are five movements or functions of prana known as the vayus (or “winds”). Think of them as a window into the health and vitality of our minds and bodies. Last month we studied apana vayu, the downward and outward flow of energy. Our ability to let go, to release, and create space. This month we’ll delve into the power of prana (not to be confused with the master prana) vayu; seated in the heart and lungs. Prana vayu is the inward and upward flow of energy. It is our ability to receive and process.
Being receptive though requires a clear path and this is where things get tricky. We can accumulate clutter anywhere; the outer physical body, in the subtle or energetic body, in our minds, our surroundings etc. This clutter literally blocks our life force from moving or functioning. This results in low energy, lack of awareness, and a weak mind. When prana vayu is blocked or obstructed we tend to easily fall prey to our bad habits, cravings, and emotions. When prana vayu is balanced and working in harmony with the other vayus we experience a deep inner awareness and we’re tapped into our own innate wisdom. We can receive new information or experiences and process it with clarity and truth.
I recently returned from a quick trip to Ohio. There’s some turbulence right now within my family. Being the middle child and the one who moved away I’m inevitably caught in the middle. I visited with both sides, heard their pain and disappointment with the other and realized the greatest and only gift I could offer. A sincere ear and love. The less I said the more space I could hold. I think space is a reflection of the pause before or after the inhale, it’s timeless. It’s egoless. In that space I could breathe into and out of my heart and that really kept me tethered there. It kept me open to really hearing the person instead of injecting my own opinions or judgments.
Practices for prana vayu:
- This month practice mouna (spiritual silence) when you can throughout the day. Notice it’s cleansing affects on the mind and your emotions. With social media and our everyday interactions, it’s really easy to be overstimulated and not even know it. Take in your surrounding with awareness and receptivity. If possible, spend a few minutes outside in nature just listening and being. (Leave your devices behind.)
- Asana – strengthens our container to support the work of all the vayus. Some key poses are downward dog, plank pose, upward facing dog and gomukhasana. During your asana practice stay deeply attuned and aware of the quality of the breath. Try to make it as rhythmic and peaceful as possible.
- Pranayama – Bhastrika (bellows breath) is a great cleansing breath. It clears obstructions in the respiratory system, and strengthens the nervous system.
- Neti Pot – will help purify the nadis, and nasal passages enabling prana to move and expand more freely.
- Meditation and/or visualization– enhances the power of prana by purifying the mind and withdrawing the senses.