What is Prana and How to Practice
Prana is vital life-force. Prana is the foundation and essence of all life; the energy and vitality that permeates the entire Universe. Prana flows in everything that exists.
Pranayama is the systematic approach of controlling the breath.
A yogic lifestyle ensures that we increase our flow of prana or “pranic energy” in ourselves. Asana practice helps to purify and open the nadis (energy channels) so that prana can flow freely without any blockages.
Yogis believe that a depletion of prana leads us to imbalance and results in illness, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, etc. Almost every ailment can be linked to pranic blockage somewhere within.
One of the primary goals of daily yoga practice is to increase our levels of prana and the flow of prana. No yoga practice is complete without it. Patanjali’s eight-fold path lists pranayama as one of the eight limbs of yoga.
Every action we take, every thought we have either increases or decreases prana, or has a neutral effect. We should be conscious that if we engage in activity that decreases our prana levels, we must balance that with prana-increasing activities, such as pranayama, which directly aims to increase the flow of prana within us.
Our goal as yogis should be to transform every activity into a prana-increasing (or neutral) activity. When we engage in our actions with a steady flow of concentration, and remain relaxed, we avoid depleting the pranic energy. On the contrary, when our activities involve constant multi-tasking, where our mind jumps from one thing to another, we will feel exhausted and over time will lack luster and vitality in our character.
All extremes deplete pranic levels. Too much sleep or too less sleep, eating to the point of fullness or fasting, extreme exercise or no exercise, too much talking, and too much thinking all contribute to this.
The most impactful to our pranic levels are illness, negative people, and negative thoughts or emotions.
The best activities to increase pranic flow are being in nature, satsang, reading or reciting of scriptures, creative work such as art or music, and any other mindful activities where there is uninterrupted flow of consciousness in a relaxed manner.
The most impactful are pranayama, meditation, residing in a holy place, and being in the presence of an authentic guru and receiving his/her powerful vibrations.
When the mind is troubled, it’s futile to attempt your daily practice in pranayama if there is awareness of the present moment. In fact, any activity that is done with the intent to increase pranic energy is futile if the mind is not controlled to remain in the present and if there is not a steady awareness. Instead, do that activity which you find pleasing, whatever it may be. Distract the mind to stop the negative thoughts. Then have a restful, full sleep. Upon waking, start your pranayama practice. The power of the breath will help you release your negative thoughts, let go, accept your situation, and sometimes even discover the solution.
For optimal health, yogis consistently practice balance and rhythm in life. All our activities should be done in this manner. The result will be a deep sense of peace and contentment that can’t effectively be described in words.