I don’t think of myself as the type of person that easily senses energy – other than perhaps the charge of emotional energy in a room or the feeling of peace in certain sacred or natural spaces. However, my inherent ability to sense energy is immaterial. The yogic tradition teaches us that there is a source energy that fuels life. It is called Prana. I am enlivened by this energy which courses through my body. How magical and mysterious it seems! As a dedicated student of yoga, I am curious to understand more about Prana. While contemporary yogic teachings often describe Prana as breath or life force, it is more than a fuel for our biological systems.
In a previous Yogic Way® article, (January – March 2016) Kavita Maharaj explained that our true nature is Purusha or fully realized consciousness. Purusha is one’s true self, regarded as eternal and unaffected by external happenings. It is called by many names: such as God, Brahman, Chi, Prana, and the Force. Kavita also explained that ‘the entirety of the yogic path is focused on transcending the illusion of the ego and experiencing Purusha.
I imagine Prana manifesting in an energy continuum from a potentially more tangible form, such as the impulses of sensation within my body, to a refined and subtle energy that has the qualities of awareness and intelligence.
Yogic traditions teach us that there are five layers, or sheaths, to our bodies called ‘koshas’ – and Prana runs through all of them. From the subtlest layer of spirit, to the grossest layer of our physical body – Prana is a connecting link between all aspects of our being. Yogic sages defined one of the koshas, called the Pranamaya Kosha, as a matrix of energy pathways that run within and beyond our bodies.
Can you close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you are a galaxy of interconnected pathways of light? That what you sense as ‘self’ is energy in ultimate alignment?
Prana moves within my own energy network, and although thousands of channels exist, there are three primary energy channels within me (Sushumna, Pingala and Ida), and seven energy centres (the Chakras).
Our most elementary science has taught us that energy moves and empowers. I’ve come to realize that the Eight Limbs as defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali prepare me to realize Prana moving through me as essential energy. The Eight Limbs give me tools to strengthen my systems and clear physical, mental and emotional blockages so that I might become a more refined vessel for Consciousness.
Within Ashtanga and all yoga traditions, the tenants of the Yamas and Niyamas guide me towards living in such a way that I process and release emotional and psychological baggage. They offer tools for an ethical life. By striving to live by these tenants, I learn to make choices that cultivate inner clarity, peace and presence. A consistent asana practice strengthens and opens my physical body. The practices of pranayama use the breath to direct the flow of Prana. With my physical, emotional and mental systems, healthier and more balanced, I have begun the process of refinement and transcendence the Eight Limbs set out.
Pratayahara invites me to turn inward. With a relaxed body and calm mind, I am enabled to be fully present. Dharana teaches me to focus on an object of concentration (such as breath or mantra). Through the complement of these practices I continue to remove blockages to the movement of Prana. I am becoming stronger, lighter, more attenuated. Dharana opens me to an experience of single-pointed awareness – and from this I may more readily come into the flow-state of connection or meditation called Dhyana. The final limb of this path is Samadi – which is absorption into Oneness. By consistent practice I become purified, and the culmination of all the Limbs is the potential to be absorbed into Prana itself.
Additionally, I have found that Yin Yoga allows me to become so still that my ability to perceive energy is heightened. Yin postures, coupled with breathwork allow a meditative focus to dawn. I begin to feel pulsations, vibrations and other movements of energy within my body. I am now able to drop into my internal place of stillness where awareness rests below sensations, below emotions, below thought. I am now able to connect to a grounded, peaceful center, which seems spacious and fully alive.
Post-practice, I’m coming to understand that the resulting felt-experience of aliveness and of peace is due to my connection with Prana. It is subtle, and it is real.
As Kavita wrote in the Yogic Way®, Prana is everywhere and in everything. Stephen Cope, author and Kripalu Yoga teacher, suggests that Prana is available to us through the air, and also through the gifts of fresh foods and water, through being in nature, through the love of others, and possibly through the beauty of art, music and inspiring words. I have felt the peace, wonder and connection from such experiences too. So perhaps I have had more experience with Prana than I’ve realized! Prana fuels and sustains me. It is the interconnecting web of life. It is peace, awareness, creation. It is a mystery still – but I’ve touched it. And with consistent practice, perhaps my encounters with Prana will deepen.