Prana: life energy

Prana is that which encompasses everything. It is found in all forms of life from bacteria, to plants, to animals. Prana is indescribable, but can be characterized as something like ‘the Force’, the same Force that permeates the world of Star Wars. In our world It is the Universal Energy, the Vitalizing Force, the Vital Air, the Life Breath that surrounds us. It is in us and is us. We store Prana in our body, the Prana that we breath-in through the air and we become charged with It; Prana becomes us.

It is the energy that we use to go about our day. Swami Vishnu-devananda in The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga states that “every action conscious or unconscious uses up a certain amount of Pranic Energy — [then] when the amount of Pranic Energy spent is more than the body can restore, the body feels weak”. A quick way to get tired fast is by using Pranic Energy to fuel uncontrolled emotions. Unnecessary anger, excessive worrying, greed, anxiety, tension and all such lower emotions just carelessly waste Pranic Energy.

That is why it is so important to meditate. By practicing meditation one can relieve the mind and body of unnecessary tensions and replenish Pranic Energy. This energy which brings us an abundance of vitality and strength.

Surya Namaskars, aka Sun Salutations

The popularity of Sun Salutations has taken a firm grasp on Western culture. If you haven’t started practicing daily Sun Salutations by now, you better get yourself a Yoga mat ASAP! The sequence of poses that are included in Surya Namaskars offer many great benefits to the people that practice. This series of postures is proven to bring vitality to the practitioner! In-fact, Sun Sals are referred to as a “concentrated Yoga potion” in the book The Complete Yoga Book by James Hewitt, meaning that many great benefits of Yoga can be attained just by practicing this series of postures. So, if you wanna try them out for yourself, here, I offer a quick guide:

Side note: begin by doing two cycles everyday, traditionally it is advocated to do twelve cycles each day — but you can work yourself up to that in due time (I myself am starting with two cycles each day, this new year, and adding two more each month, so by June I’ll be up to the desired twelve!).

Starting posture: Mountain Pose. Stand up straight, palms together to the right of your heart with feet firmly rooted on the ground. Make all four corners of the feet, and all of the toes, charge at the ground with energy. Let that energy flow all the way up, past the crown of the head

Position two: slight back bend. Bring hands up over the head and reach them up and back, with a slight backward bend.

Position three: forward bend. Bring hands forward to reach down, or touch the floor. If possible* keep the legs straight, lift up the thighs up, and bring the face to the knees. *If your body doesn’t want to take it that far then listen to it and bend your knees as your body requests.

Position four: hands on the floor and one leg back. Moving out of the forward-bend bring one leg back, grip the floor with the fingers and toes, and lift the head up.

Position five: Wheelbarrow Pose, aka Plank. Bring the other leg back to meet the first. Support the entire body on just the hands and toes. The body should be in a straight line from the crown of the head to the heels, while the arms are pushing the ground away.

Position six: Eight Parts Posture/Sastangganamasker. Tightening the abs while lowering the chest to the floor. Then let the knees and forehead touch the ground, but keep the butt raised and elbows high.

Position seven: Cobra Pose/Bhujangasana. Bringing the pelvis to the ground, let the tops of the feet carry the weight as the arms straighten. The shoulder should be down and the fingers and the palms should be pushing the ground away.

Position eight: downward dog. While pushing the ground away in Cobra Pose, use the core muscles to lift the hips high — stomach should be pulling back in towards the spine. The head comes loose between the arms and the legs are straight. If the heels can touch the ground then great — if not, that’s okay too.

Position nine: keep the hands on the floor and one leg forward. Lifting the head and chest forward bring one foot between the hands.

Position ten: forward bend. Bring the other foot to meet the first between the hands and lift the hips into a forward bend.

Position eleven: stand up straight and slight back bend.  Bring the hands up, stand up straight, then continue to reach the hands up and back, into a slight backward bend.

Final position: Mountain Pose. Lower the arms and stand up straight, palms together to the right of the heart and feet firmly rooted on the ground.

This completes a cycle of Surya Namaskars.

This series of postures is simple to do yet super beneficial. It is designed to tone the entire body, and bring youthful suppleness to the spine. It is recommended for anyone and everyone that wants to maintain a healthy and fit body well into old age!

To meditate:

Sit in a comfortable, upright position; with your head and neck in-line with your spine. I chose the half-lotus position and half of the time I prop myself against a wall — to make sure that my back is straight.

Place your right hand on your right knee and your left hand on your left knee, palms up, allow your shoulders to drop and relax.

Close your eyes, relax your face, and start to notice you breath. If you can hear your heartbeat notice that too.

Allow yourself to breath-in deeply and fully, without over-extending your breath. As you breath-out make sure that you exhale all of the stale air out — contract your belly, bring it in towards your spine to make sure you do so. Give yourself a pause after you exhale, before you begin to slowly inhale again. As you breath-in again allow your belly to expand first. With your belly full of air finish your inhale by lightly expanding your heart. Allow yourself a short pause before you start to exhale again, then repeat. Again and again and again.

Follow this sequence for fifteen minutes. If you need to adjust the length of your breathing allow yourself to do so. The point is to listen to your body, to listen to your Breath, and be one with it.

If thoughts get in the way of your personal time with your Breath allow your thoughts to come and acknowledge them, but don’t linger on any one of them immediately go back to paying attention to your breathing. Meditation time is not thinking-about-stuff time, it is a time to cleanse your thoughts, purify your mind, and relax your consciousness.