Recently, I had the pleasure co-teaching a workshop with Judy Mortellaro exploring entry points to experience prana and creating our physical asana based on this energetic alignment.
When we practice yoga, many times the main focus is on the outer layer of our being: our physical bodies. However, the shift we feel in the subtler layers (or koshas) –our energy levels, our emotions, our thoughts, and our connection to center– reveal how interconnected and dynamic the effects of yoga are to our whole being. How do we access understanding to these subtler realms? What IS the connection between the body and the mind? When we begin to explore prana, from an experiential level, we can gain insight into the dynamic relationship between the body (ana maya kosha) and these subtler layers. As we learn to feel/navigate the inner map of how energy flows, we can create our poses, and our movement through the world, from an inner listening to how the energy moves, and what combination awareness, action, and release guides the prana into a balanced flow.
Prana is the current of life. “Pra” mean consistency, “na” means life force. Prana flows through all that is alive, and is what’s missing from the body when we die. Prana is the electromagnetic field that animates and coordinates the tides of consciousness, the subatomic dance of particles and waves, the cells, the body, the systems of life on earth, and the greater universal movements and rhythms. It is what moves the breath in and out of our bodies. The circulation of fluids and the body, the currents of response echoing throughout the nervous system, the patterns of thoughts and feelings we experience, all are facets of these different layers of our being, all of which reflect how prana is moving –or not moving– through us.
Just as a river carves the earth, and creates the pathway for the movement of its waters, our habitual ways of breathing, moving, thinking, and feeling carve the path within us that guides where the prana will flow. As we develop a felt sense of these pathways of energy moving through the body, we can learn to sense where and how to open the flood gates, and where we need to contain that flow, to create balance. A crucial element to this work is, of course, the pelvic floor. As we open to cultivate apana vayu, the downward grounding flow of prana, of energy, creating a container for our energy, sending it upward through prana vayu, becomes exciting and empowering work. Through exploring these patterns to learn what biases exist, and using yoga practice to re-organize our multi dimensional selves, we can align our bodies, minds and spirits with the greater rhythms of pranic movement, creating vital harmony within, and in the world around us.