Living an Easeful Life
Many of you have heard me speak of Prana in our Yoga and Meditation classes. But what exactly is Prana?
Put simply, it is the vital energy of life. That is how my teacher, Swami Satchidananda, described it. But when we use the word energy, we have to be careful because it is such a generalized term. When we say, “I have a lot of energy today. I am going to go on a 100-mile bike ride,” that is not it. When those from the New Age community say, “There is an energy surrounding me in my aura,” that is not it either. Strangely enough, when physicists say, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed,” that comes closer to what Prana is.
There is something in you, which seems undefinable, that allows you to be a living, moving, breathing, thinking being. If you sit still in meditation, after a while you will begin to feel the experience of this vital life energy moving through you. Prana is always with you. As you become more familiar with practicing Yoga (once you get past the superficial experience of Yoga as an exercise routine) you begin to feel a dramatic shift in your consciousness. You realize that there is a subtle movement of this vital energy, darting, and then flowing, inside of you.
When we cultivate this awareness of Prana, we can then begin to experience Pranayama. Yama is a Sanskrit word that, I feel, is best translated as, “to channel.” In the case of Yama, when it is paired with Prana, it can be said that Pranayama is the channeling of this vital energy of life that is always present within you.
The vital energy is always with you because, obviously, you are alive. Every living being is imbued with Prana. It can even be said, quite realistically, that you are Prana. Yet, we must recognize that when Prana is not cultivated and channeled through the body in a conscious way, it can turn into anger, stress, anxiety, and all sorts of distracting maladies. However, when we do consciously channel the Prana through the body, we discover the profound awareness of our True Self and find that at the heart of our being there is a great calm.
The energy of Prana is always moving through your body; therefore, it is not something that you create through Yoga or Meditation. It is already here in you right now. Yoga and Meditation calm down the extraneous movement of energy in the body so that you are open to consciously and effortlessly channeling the energy through the body, spirit, and the mind, to bring calm and focus to your life. The breath is a very important component of this process.
When practicing Yoga, for example, you may feel that certain postures release a feeling of energy in the body and bring a deeper awareness to the mind. When you breathe very slowly through the nose while focusing on the movement of this energy inside of you, something begins to shift. You can feel the Pranamoving through you ina slow, steady flow. It manifests your natural calm because you are harmonizing the flow of vital energy with the function of the body, mind, and spirit. The natural result is that everything slows down, and you become deeply conscious of Prana, breath, spirit, body, and mind moving together in an easeful equanimity.
Pranayama is central to the practice of Yoga and Meditation for the simple reason that Prana, the vital energy within you, initiates this realization of calm through the cultivation of breath and conscious awareness. When cultivating calm, the body and mind are healthier. And, you will live a longer and more aware life. When you are calm and open to your deepest Self, life becomes easier as you begin to realize that you are this Prana, the universal, eternal vital energy of life.