Prana & Breath – Part I
Most of us know yoga through the postures. Perhaps we have even heard the Sanskrit word “prana” mentioned in class, though this is the exception to the rule. Traditionally speaking, the pranic-force is fundamental to yoga practice (including the postures) and is as essential as sunlight is to a plant.
The word itself is commonly translated as “vital-force” or even “the breath”. Prana is a much larger idea than that. A more literal translation of the word means “the first breath”. It is the first, primal, all pervading, energizing force of the creation. The sun is imbued with prana, the plants and animals possess prana, the air is rich in prana.
The ancient yogis readily perceived this pranic energy and found ways to maximize its influence on our physical health, mental clarity, and spiritual development. Many of the techniques that are commonly used today, such as asana, pranayama, and even meditation are built around pranic principles (whether we actively recognize it or not).
The very namesake of ha-tha yoga, the system of yoga that is the genesis of many modern poses, references the mind and its relationship to prana. “Ha” literally means moon, and “tha” means sun. The moon, due to its waxing and waning nature, is the emblem of the mind. The sun, due to its singular life-given radiance, is in reference to prana.
Hatha yoga, is the union of the moon and the sun, the mind and prana. Hatha yoga emphasises the skillful use of prana to expand consciousness within the mind and ultimately, beyond the mind. Through specific breathing techniques or pranayama, we can affect specific states of mind; states of mind that are more conducive to deeper states of peace, joy, and fulfillment.
In the coming three-part series we will explore the intimate relationship between prana, breathing, and the mind and provide useful tips on how to work consciously with the breath at the Beginning, Middle and End of your asana practice.
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