What is prana?
Prana: commonly referred to as ‘life force’ or ‘life energy’, prana can be thought of as the energy that animates life. Contained within the breath, yet far more subtle than the breath, prana is the vibration and circulation of life along the energetic pathways (nadis) of our bodies.
The flow of energy through our nadis is conditioned by our samskaras. Samskaras are habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting that manifest energetically in the body as well as in the way we react to situations in the world. Samskaras grow through the interplay between nature and nurture, and some would also say, past lives. If you do not believe in past lives it is nevertheless useful to work with an additional category that allows us to consider the influence of factors in addition to our life experience and DNA.
We can shed light on and eventually unravel our samskaric tendencies using the psycho-spiritual technology of yoga. We notice, for example, how certain postures give rise to certain physical sensations, which in turn give rise to certain thoughts and emotions. This is the reactivation of dormant memories that are stored throughout our bodies.
Prana, samskara and asana
At its core, postural practice in yoga is a practice of pranayama. Postures are like the shapes we make inside which we can move and explore the breath as well as examine and unravel the restrictions on the free flow of our life force. By following the breath we are following the flow of energy within the body. We see where that energy flows, and also where that energy is interrupted, and we begin to see the close relationship between our thoughts, emotions and physical and energetic agitation at these sites.
In feeling the movement of breath through the body we become more attuned to this and, therefore, better able to unravel our samskaric knots, more readily accessing the feeling of the present moment as no more or less than a seamless flow of awareness and experience.
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