In this blog post, Ranja Weis, MANDALA Testimonial, deals with the meaning of Prana, life’s energy.
After a long winter, when the spring sun begins to shine once more and it gets warmer, we can hardly wait to spend time outdoors again. As Yogi(ni)s, we become aware that the probability of providing our body with Prana is now much higher than during the dark, cold winter months.
What is Prana?
In the Yoga tradition, Prana is the cosmic energy of life, the primal force of all natural phenomena, the vibration that moves matter. Swami Vivekananda says, "Everything you see in the universe, everything that moves, acts or is alive, is a manifestation of Prana." Prana is of utmost importance to us human beings. It provides our body, mind and soul with life-giving energy, and invigorates us, thus protecting our cellular structure. Even though, we are constantly surrounded by Prana and unconsciously absorb it most of the time anyway, we can increase our health, vitality and joy of life by purposely bestowing prana upon ourselves.
Prana is increasingly contained in sunlight, in clean air with high oxygen content, in pure spring water, seawater and in natural food. In certain places in nature, we find a particularly high-density of Prana, this is why after a stay at the lake, in the forest, in the mountains or at the sea, we feel refueled, relaxed and in harmony with ourselves.
However, we can also replenish ourselves with Prana, through Pranayama exercises, even if we do not have the opportunity of taking a sunbath or an outdoor trip into nature. Prana, in Sanskrit means "cosmic primal energy" and yama means "control" or "expansion". Thus, the term Pranayama does not mean "breathing exercises", as often is mistakenly explained, but "control of the Prana". Here, our consciousness plays a crucial role. Through the power of our thoughts, we can stimulate and increase the Prana flow in our body. While our unconsciously taken breathing techniques simply improve oxygenation, we can give our breathing a certain quality through our imagination: "I breathe rest." In most cases, after a few breaths, we will feel calmer. Swami Sivananda says, "The subtle Prana is closely related to consciousness." Meditation techniques and visualizations (such as in Yoga Nidra) are basically Pranayama exercises. Not only do they serve physical health, they also help to gain mental clarity, to get more in touch with one's inner core and to increase the level of awareness. And that is crucial when it comes to going our own way and making decisions that are in harmony with our true nature and our heart's concerns.