The word “Prana” means our “Vital life force energy.” It is crucial to our experience of overall health and a sense of wellbeing. It can be described as the energy which animates us and makes us feel alive and vital. In Chinese medicine they call this force “chi” – prana is a comparable term in Indian medicine.
The term “yogi” or someone who practices yoga, can sometimes be described as “someone who contains and holds prana within.” This experience can be felt as:
Physical: feeling light, energetic, open, flexible, healthy, strong, vital
Mental: clear thinking, open mind, calm and centered, positive thoughts
Emotional/Spiritual: happy, at peace, grounded
A lack of prana can be felt in these ways:
Physical: feeling drained, tired, fatigue, heavy
Mental: mentally dull, muddy thinking, negative thinking
Emotional/Spiritual: emotionally down, depressed
Where does prana come from?
If we think of prana as energy, we can receive energy in many ways:
Physical: eating whole foods, exercising, playing or enjoying life, resting deeply
Mental: concentration on a task or meditation, focus, rest
Emotional/Spiritual: prayer, positive emotions such as laughter, joy, compassion, love, positive energy from others or from a higher spirit.
In yoga practice, Prana is strongly associated with breathing because of the term “pranayama” which means “prana expansion or control” — a term for a series of breath control practices that help to bring more prana into our systems. But prana is a much larger concept than just the breath. For instance, we are breathing all day, but we can feel a “lack” of prana and still feel tired or drained. Pranayama practices exist to harness prana THROUGH breathing practices as one way to create more vitality inside our being. But, the breath, or the air that we take in itself – is not prana. Breath is the means to which prana can travel.
Prana can also be harnessed through the practice of asana, which opens the body, combined with breath practices which help to irrigate your being with prana. But prana can also be harnessed in additional ways in our daily lives. Yoga understands that our five senses can either serve to take us out of our higher self, or they can be utilized to bring us back to our center of bliss. There is another practice called “pratayahara” where the five senses are drawn inward for a higher purpose.
Here are some daily events that can heighten our senses and that we can use to consciously bring more prana into our lives:
THE FOOD WE EAT:
Food gives us energy, but it can also take it away if it is old, spoiled, processed, hard to digest, or not made with care and love. Here are some of the ways we can eat or make food with a higher vibrational level:
1: Eat fresh food with high vibrational ingredients: eat food that is un-processed, organic, pure, in season, grown with love and respect for the earth and locally farmed. Light foods like vegetables and fruit carry the most prana because they are easy for the body to digest and have the most nutrients.
2: Eat food made with Love. There’s a reason why Mom’s food always tastes better than any restaurant. If you make it yourself, prepare it mindfully or say a blessing of gratitude before eating and feel grateful as you eat, you can feel it.
3: Food that looks beautiful makes you feel beautiful and brings more prana into your body. Prepare your food in an artful way. Eat food from various color groups. More natural colors = more nutrients
4: Don’t eat too much or too little, prepare and serve just the right amount. If you are at a restaurant that serves large portions, share with your neighbor. Too much taxes our digestive system and we feel lethargic. Leftovers can lack prana, try to eat fresh as much as possible.
Additional ways to raise our prana:
We can bring a sense of wellbeing into our body/mind/spirit by experiencing beauty and joy as much as possible. If it does not exist in our environment as much as we’d like, we can try our best to create it.
BEAUTY: If something is beautiful or pleasurable to you, then it brings more prana into your life. It can be reading a poem, watching a performance, being with nature, creating art, listening to music you love. Any activity that causes a sense of “awe” at the creative wonder of being alive is bringing vitality and raising your energy.
It is very sad that our modern world does not put importance on funding for the arts, conserving natural land, state parks or public playgrounds. A sense of enjoyment and play are vital to our sense of health, no matter what age we are. Celebrating life is expressing gratitude for life and it’s good for our health.
MUSIC & DANCING: If there is music you find uplifting or that fills you with energy, or even relaxes you – then it is bringing more prana into your system. Take time to see a concert, listen to music that makes you feel happy or relaxed when you feel fatigue or stress and notice the effects it has on your being. Dancing also brings more joy and prana into your being, such as salsa dancing or any kind of dancing you enjoy.
ART: Looking at beautiful images evokes our sense of wonder and inspires us. Notice the images you surround yourself with, and the affects they have on your mindset. If you enjoy art, take a trip to see an exhibit that interests you, or even make some artwork to hang in your home that makes you feel good.
THEATER / MOVIES / BOOKS: uplifting or inspirational stories can bring more prana into your body. Read books that expand your awareness such as poetry, inspiring stories, philosophy or spiritual books. Be conscious of the messages they convey to you. Perhaps too much of modern media lately can be doom and gloomy. Try to balance it out by bringing in a positive message into your consciousness to raise your spirit.
TIME IN NATURE: talk a walk in the park, try hiking, biking, kayaking, go to the beach, climb a mountain, garden or play a sport outside. Just being in nature brings more prana into your system as well as more oxygen!
BEAUTIFUL & CLEAN HOME: you don’t need to have a big home – it’s more important to have a beautiful and clean home, free of clutter and filled with only necessary objects that you use or that bring you joy. Donate objects you never use and clear obstructions in your home to allow for prana to flow freely. Bringing plants and flowers inside can remind us of nature and bring a sense of peace and wellbeing. If you are able to garden you are extra lucky and I dream of having a garden one day.
THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU: we can’t always chose who we spend time with, so it’s best to cultivate a sense of detachment and equanimity to those who are unhappy. But if we DO have a choice, surround yourself with people who do not drain your energy or promote negative thoughts or habits (I call these people – “prana or energy vampires”). Surround yourself with positive, inspiring people. They are hard to find, so if you are lucky enough to know some – treat them well, so they stay close to you. It’s even more important to BECOME the inspiring and happy person that people want to be around. Be the Change you want to see in the world, it’s even better.
REAL REST AND RELAXATION: it’s important to relax, unwind, unplug, de-stress, have alone time, get a good amount of sleep. There is no way we can ever feel fully vital without proper rest and this means “doing nothing” – just being, it does not mean going on a vacation where you are running around and need a “vacation from your vacation.” Do yourself a favor and just chill out, and this does not have to cost a dime. I highly suggest practicing Restorative Yoga for this.
I am sure you can think of even more ways to bring prana into your life. If you have some of your own you’d like to add, please add in a comment below.