I am writing on a picnic table on the edge of Puget Sound today. Perhaps it is because I grew up on the coast of California that I love to be near the sea. The smell of the salt water, the sweetness of the sea birds, the wide view out on the horizon (Olympic Mountains today), the sounds of the waves caressing the shore. My entire organism responds to this sensory delight of negative ions from the salt air supporting my energy field. I receive some pranic nourishment from Mother Nature and I am happy.
This week I want to share with you some ways to support your prana body or breath body. The prana body, called pranamaya kosha, is the second layer out from the physical body and intimately connected to it. As all yogis know, our breath is the link between our prana body and our physical body. Imbalances in our energetic field will manifest at the physical level, and so attention to our pranic body supports the health and wellbeing of our physical body, relieving stagnation, supporting proper circulation and supporting overall harmonization of our energetic matrix. Prana is the life force, that subtle energy which animates all life. We receive prana in connecting to nature; the plants, trees, mountains, waters, sky, sun. We get prana from the air we breathe. The deeper, more conscious our breathing, the more prana we gather. Some of our prana comes from the foods we eat, especially when we eat whole foods, fruits and vegetables and freshly prepared foods. (To support your prana body ditch leftovers and frozen food. Try a 24-hour rule of tossing all food that has not been eaten in this time, and see what you notice.)
In Ayurveda, we learn that prana moves in 5 directions, and that to stay healthy, we need to attend to these prana vayus, or winds, and support them flowing optimally. Prana moves in and down as our inhalation and promotes circulation through our heads and nourishes our sense organs (including our mind, which is both a sense organ and a motor organ), master glands and brain. It moves up from the diaphragm as the exhalation and out through our voices. It moves outwards from our heart and lungs to the periphery of our body and back again to our heart and lungs. It moves into our solar plexus and circulates throughout our digestive organs, supporting all the pumping and churning actions or our organs. And it moves into our pelvis and down our legs and feet supporting holding (feces, urine, ovum, semen, fetus) and releasing when the time is right. This downward flowing energy connects us to the earth.
Here is a simple practice you can use to connect to your prana body and support the healthy movement of prana through your organism.
Sit or lie comfortably. Close your eyes and inhale deeply. Visualize prana coming in through your crown of your head and through your sense organs clearing all the subtle mental pathways. Retain the breath focusing at your third eye. Exhale visualizing the breath moving out through your third eye. Repeat 5 – 1
Breathe in through your mouth (pucker your lips) drawing the breath in and down. Retain your breath briefly focusing at your throat. Exhale the sound AUM as loudly as you can.(if you are somewhere where you need to be quiet, you can exhale in a quiet lion pose, sticking your tongue out and exhaling fully from belly). Repeat 5 – 10 x
Inhale deeply and extend your arms out wide. Visualize the breath moving in and down and out from your heart and lungs circulating through your entire body. Pause. Exhale, wrap your arms around you as if you are giving yourself a hug, slightly tuck your pelvis under and feel the breath moving from the periphery back to your heart and lungs. Repeat 5 – 10 x
Breathe in and down to your navel center. Retain the breath and see it stoking a fire in your navel center. Exhale and allow that breathe to circulate throughout your belly nourishing all of your digestive organs. Repeat 5 – 10
Breathe in and down into your pelvis. Retain the breath there while holding awareness in your pelvis. Exhale and visualize the breath flowing down through your legs and out the bottoms of your feet, grounding you and connecting you firmly to the earth. Repeat 5 – 10 x
As you go through this practice, you may feel especially drawn to one or two of these breath patterns. Make a habit of going through the entire sequence in order, but then at other times, you can take one of the ones you’re drawn to as a special focus. You can also explore bringing this pranic awareness with you into your asana practice. Always work in a way where your breath feels free and relaxed. If you sense straining or if your heart races after retention, modify what you are doing until the breath is steady and calm again.
May this practice serve your yoga.
References: Frawley, Dr. David: Yoga and Ayurveda: Self-Healing and Self-Realization, 1999.
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