The more the world desires, consumes and apparently ‘needs’, the less we seem to feel we have. Indeed there’s plenty of ‘stuff’, yet we seem to feel emptier than ever these days.
One of the benefits of a Yoga practice is that it begins by bringing us away from all the ‘stuff’ and back to the simple essence of life: the breath.
In a time where feeling stressed and overwhelmed is the norm, and a plastic life filled with an unfulfilling job, an unstable bank balance, and a house filled with stuff that simply takes up space and provides a momentary distraction; coming back to the essence of life is essential.
The word Prana is mentioned a lot in the practice and study of Yoga. It refers to many things, but primarily we can speak of it as:
- Life Force – the energy of ‘being’ behind all living things
- The Breath
Where To Find Prana
Nature in its truest sense is abundant with Prana; it radiates fullness, abundance, health and vibrancy. You’ve likely felt an increase in the amount of Prana you’re surrounded by when visiting somewhere surrounded by nature, or when you’ve eaten organic plants and vegetables prepared with love and good intentions. Maybe you’ve felt the prana within your own body increase when you’ve taken good care of yourself, spent time outside, with loved ones, or taken part in something you’re passionate about.
It’s when we put ourselves in unnatural situations and unnatural [habitats] that the level of Prana we feel decreases. Studies show that being out in a natural space decreases the body’s level of stress and therefore inflammation; the brain releases more neurotransmitters linked to wellbeing, and essentially our levels of happiness increase dramatically. When we find ourselves in the middle of a busy city, stressed about a job that exists only so we can earn more paper money to pay for more stuff to fill up the house with the mortgage in order to survive in the lifestyle the Western world demands, we inevitably find ourselves to be very sick and very tired, and very low on prana or ‘life force’.
When we come back to the breath; the primary source of life, we come back to something absolutely authentic, real and true in that moment. Your mind may tell you a thousand other things are happening, but the breath will tell you what is actually happening now.
Breathing To Boost Wellbeing
By practicing specific breathing techniques, or pranayama (translated as either breath-control or breath-liberation depending upon your understanding – click here for further discussion) we can help to rebalance the brain, the nervous system, and the body’s overall level of functioning, giving time and space for more clarity and understanding of what really matters in the moment at hand.
- Simply sit, lie or stand and lowering the gaze, become aware of the physical act of breathing. (This can of course also be done when you’re walking or even running after a little practice).
- Refrain from changing anything about the breath to begin with, simply observe how it is. If you’re in a stressful situation or you have a lot on your mind, it’s likely the breath will be short and shallow, activating the body’s sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze) system.
- Begin to deepen and lengthen the breath, one of the most effective ways to do this is to count the breath. Start by inhaling for a slow count of five and exhaling for a count of five (if any discomfort arises, stop immediately).
- Focus your whole attention on this practice of breathing fully in and out for 2-5 minutes and see for yourself what happens ….
The practice of ‘being present’ is spoken about a lot in the world of health and wellbeing, but this is one of the most simple and effective ways to become present and arrive in the now.
Increasing Life Force
By becoming more present, aware and awake, we’ve instantly increased our prana or ‘life force’. There are many ways to increase the sense of aliveness and Prana you feel within and around you, and they’re all surprisingly simple….
- Spend time in nature regularly
- Move and breathe in a way you enjoy the most
- Make resting and restoring a priority
- Choose to eat organic and plant-based when possible, and eat mindfully, appreciative of where the food came from and how it was prepared.
- Get some sunshine as often as possible (preferably in the morning when there are higher levels of blue light in the atmosphere)
- Reduce waste, including: wasteful thoughts, wasteful words, wasteful actions, and of course material waste like trash and clutter
- Remove as many toxins as possible from your body and home
- Spend time with loved ones
- Help someone else. Be of service to the world in whichever way you can
- Decide to enjoy life, to quote a line from the film Chicago: “You can like the life you’re living, you can live the life you like”. It’s your choice.