Recently we have started to explore the “Power of Breath”. Autumn and Spring are traditionally the times of the year that pranayama practises are taught due to their ability to help the changing of the seasons by keeping us present and connected. We have learnt from the teachings of the yoga philosophies that along with the air that we breath in that we also breath in prana. Prana is the vital energy that animates every being, the life force that allows you to think, digest food, hear sounds, laugh, sneeze and engage in the numerous activities in which we are involved with on a daily basis. Though not material in nature prana flows through every part of the body, interpenetrating every cell. The physical manifestation of this vital energy that we can related to the easiest is our breath.
Prana has five functions, the life force we breath in with our breath splits itself into five forms of vital energy that help us stay vibrant, balanced, healthy and full of vitality. When any of these energies is in excess or weakened for any reason, of which there can be many, our body, mind and spirit are affected. The five forms of prana are:
- Prana – governing our inhalation. This is the vitalizing breath
- Samana – processes the oxygen brought in by prana, the nutrients brought in through our food and the ideas and thoughts we are exposed to. This is the nourishing breath.
- Vyana – circulates the oxygen, nutrients, ideas and allows expansion into the world. This is the expansive breath.
- Apana – oversees the exhalation. This is the cleansing breath.
- Udana – accompanies apana in the exhalation, it allows energy to rise up, to voice opinions and turn thoughts into action. This is the expressive breath.
The classes so far have explored the first three energies, using breathing techniques and poses to help build and let go to bring our energies into balance.
I have been using a wonderful book that I discovered about 7 years ago on one of my teacher training weekends to guide us through the exploration of Prana “The Power of Breath” by Swami Saradananda. I would highly recommend it is if anyone would like to learn more or practise what we have been doing in class. Of course you can always ask me for help and guidance or further practises if something has really resonated with you.