Our guest blogger, Mohan, is back! This month he begins a series on explaining the factors critical to leading a balanced life. Enjoy!
Most of us have a busy life and hectic schedule. At least this happens in cycles, for a fortunate few, while the rest are forcefully sunk into the duties of our daily lives. I am not going to state anything that we don’t already know. From the moment we get out of our beds and until we retire in the evening, our neural networks are screaming with instructions, trying to endure all kinds of challenges. Insomnia and improper sleep are topics for a later day. Stress, exertion and emotions challenge us every moment we live through the day. We constantly push ourselves, not paying attention to where we are, both mentally and physically, until something breaks down. The bright side is we all know this is a predictable pattern, and while it cannot be avoided, we can be prepared to deal with it.
I frequently hear people, or even catch myself, uttering the following phrases:
“I do not have time to breathe”
“I have not had a break to catch a bite”
“I need a break to unwind”
These pretty much sum us up and reflect the status updates of our daily lives.
These three phrases reflect how we manage our life style and prioritize tasks. When we catch ourselves in one of these situations, it is an indicator we need to calm down and venture the basic connection among life force (Prana), nourishment (Ojas) and actions (Tejas). These topics could fill volumes on their own, however, let’s focus on Prana today.
Prana is our life force or vital energy that both our physical and energetic bodies need to continue functioning. It is also called Qi or Chi in other languages. Prana is often attributed to breathing, but there in much more to Prana than what happens in our bodies, even at a sub-cellular level. According to ancient scripture Upansihad, human conscience needs to traverse through 5 different sheaths or layers called koshas to attain the ultimate bliss and realize the true light we are made up of. The first two layers Annamaya Kosha (synonymous to physical body) and Pranamaya Kosha (synonymous to energetic body) have a direct connection to Prana. Unless one realizes the benefits of breathing and the calming effect it has on our minds, it will be difficult to traverse through the other subtle layers in ourselves.
This vital force starts with a focus on deep breathing and is responsible for both voluntary and involuntary activities that our bodies carry out. Respiration, circulation, digestion, elimination and procreation are some of the many vital chemical reactions it triggers and carries out. Every experience that is good or bad is in direct correlation to chemical changes that happen in our bodies. Breathing and renewing the vital force of Prana is the first step towards calming our minds and streamlining chemical reactions in our body. Hence your destiny is in your hands and it can begin with coming back to your breath.
In a healthy body and mind, this vital force should never stagnate. But at times, Prana is hindered and our vitality is compromised. Pranayama and Asana (the physical postures of yoga) practices are easily available tools that help us revitalize and increase Prana. These practices have a profound effect in increasing the blood oxygen level and assisting the necessary chemical reactions needed for our bodily functions. These practices also create awareness on how energy is conserved and when they are utilized.
Prana is responsible for human evolution through creativity and adaptability to change. Without Prana we would suffer from inappropriate mental fluctuations, depression, and stagnation of thought.
Most of us may not be able to spare 45 minutes daily for a physical Asana practice. In such instances, setting aside 15 minutes a day to practice Pranayama will help you reap similar benefits to a physical Asana practice. Supplement your Pranayama with exercise. At least 4 days a week. It can range anywhere from a brisk walk to a hard sequence of Asana practice, depending upon your ability. The point is to get breathing and moving. This will help revive your vital force and take you to the next level. Everything starts with breath and rest follows.
While we still have a full circle to connect Prana, Ojas and Tejas and how they relate to each other, taking control and putting them to practice is our goal. We all can start with that first connection called Prana. Through breathing techniques and exercise, we can help ourselves to reset and restart completely renewed.
We will look at the other two connections in coming blogs.