Prana for Mental and Emotional Strength
(Dedicated to my forever faithful, Mikyung…)
“PRANA, is something which each individual is born with. It is capable of being exercised and strengthened just as our limbs, intellect and mind can. During the exercising of prana external air comes into play, but prana should not be identified or mistaken with the air we breathe. Prana is attached to the body, and so long as it is thus attached man is alive. Yoga treatises say that this prana forms a sheath round our body extending for about twelve inches round it. The more gently we breathe, we conserve it, the more violently we breathe we waste it.”
~ T. Krishnamacharya, “Yoga Makaranda – Part II” (p. 11)
Prana is our life force; taking the time to notice and focus on prana through specific breathing techniques is the foundation of yoga…or at least the foundation of my yoga…
What is breath?
For me, BREATH IS EVERYTHING. Practicing yoga is simply another form of exercise without taking the time to incorporate my breath. In general, I use my inhale breath to lift or look up and I use my exhale breath to lower.
Learning to use my breath during practice has a calming, rejuvenating and simply cleansing effect on my body. It renews me when I feel sluggish and gives me endurance I never knew I had. Then from my practice it carries me off the mat into my everyday life; providing me strength when I need it most.
Where do I begin with breath?
Start with focused concentration on your breath for only a few minutes or maybe a few breaths at a time. Then slowly build to longer durations as your interest and strength allows. I like to teach others to begin with viloma breath. (For more information, see my previous article.) In Sanskrit, viloma translates to mean against the natural flow; “vi” suggests contradiction and “loma” means hair. In other words, as we control our breath we move against its natural flow. I appreciate the mindfulness viloma breath has brought to my practice. More importantly I love the recognition of breath it has brought many of the participants in my classes.
Asanas will help you find your physical strength; when you recognize and develop your breath, you find your mental and emotional strength.