Prana, sometimes translated as life force is an important concept in Yoga and Qigong (where it is known as Qi or Chi). In Hatha yoga the generation and manipulation of Prana is key to the practice; the reason why we stretch and move, the reason why we breathe & meditate, and why we observe ethical guidelines for living.
We take Prana into the body via breath, sunlight, nutrition, and our environment. During the Summer months, it is easy to live Prana rich. There are more hours of daylight, and we spend more time outdoors in nature. We’re more inclined to exercise & breathe outdoors. We tend to eat food that is less processed & cooked.
But in order to maximise your Prana stores during the Summer months, it’s necessary to address any areas of your life where you might be “leaking” Prana. In other words, we need to minimise the energy or Prana we expend unnecessarily. There are many ways in which we might leak energy, here aare three that you might want to consider.
Breath is our biggest Prana provider. But it can equally be the biggest Pranic leak. To retain Prana in the body, check your exhale. If you talk a lot, find yourself sighing or yawning excessively, if you snore at night or breathe heavily through your mouth (when exercising for example) then you are leaking Prana.
If you want to view it from a more contemporary point of view, you are depleting your store of carbon dioxide. This can lead to a whole range of problems including fatigue and brain fog. Focus on minimising your exhale – breathe out lightly and slowly. At rest your breath should be silent and effortless. Consider taping your mouth shut when sleeping or exercising, to train your body to breathe through the nose to minimise carbon dioxide loss. If you talk for a living, make sure you balance this with periods of silence. Work on your breath holding techniques.
(For more on this, check out our online Buteyko for Beginners course).
Persistent stress drains Prana. It raises respiration rates so you leak Prana / carbon dioxide. It creates tension in the body that blocks the uptake and flow of energy. Certain organs work excessively, like the heart and the adrenal glands. Others, like the digestive system, have energy diverted away from them, depleting Prana further as nutrients are not absorbed. Stress can interrupt sleep which plays a huge role in our energy levels. We are more likely to reach for substances like alcohol and coffee to see us through periods of stress, which again makes certain systems of the body work excessively. The list goes on.
If you are experiencing unavoidable, persistent stress then be sure to balance it with regular relaxation. Your job is to harmonise your Prana – stress isn’t necessarily a showstopper if you can balance it with periods of rejuvenation and rest. Try to get good at stress – techniques like cold showers, certain breaths (Tummo, Breath of Fire), many Kundalini exercises, give you the opportunity to be mindful of the mechanics of stress & how to develop strategies for dealing with it, and also help your body make positive adaptations.
Emotional outbursts deplete Prana. Bad habits can do the same. Behaving in ways that run counter to who we really are – such as living a life that makes us miserable, being surrounded by people with whom you have to put on an act – is a huge drain on our resources.
The biggest problem often with habits is that they are unconscious. That is, below the radar of our awareness. The first step is to become aware of them. Journaling can be a wonderful way to do this. Keep an energy diary for a few weeks and see if there are any patterns to dips in your energy, identify the triggers. If you are prone to regular emotional outbursts, try to work out why; what is the underlying cause.
We are often not able to make the big sweeping changes we know we need to be true to ourselves, like jacking in a soul destroying job or ditching people who drain our energy. But small changes are always possible. Plus being aware of situations and people that are triggering something in you can be the start of a journey of profound healing.