What is our most precious commodity? It’s our energy. Energy management is more important than time management. How we nurture and manage our precious energy is not only important for our health and vitality now, but it will ensure that as we grow older we will do so with vigour and vitality.
The source of all life
Whether it is yoga, aikido, martial arts, acupuncture, all these eastern philosophies recognise the human energy system. This energy – also known as Chi or prana – is our vital essence, our life-force: the source of all life. In a sense in have this subtle energy zinging throughout our bodies (and it is more electrical than anything else) we have the universe within us – for this is the energy that gave birth to the universe, universal energy). Without prana there is no life, prana can be felt in the body as different degrees of vibrations, warmth, power, pulsation, strength. We deplete this life-force when we get ill, through stress and tension (holding tension in the body creates blockages that prevent the free flow of this ‘subtle energy’) and through poor diet and lifestyle.
Worrying drains energy
Prana and the pranic body is the link between the physical body and the mind – hence any disturbance in the mind will affect our energy and also any physical ailment in the body will deplete our life-force. If we can learn techniques to manage our subtle energy we will remain strong and balanced (in mind and body) and be able to ward off any mental or physical illness and increase our inner power and strength.
Given that our brain is 2% of our body mass and yet consumes 20% or more of our calorific intake (your brain eats a kit kat and 2 packets of crisps a day!), it isn’t hard to see how worry and anxiety drains prana. A busy, worrying mind uses up loads of energy and this totally depletes our subtle energy. If we think of this pranic energy as a bank account – we were born with a certain balance and it is our responsibility to build on this energy throughout our lives so that we grow more vital as we age.
Mental tension and disturbance, through worrying and anxiety, uses up a lot of this energy and ultimately leads to illness and disease. In virtually all the Eastern philoshophies all illness and disease is a result of disturbance, blockage and stagnation of this vital energy (and this explains why my friend Howard has cured himself of the apparently ‘irreversible’ disease of Parkinsons).
What and where is prana?
Prana is the subtle energy that runs through the energy ‘meridians’ or channels of the body – the nadis. This electrical energy is intimately linked to the nervous system and the balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the nervous system. Hence mental and emotional balance (balance of these two branches) nurtures and strengthens prana. Whilst prana is not breath: breath is the biggest tool we have to manipulate prana. Hence the huge importance of breath and breathing exercises (pranayama) in yoga – these practices build our energy and vitality.
Prana exists in 5 different sections which all move constantly and in different directions (the vayus). A healthy section of prana feels tingly, full of life, vital and pulsating. Numbness, heaviness, cold, all indicate that prana is stagnant or blocked. Blockage and stagnation destroy our prana – and this gives us some sense of the importance of asana in yoga – asanas remove all blockages (eventually), whether mental, emotional or physical so that our vital life-force can flow freely and keep us health and vital.
Prana and Consciousness
Prana is also linked to levels of consciousness. Most religions, faiths and philosophies agree that the purpose of human life is to expand our level of consciousness and to realise our true potential of self. Higher levels of prana help to elevate us to higher levels of consciousness and likewise (in my experience anyway) higher levels of consciousness help us to experience the higher levels of prana. Fleeting experiences of higher these higher levels: where consciousness becomes consumed in shimmering ethereal particles of ‘light’ moving in all directions simultaneously where the physical material body has dissolved and we, our consciousness, has no boundary, is limitless.
How can we manage our energy?
We can learn how to generate prana, nurture it, build up a huge store of it. But first we must learn to become aware of it – this requires a refinement of awareness (so come along to my yoga classes!). Then there are three main ways of generating prana:
- Choose your environment carefully – it is said that living high on a mountain exposes us to more pure prana. We breathe in prana – taking the univeral lifeforce into our own body. So the quality of the air we breathe, and more importantly the level of prana in that air is important. Hence why mental illness and depression is higher in inner cities.
- Ingest the highest quality fuel – if we think of our bodies as a prana energy generation station, we ingest the fuel for the generation of our prana in 3 ways: what we breathe, what we eat and what we drink. So it is important to consider the quality of the prana in what we eat or drink. Natural foods that are closer to the source and have been through fewer refinements or processing have inherently higher levels of prana. Hence fresh vegetables, fruit and a more natural diet. Remember, our ancient ancestors were not meat eaters – but meat was a rare treat, certainly not an everyday event.
- And finally, and this is key, we need the proper rest and relaxation. Deep restorative rest and practices that reduce the domination of the sympathetic nervous system and restore vagal tone are essential. And this is not just about lying down and ‘doing relaxation’. but about learning a way of living that is expansive and spacious as we go about our everyday existence.
For more information check out the Embodied living blog or attend one of our courses or classes.