… or how to climb a tower at 90

My Dad has just turned 90, and I have been spending some time with him in Germany. He is still very energetic, completely clear mentally (as much as my Dad can be, being my Dad ;) and full of beans. Last year he insisted on climbing a tower in the Black Forest with me – the equivalent of a four-storey building. The tower is on top of a hill – which of course he walked up first – overlooking his and my place of birth, the small town of Tiengen.

He certainly hasn’t run out of ‘prana’ – life-force – yet.

Prana is stored in the kidneys

Life-force, chi, vital energy or prana, according to Eastern medicine, is stored in our kidneys. If we ‘push’ through life – with too much coffee, too little sleep, or use drugs or caffeine supplements to keep us going– we drain our kidneys and adrenals, and shorten our life span. Blocked energy flow in our bodies, resulting in un-ease, discomfort, pain or worse – injury and illness, has an impact on our life-force as well.

Increase your prana by practicing Yoga

This is where Yoga comes in with all it’s different practices, freeing up the energy flow in the body, enriching and building up our ‘prana’.

The breath – the main supplier of prana

We assimilate prana with healthy food and drink, sunshine, good company, and most importantly with our breath. Although we can go without food and even drink, for some time, our survival is reliant on a consistent, uninterrupted supply of breath, which carries precious life-force. Asana or posture practice allows prana to freely move throughout our meridians, organs, muscles etc. thus making their functioning more efficient. As we all know when practicing postures, we feel much more grounded and focused and are able to sit still for some time. This is the prerequisite for breathing practices like Pranayama, and eventually meditation.

Enhance your prana with pranayama

Pranayama is the practice best suited to build and enhance our energy levels, and our ‘prana’. It deals directly with the increase, lengthening, and deepening of our breath, which as we now know, is the major prana supplier. Committed yoga practitioners have experienced this first hand for thousands of years, and recently also Western medicine has acknowledged the positive effects of breath control (pranayama) and meditation, on our vitality and overall wellbeing.

Prana & Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

In this beautiful method of practicing asanas – Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga – we have further maximised the improving and freeing of the energy flow throughout our system, by ‘linking movement to breath’. Pattabhi Jois referred to our Vinyasa practice as a ‘Breathing Movement System’. Thus we are not merely stretching and strengthening when practicing postures one after the other, but with the intelligent choosing of in-breaths and out-breaths during certain movements, the flow of prana is greatly enhanced. At the end of a practice we feel energised and revitalised.

Drsti and Prana

What further assists in directing the energy/prana when performing postures is our ‘drsti’ or gazing point. There are nine gazing points in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, and each posture is assigned a drsti, which will encourage the body whilst in the posture, to move in the direction of the gaze. Eyes and the sense of seeing is a very powerful drive in us humans. The gaze needs to be contained and in this instance, made optimum use of. This further directs and enhances our energy flow, or prana, thereby freeing the body and mind to enable us to engage in our life and this world more fully and completely.

Monthly Focus in October

This month at North Sydney Yoga, we will focus on prana and the drsti in all of our classes to instill in you the experience of single pointed focus, stillness in the body and greatly filling up your storage of precious ‘prana’!.

Come and practice!

OM Shanti, Angelika