Tools For Improving Your Energy Levels
UTILIZING OUR BREATH TO CREATE MORE SUSTAINABLE ENERGY
For anyone who has been in yoga classes for a while, you will be familiar with a term Prana from Sanskrit that is sometimes translated as “energy.” There are two types of energy being referred to. The first is a substance called prana, that pervades the entire universe and is in such things as our air, the heat of the sun and in the food we eat, thus it can be considered in part as nutrients for living beings. In addition, there is your individual prana, which exists solely within you, that is the life force that animates you. According to the texts, we are born with a certain portion of pranic life force energy that we use to fuel our life’s activities, and a renewable portion of prana that we can derive from food and air. This later source is not able to sustain us, however, when our original store of prana eventually runs out.
With an effective yoga practice one can conserve one’s individual prana so as to achieve your goals in yoga or in any part of life. According to the texts on hatha yoga from the twelfth century and forward, the yoga practice itself is designed to have several effects on prana. For example yoga can have the Koshas become more transparent, porous and cleansed.
Koshas are a distinct layers or dimensions of our subtle anatomy body. Pranamaya kosha consists of our vitality and pranic energy. Our vitality and pranic energy can be replenished through pranayama, energy work, and prayers just to name a few practices. Yama in classical terms means the control of the life force. In recent, Tantricterms, it is translated as prana-ayama, the setting free or unleashing of the life force. Different techniques should be applied based on your individual needs. You may need uplifting breath work if depressed, or relaxing pranayamas if you are anxious or stressed.
We can get in touch with this kosha better through visualizations, yoga postures and pranayama breath techniques to name a few. These practices are known to encourage the usual movements of the winds of the body or reverse them. Prana is said to move around the body via a series of forces called “winds” or vayu, that assist in moving prana up towards the chest and head via the prana vayu, down toward the pelvic floor via the apana vayu, out to the extremities via the vyana vayu, around the digestive center via the samana vayu, and finally around the throat area via the uddana vayu.
In addition to these wind forces prana in the body is said to move around via channels, known as nadis, with some sources numbering them around 72,000. The three main pathways are the only ones that get spoken about much: the central channel that runs within or in front of the spine from the pelvic floor to the crown of the head, known as the sushumna nadi, and the right and left nadis known as ida and pingula, that start at the nostrils and end at the pelvic floor at the base of the sushumna nadi.
WAYS YOU CAN USE PRANAYAMAS
If you are wanting to increasing your sense of relaxation and restfulness when feeling anxious or stressed try diaphragmatic breathing.
Lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees bent. You can use a pillow under your head and your knees for support, if that's more comfortable.
Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage.
Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air in deeply, towards your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain relatively still, while the one on your belly should rise.
Tighten your abdominal muscles gently and let them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.
You can also practice this sitting in a chair, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed. Practice for five to 10 minutes, several times a day if possible.
To increase your sense of energetic equilibrium when feeling scattered or off balance practice Nadi Shodhana.
Sit in a comfortable asana and make Mrigi Mudra. Beginning pranayama students may have some difficulty holding their raised arm in position for the length of the practice. You can put a bolster across your legs and use it to support your elbows or hold your elbow with you opposite hand.
Gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring-little fingers. Open and exhale slowly through the right nostril.
Keep the right nostril open, inhale, then close it, and open and exhale slowly through the left. This is one cycle. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then release the hand mudra and go back to normal breathing. (NOTE: some yoga schools begin this sequence by first closing the left nostril and inhaling through the right; this order is prescribed in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, 2.7-10).
Traditionally Nadi Shodhana includes breath retention, fixed ratio breathing, and the repetition of certain "seed" mantras (cf. Gheranda Samhita 5.38-54). For beginning pranayama students, it's best to focus only on the inhales and exhales.
If you need to increase your energy when feeling dull, tired or depressed try Kapalabati.
This is a strong and somewhat forceful breath practice so it is contraindicated for individuals with high or low blood pressure, heart disease, hernia, gastric ulcer, epilepsy, vertigo, migraine headaches, significant nosebleeds, detached retina, glaucoma, history of stroke, and for anyone who has undergone recent abdominal surgery. This pranayama requires knowledge of and experience with basic breathing exercises. If you are new to pranayama, allow yourself time to get acquainted with and proficient at Three-Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama) and Ocean Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama) before introducing Kapalabhati into your practice.
To begin, sit in a comfortable position where your spine is straight and your abdomen is not compressed. Some options include an upright seated position, such as Easy Pose (Sukhasana); Sitting on your heels, with your knees bent and shins tucked beneath your thighs in Hero Pose (Virasana); A seated position on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands on your knees, palms facing down.
Bring your awareness to your lower belly. To heighten your awareness, you can place your hands, one on top of the other, on your lower belly rather than on your knees.
Inhale through both nostrils deeply, contracting your low belly and forcing out the breath in a short burst.
As you quickly release the contraction, your inhalation should be automatic and passive. Your focus should be on exhaling.
Begin slowly and go at your own pace. Stop before you feel short of breath, faint, dizzy or strained.If you are feeling capable aim for 65-70 contractions per minute. Gradually quicken the pace, aiming for 95-105 exhalation/inhalation cycles per minute.After one minute of the exercise, inhale deeply through the nostrils, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Depending on your experience level, you may repeat the exercise.
Tips: When practiced correctly, Kapalabhati Pranayama will cleanse, energize, and invigorate your mind, body, and spirit. In addition, keep the following in mind when practicing this exercise:
Keep your focus on your low belly and on your exhalations throughout the exercise.
Do not contract your abdomen when you inhale.
Keep your spine and shoulders still throughout the exercise — the only movement should be in your lower belly.
Never force your breath on inhalations or exhalations.
If your breath becomes strained, or if you become dizzy or anxious, stop the exercise and return to your normal breathing pattern.
Other ways we can stimulate prana to flow is by using aroma therapy and reciting meaningful mantras. Mantras are a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. You can create affirmations or statements of well-wishes to yourself and others. Setting aside time and attention to focus on our health and vitality is very likely to increase it. When prana flows freely, without blockages, we are less likely to get sick or fall ill to diseases. It helps us live healthier and longer lives. We feel more vitality and more ability to be productive.