Once we have connected with and nourished the physical body, the Annamaya, which I wrote about last week we can begin to access the more subtle realm of the Energy Body known in Yoga as Pranamaya.
When we feel into the Pranamaya sheath we can connect with the consistent flow of the vital life force which is animating the body. Prana is the expression of the Divine and this is what is animating us and every other living thing in the Universe. In a way you could say that we are borrowing Prana from a bigger Source and this is what connects us all. This calls for the practice of gratitude; paying daily thanks to this life that we live. When we recognize that Prana chooses to animate all life around us, be it in a small insect, a tree, the food we grow or a young child, we can tune into the fact that all life is valuable and worthy.
Prana has a fluidity that flows through pathways in the body. These channels could be visualized as a network of rivers and streams that flow through and around the body. The ancient yogis call this map the Nadis. They have a similar structure and vastness to some of systems in the physical body such as the nervous system or vascular system. The pathways are present throughout the body but with the main focus of energy flowing through the central channel along the spine and head. There are many energetic centers around the body – mostly associated with the joint complexes. The Chakras, a well known energetic model, used in many modalities, are also a part of this system and are placed along the vertical axis from base to the head.
Prana can be affected positively and negatively. So for instance, if we experience friendliness or kindness there will be an expansiveness in Prana and a sense of flow but when we experience judgement or fear, Prana will become contracted or blocked. A change or block in the flow of Prana is the first place where illness and disease can be detected. These knots or blocks in the system are known as Grunthis.
We connect with this energy body through the breath. By learning how to guide and control the breath we are able to clear some of our blockages. There is an intimate relationship between calm, balanced breathing and a calm state of mind. Paying attention to the breath will reveal your level of tension or ease in any given moment. When you are in a situation or with a person that you feel comfortable with notice what happens with your breath. And when you are feeling overwhelmed and busy notice the quality of your breath.
When we work with the Energy body, Pranamaya, through breathing practices known as Pranayama (notice this is a different word!) we can begin to address imbalances in all of our layers of being and maintaining a vitality of life.
As Prana enters into our system on the back of the breath, the inhalation brings space and momentum known as prana (notice little ‘p’ – this is not to be confused with the overall Prana with a big ‘P’) . The exhalation brings the energy of elimination and letting go known as apana. In fact Prana, divides itself not just into two, but five general expressions known as the Vayus or winds. Each Vayu governs various functions and regions of the body.
To find balance it’s useful to understand what energy we might want to increase and what energy we are wanting to decrease. Having an understanding of the Vayus, laid out in the table below, can help us to make supportive choices in our practice.
Area of Body
|Governs intake, inspiration, propulsion, forward momentum
|heart and lung conditions, lethargy
|Governs elimination, downward and outward movement
|menstrual problems, sexual disfunction, constipation, hemorroids
|Governs assimilation, discernment, inner absorption, consolidation
|Governs growth, speech, expression, ascension, upward movement
|cognition, communication issues
|Governs circulation on all levels, expansiveness, pervasiveness
|numbness, poor peripheral circulation
You may wish to take a moment to close the eyes and tune into this Pranic Sheath by being open to a feeling of flow through the body. Where is there a feeling of movement, the flowing of rivers through your being, and where are you noticing blockages or dams today? No judgement, just useful information for choices you might make today.