Yoga is the latest trend in the west, with thousands upon thousands of classes offered away from its home in India. But with so many people practicing yoga, there seems to be more and more that are unaware of the basic concepts. This is – to a large extent – because yoga has been repackaged in many ways.
Of course, it would be wrong to say there is a right or wrong way to do anything. But if you are going to get the most out of yoga, and show it the cultural respect that it deserves, then you may want to know a thing or two about it. And that is starting with Prana.
What Does Prana Mean?
Prana is the Sanskrit word for life force. This is an elementary word that refers to an all encompassing energy that flows through everything. It is present in everything, from the sun and moon, people and animals, and can even be found in inanimate objects like rocks.
Prana is an ancient concept that dates all the way back to the Vedas, and has its likeness in a number of Asian traditions. For instance, the Chinese call it chi. It is thought to be the core life force behind all living beings and responsible for all the things that you and your body do. So all in all, it is the life force behind everything – so pretty crucial!
That Sounds Quite Spiritual
It certainly does have a spiritual aspect to it. But that does not mean that Prana is to do with worship, and you do not have to commit your life to the concept so that you can practice yoga. Of course, yoga was developed within the Indian traditions, so one would expect those traditions to be a part of the practice. But simply because there are ideas that come with yoga that do not prescribe to some people’s idea of the world, this does not mean that it should be rejected.
Yoga requires a few things: discipline, time, and an open mind. You do not have to be spiritual to benefit, but at the same time you do have to be open minded and attempt to receive what is being offered to you. It is only this openness that is required to benefit from yoga and the practice of yoga.
How Does It Relate To Yoga?
In yoga there is an attempt to not just stretch your muscles and body, but to get Prana – the energy force within you – to flow better. This will give you more energy, vitality, and generally make you a happier and healthier person. In yoga with Prana, the concept is very much like the idea manipulating your chi, like in Tai Chi.
According to yoga the human body has channels, which are referred to as nadis. There are thousands of nadis throughout your body, but there are also three main nadis. Ida, which is by your spine on the left side. Pingala, which on the other side of your spin. Sushama, which is in the center of your spine which is life your main channel.
Yoga then uses pranayam – which is slow breathing that brings Prana into your body – and movement, to open these channels and strengthen your lifeforce. It is an invigorating experience, and one that many swear by.
Does This Work?
Whether yoga really breaths a life force into you is not qualified by medical research. However, what can be said is that yoga and all aspects of the practice have been shown to have excellent health benefits. Of course there are the obvious benefits like flexibility and so on. But those that practice yoga on a regular basis also report increased energy, vitality, and a greater feeling of control in their lives. Whether anyone can directly attribute this to Prana is another matter.
Can I Just Do The Stretching?
No one can tell you how you should practice your yoga. But there are a few things that you should consider. Firstly, what is the cost of being open minded? No one is asking you to prescribe to any belief system, but simply to take yoga seriously. Do you lose anything? And what can you possibly gain? It is a win-win situation that can only do good things for you, so just take it seriously and enjoy.
Secondly, yoga is an ancient tradition, and though it is fantastic that so many people are getting involved, we wouldn’t want to diminish a cultural practice that goes back thousands of years. This is why we ask you to simply be respectful. There may well be aspects of yoga that do not feel quite you, but that is no reason to simply dismiss them. It is all about respect, and that is certainly a concept that is central to yoga and should be expected of everyone.
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