What is Prana?
All matter is energy – we swim in a sea of consciousness. Prana is life force energy – the energy of the Universe – that we take in through the air we breathe and food we eat. Vata is the dosha (or principal energy) that governs all movement in the body, so its subtype that carries prana through the body is aptly called prana-vata.
Pranavata governs inspiration (breathing in) and swallowing, supplying oxygen and nutrition into the body. Emotionally, it gives the ‘inspiration of life’. It strengthens the connection between mind and body by inspiring and energising us to act on our karmic journey (our life purpose). While pranavata fills our lungs with life-giving oxygen, it resides in the mind – so deficiency causes depression, anxiety, insomnia and a host of other mental disorders.
What causes prana to be depleted, or imbalanced, in the body? (And what you can do about it)
- A sedentary lifestyle // Hours sitting in front of a computer and/or a lack of physical exercise causes oxygen/prana to be depleted in body’s tissues. You feel lethargic, tired, start yawning and your brain feels fuzzy.
Move your body. Increase your incidental activity by getting up from your desk whenever possible. Have water on your desk and take a walk to the tea room to refill it regularly. Go see your colleague to talk to them, rather than picking up the phone. Use your lunch break as an opportunity to be in nature and breathe deeply. (Trees exhale the oxygen we inhale, so soak up the green whenever you can!) A walk or run through the park is a great way to take in more oxygen and get it circulating to all the body tissues before heading back to the office. Practise yoga to get you out of your head and into your body, creating space for understanding and clarity of thought to enter.
- Shallow breathing // Most desk jockeys are shallow breathers. A lack of physical exertion means respiration demand is decreased so breathing naturally becomes more shallow over time.
Practice deep breathing regularly throughout the day. Take your focus away from your computer, tablet or iPhone screen and give your attention to your abdomen. Take a deliberate, deep breath, and feel your lungs slowly filling with oxygen. Stretch a little beyond your comfortable capacity, hold for a moment, then exhale at the same rate you breathed in. Even breathing like this is great to energise the body while settling and providing clarity to the mind. Aim for 5-10 breaths at least 3-5 times a day. Waking earlier in the morning to do breath work is a great way to start the day.
- A monotonous lifestyle // We’re all busy and time poor, so it’s easy to be caught up in the hum-drum of life – wake, eat, work, sleep, repeat. Simply going to work, paying the bills, and caring for children can leave you feeling tired, flat and stressed out – a sure sign pranavata is imbalanced.
Variety gives inspiration to life, so shake things up. What inspires you? Get back into a hobby you loved. Try a dance class. Join a social sporting team. Take a day trip to somewhere you haven’t been before. Watch funny movies or do something that makes you laugh. Filling yourself up with the good stuff inspires creativity, passion and joy in life.
- A monotonous diet // It’s easy to get into the habit of eating the same things for convenience, that way you don’t have to think about it. Oats for breakfast. Sandwich for lunch. Spaghetti bol for dinner on Mondays. While structure and routine are supportive, rigidity is not.
Introduce flexibility and variety. Try at least one new recipe every week. Experience a food or cuisine you have never had before. Get creative and experiment by preparing food in new ways. Maybe have oats for brekkie but try different variations – apple and cinnamon, banana and honey, raspberries and coconut, pecans and pumpkin pie spice. Mix it up. Have fun with it. Let your food inspire and excite you. This will nourish you far more than the healthiest, same-same diet ever will.
It’s important to remember we don’t make prana, we take it in and use it for basic metabolism – much like charging your mobile phone battery to be able to use it. No juice? No energy. No inspiration. And ultimately, no life. It’s vital to all aspects of our wellbeing to ensure our cup is full.
So, tell me – what inspires you?