The second Kosha or layer identified by the yogis in yogic physiology is the Pranamaya Kosha . Prana is the vital force permeating the body and every layer of matter. It is related to energy. In fact Prana is associated with all the koshas and it is vital for life. It animates the body. However there is energy specific to Pranamaya kosha .
It occupies only about 2 per cent of our awareness and takes up the same space as the physical body. According to the ancient yogis prana flows through energy channels in the body referred to as Nadis which correspond to the physical nerves. There are said to be 72000 nadis with three prominent ones — Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. Both Ida and Pingala wrap around the main energy channel Sushumna like the double helix…where the networks converge at 7 points are the chakras ( or wheels of energy ).
In different parts of the body the yogis believe that prana serves different functions and they identified 5 pranas or pancha pranas as they are called:
- Vyana – flows through the whole body and is always present, it is said to be the last to leave when we die
- Udana – flows through the head, arms, legs and is associated with the mind and senses and movement..energy used in actions.
- Samara – is equalising and balancing the mid torso and has a side to side movement. It regulates the flow of prana and Apana.
- prana – is the upper torso navel to throat flowing up with inhalation and down with exhalation ( Think of the practice of the So Hum breath here) ..the lungs, heart
- Apana – flowing from navel to pelvic floor.. a downward movement associated with excretion and childbirth
Obviously breath has a very close association with Prana and the way to become aware of the actions of prana and to effect change is through breathing (Pranayama) practices By practising these techniques even something as simple as natural breath awareness you become aware of your own personal breathing patterns. You notice changes in breathing patterns associated with your state of mind. However things like meditation and asana also affect Pranamaya kosha so your yoga class may contain all of these elements. A balanced personal practice would include not just asana practice but also time for pranayama practice and some meditation. Remember this does not have to be a long time but it is worth thinking about making your practice (or sadhana) well rounded.
Posted in Asana, Meditation, Pranayama, Uncategorized, Yoga and Growth
Tagged awareness, Balance, Chakras, energy channels, home practice, koshas, pranayama, yoga
Well hello again to all my yoga friends. I wanted to share with you a few thoughts on the notion of core strength as it is certainly something that has been a focus in most of my classes. It became very popular to talk about “activating the core” with the increasing interest in Pilates many years ago and although perhaps not always discussed in terms of “core strength” it is still very much a part of a good yoga asana practice. It is more often referred to as developing abdominal strength and there are specific asanas that work this area of the body. However we are not merely talking about the rectus abdominus or “six pack” as is commonly identified with your abs but the deeper muscles of the abdomen including the transverse abdominus, the obliques, multifidus, diaphragm and pelvic floor.
Developing strength in this area is important because it is these muscles that support the lower back in particular and play a significant role in posture. As we age our abdominal strength can be diminished through lack of exercise, childbirth and poor postural habits. By including regular practices that maintain and strengthen the core you will definitely help to support your back and experience less back pain. Many of the practices found in the PMA 2 series of the asana handbook by Sw Satyananda focus on this muscle group. These include the boat pose (Naukasana), leg raises (Paddotthanasana) cycling (Pada Sanchalanasana) and many more. Stronger practices can be found in the plank pose (Santalonasana), the spinal column pose (Merudandasana) and of course any balance pose will rely on core strength to maintain stability.
Is core strength just about strong abdominal muscles then???
I personally think there is much more to it as this area of the body coincides with the energy centre or chakra known as Manipura chakra. Manipura chakra is symbolised by a bright yellow lotus with ten petals, a fiery red triangle, the yantra of agni tattwa, or fire element and is the seat of the digestive fire or agni. The animal which serves as a vehicle for Manipura is a the ram, the symbol of assertiveness and energy. So this is the chakra which is involved in self-esteem, warrior energy, and the power of transformation.
A balanced, energised third chakra helps us to overcome lethargy (Tamas). It can kick-start our way of being and attitude so that we can take risks, assert our will, and assume responsibility for our life. This chakra is also the place of our deep belly laughter, warmth, ease, and the vitality we receive from performing selfless service or karma yoga.
Manipura chakra is closely connected to the psyche and it is often the case that psychic problems give rise to digestive problems. For example, many people react to fear or stressful situations with abdominal pain or diarrhoea. Building strength in Manipura is way to help manage stress and anxiety.
Self-awareness and self-confidence are other pearls of the Manipura chakra.
So when you are practicing your asana to build your core strength try to keep your awareness at Manipura…..to feel the strength building not just in muscles but in your whole being. You may even want to mentally repeat the bija mantra Ram!
Posted in Asana, Uncategorized
Tagged asana, Chakras, core strength, deeping practice, Focus, health, home practice, Relaxation, self esteem, transformation, Wellbeing, will power, yoga, Yoga postures, yoga practice