Sometimes we hear people say, "She has great energy" or "The energy around him is radiating" and some other things about this so-called energy. What is it anyway? Is it just a lot of fluff? Some new age concept we like saying that doesn't really mean anything? Let's explore it.
Bring your hands together in front of you, then move the hands away from each other with the palms still parallel. Do this a few times, moving the hands closer together but not quite touching, then apart, then closer, then farther apart. You might notice soon enough that there is something contracting and expanding in between your hands, the sensation not so different from having your hands under water and feeling the water expand and contract as you move your hands. That is the energy that we speak of. In Sanskrit, it is called prana. It means life force.
This energy flows inside us, through our energetic body or pranamayakosha to be exact. To purify the pranamayakosha, we use the yogic techniques of pranayama or breathing exercises. One such exercise is called kapalabhati. It means skull shining. It cleanses the skull by moving the energy up. Kapalabhati is practiced by short forceful exhalations through the nose, similar to blowing the nose. Using this technique can uplift us emotionally and spiritually.
A breathing technique that we use while we practice the physical poses or asana is ujjayi breathing. Ujjayi comes from the word jai which means victory. The breath is a victorious intentional breath where there is constriction at the back of the throat and we breathe in and out through the nose. The inhalations and exhalations are even, and we do not hold the breath while moving from pose to pose.
Pranayama has the power to transform the energy that moves within us. And in this regard, we can consider what it is that we wish to transform in ourselves. What qualities do we want more in our lives? More kindness, compassion, and patience perhaps? What qualities do we wish to release from our lives? Judgment, anger, fear? We can use our yoga asana practice as a moving energy meditation by breathing in the quality we want and breathing out the quality we do not want. Inhale kindness, exhale out judgment. With every breath, we transform ourselves little by little into our highest selves.
This prana or energy or life force can be transformed. We ourselves make this transformation. Try this. Close your eyes. Rub your palms together until you feel the heat in between your hands, then bring your palms to your eyelids. Feel that comfort. On a practical level, whenever we feel that life is weighing us down, remember that we have the power to transform our own energy, and that we ourselves have the power to lift us up.