Last month we discovered that connecting to the energy of the heart rather than following the mind down the tedious road of worry can help us to find peace and ultimately a deeper level of consciousness. This month I would like to explore exactly what this energy is.
I heard a theory that western medicine grew out of studying cadavers, while in the eastern world cutting up the dead bodies was frowned upon and thus eastern physicians developed ideas about the flow of energy from studying living-breathing human beings. Whether or not that’s true, one thing is certain – yogis derived their way of understanding the world from self exploration, and the flow of prana (vital energy) plays a significant role in this discovery.
According to yoga tradition there are five major currents of prana that run through the body and organize its physiological functioning. These are known as the Vayus (see side bar).
Prana is not limited to the physical body, it is universal. This universal energy is manifested in all things living and innate: the air we breathe, the warmth of the sun, the home you live in, the device you are reading this article from, and so on.
Albert Einstein showed us that matter is an expression of energy. He used the equation E = mc^2 to prove that mass and energy are relative to each other. This equation describes how energy can be converted into mass and mass into energy. Experimental results from particle accelerators are used to demonstrate the relative nature of mass and energy.
Stay with me, scientists today are formulating the idea that just as mass and energy are interchangeable so too is energy and information. According to Dr. Gerard Nahum author of “Predicting the Future: Can We Do It? And If Not, Why Not?” there is a well- defined relationship between information and energy, which effectively makes them interchangeable - or essentially, two representations of one-in-the-same entity. Thus, if we were to follow this line of reasoning one step further not only would information have an energy equivalent, but it would also have a mass equivalent associated with it in accordance with Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence equation. Using the mathematical equations presented in his book, from which I will spare you the details (you’re welcome), Nahum suggests that energy, mass and information are all quantitatively related in a well-defined way that makes them interchangeable.
Prize winning physicist David Bohm summarizes this idea when he says that there is a limitless amount of information enfolded into the structure of the universe and we are a manifestation of that energy.
So here is what we know - everything that has mass has both energy and information. What does this mean? If our physical body is mass and that mass is a system of flowing energy (vayus) and this same mass is simultaneously storage of information AND all of the mass surrounding us in the universe holds these same properties of mass, energy and information - then how do we relate to ourselves and to the universe?
Paul Pearsall, author of “The Heart’s Code” which we referred to last month, argues that because mass, energy and information are in fact interchangeable than the heart (the epicenter of life energy) not only can connect to the energy of the body and to the energies of others but it also remembers and stores the information of each interaction and life experience we encounter.
By slowing down our yoga practice (and in turn our lives) and connecting on an energetic level to each pose, to each breath we take, we can eventually start to develop a connection to prana in our own bodies and how it relates to the energy in the world around us. Self exploration is essential, in your next yoga class try to close your eyes and keep them closed as much as possible throughout the class. This will encourage you to focus more on the sensations, the energy, of each pose and less on others or any distractions.
Vayus The yoga tradition describes five movements or functions of prana known as the vayus (literally “winds”). These five vayus govern different areas of the body and different physical and energetic activities.
Prana - chest, head - governs intake, inspiration, propulsion and forward momentum Apana - pelvis - governs elimination, downward and outward movement Samana - navel - governs assimilation, discernment, inner absorption and consolidation Udana - throat - governs growth, speech, expression, ascension and upward movement Vyana - whole body - governs circulation on all levels, expansiveness, pervasiveness
When the vayus are functioning harmoniously, they assure the health and vitality of the body and mind, allowing us to enjoy our unique talents and live life with meaning and purpose.
Halasana Plow Pose will cultivate prana vayu. When you are in the posture imagine the flow of energy begins at your toes and rises up the back of the legs through the spine, the back of the neck, over the top of the head and ultimately stimulates the third eye, or the area between the eyebrows. Keep the eyes closes and imagine this upward flow of energy noticing any sensations at the level of the third eye. Hold this pose for 3-5 minutes taking deep slow breaths into the abdomen.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Alternate Nostril breathing is a beautiful breathing technique that helps keep the mind calm, happy and peaceful by just practicing it for a few minutes. It also helps release accumulated tension and fatigue. The breathing technique is named Nadi Shodhan, as it helps clear out blocked energy channels in the body, which in turn calms the mind. It is also known as Anulom Vilom pranayama.