In some yoga classes, you might hear the teacher talk about ‘prana’, often in conjunction with thinking about or using the breath. This might be in terms such as ‘breathing in prana’, or ‘thinking about the prana (energy) flowing through the body’. In terms of a working definition, prana is considered to be the life force, or universal energy. However, it is not the same thing as oxygen, or air, as it can be found everywhere, and throughout our bodies. There is a similar concept, known as Chi, used in acupuncture and other Eastern traditions

How is it linked to the breath?

We all know about the breath, and, of course, we breathe from the moment of birth until death, most of the time never giving it a second thought.  One of the special characteristics of yoga, and something that distinguishes from most forms of exercise, is the way it focusses on the breath. We can think about our breathing when we move into and out of asanas.  We can also bring our attention to the breath when sitting or lying. Controlling it through sequences of breathing exercises is a practice known as pranayama. The breath is considered one of the main sources of prana, and when we breathe we bring prana into and out of the body, using this concept to bring ourselves more into balance.

Do I need to believe in prana when I do yoga?

Most of us have probably very little idea of what prana is, but does that matter? In my view, we don’t need to believe or not believe, we just need to feel what happens when we practise. When I breathe in, in a certain way, or move my body through a sequence of yoga movements, my levels of energy – and well-being –  can change. Whether it’s the result of the movement of prana, or merely the complex interactions of the biological systems of the body … well, who knows?

You certainly don’t need to believe in prana as conceived of in Indian (and Buddhist) philosophy when you go to a yoga class –  all I would suggest is that you keep an open mind.

THIS WEEK’S CLASS - LYING DOWN WARM UP (please note: this is not a ‘how-to’ guide but a reminder to my students of something we practised this week)