Prana has always played a vital role in hatha yoga. Ancient Tantric texts, like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita, list various techniques to help build, channel, and regulate life force. In these writings, asana is described as the foundation for hatha's deeper practices because it is so accessible and helps to free life force: The process ofholding a pose— while "breathing through it"—dissolves pranic blockages. Different postures unlock prana in different ways. Forward bends, for example, increase the types of prana that calm, soothe, and ground; backbends unblock pranic forces that are more expansive and revitalizing.
A key reason you feel better after class is that the practice has helped move your life force in a way that is more balanced, complete, or suited to your particular mental and physical needs. The principles of how different asanas affect life force are explained in both the hatha tradition and Ayurveda. The more we learn and practice these teachings, the more we know about which poses will help at any particular time. You may notice a particular practice (or style) that used to make you feel great is doing so less and less; that may be a sign that it is time for a change.
The more you control and build your storehouse oflife force, the more you can achieve through practice. "The control of prana is the ultimate strength," says the Srimad Bhagavatam, one of India's revered scriptures. The more you learn to skillfully utilize the power of prana that begins with asana, the closer you come to realizing yoga's limitless potential. *
Rod Stryker, founder of ParaYoga, has taught yoga and meditation for more than 25 years.
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