In yesterday’s post, I hardly had time to get started. Talking about the balancing act between prâna and apâna, I likened it to the accumulation and ridding of material things. I wanted to finish the post by discussing the IN and the OUT of yoga practice.
Most of us arrive at a yoga practice carrying a lot of impressions (samskaras). When used therapeutically, yoga helps us to unpick the essential from the superfluous. Let’s use fear as an illustrative example. A healthy amount of fear, or caution, is necessary. Otherwise, we might try to fly off mountainsides, or jump into strangers’ cars at 4 in the morning. But too much fear can stop us talking to interesting strangers at parties, travelling to unknown lands or otherwise enriching our human experience. So, the continuous practice of yoga, especially challenging postures that elicit a certain amount of fear (say, backbends, breath retentions) allows us to watch our fear response, get to know it intimately and then, ultimately, control it at important moments.
So, yoga can be used to unpick the essential from the superfluous. When there is a dominance of prâna>apâna, there may be a tendency to flightiness, an abundance of ideas without the capacity to distinguish the good ones from the mediocre, and an inability to realise/materialise one’s own ideas. Somatic manifestations like headaches, twitching eyelids, tooth grinding, jaw tensing, ear ringing, panicky breathing, neck and shoulder tension, pounding heart, tingling fingers and nervous habits like skin picking, smoking and nail biting are all related to prâna>apâna. (please bear in mind that prâna and Prâna are two different things. The lowercase version refers to the vayu that dominates the upper body. Uppercase refers to the universal energy that sustains all Life.) When prâna is in balance, our thoughts are fast but not fleeting, we have good recall and can crosslink ideas as well as exercise intuition. When prâna is overactive, we are nervous, irritable and irascible. When it is underactive, we are forgetful, fretful and worried.
Of course, we need adequate prâna to sustain life. Likewise, we need adequate apâna, also. Apâna dominates the digestive organs and pelvic region. When it is out of balance, all manner of digestive troubles may ensue, as would varicose veins, swollen ankles, heel spoor and other foot disorders, cellulite or peau d’orange as well as general sluggishness or tiredness. When apâna is strong, we are able to rid ourselves of waste material (urine, faeces) but don’t excrete too much (frequent urination, irritable bowel). When it is weak, we may have flatulence, constipation, diverticules and pelvic prolapse.
Of course, should anyone out there reading this believe that yoga alone can cure any of the above named disorders, I have to do the responsible thing and state this this post is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose any medical problem. Go to your doctor, FFS. But, if they can’t put a name on what ails you, as often happens, ie: you don’t have a diagnosed and named pathology, then maybe some self-care in the form of yoga can prove helpful.
How to balance prâna and apâna? Coming soon…but Krishnamacharya would probably say apanâsana and dvipâdapitam…
Namaste and may you be filled with joy. JSK.