Prana is our life force energy, which is drawn into the system through breath and food.* Prana is responsible for life in an individual – for vitality and energy. In the clip below, Dr. Svoboda so eloquently summarizes how our prana can escape our body as our awareness is drawn away by focusing on what we either desire or fear.
|Clip from Int. Ayurveda & Yoga Conference- by Dr Robert Svoboda- Ojas & Prana.mov|
Capturing our attention through our desire or fear is big business in our modern world, so our day-to-day experience can literally feel like a minefield of deficiency and anxiety. As our prana – an energy that creates calm and balance within the subtle body – escapes us when our awareness is externalized, it creates a space that the air element (or Vata dosha) will inhabit. Vata dosha, the dosha of motion, is referred to as the “king of the doshas” as it is responsible for the vast majority of imbalances in the body. Common ailments such as insomnia, anxiety, overwhelm, constipation, IBS, fatigue, back pain, irregular and/or painful menstruation, and low fertility all have their roots in Vata imbalance.
In the modern world, we are able to chase our fears and desires in a nanosecond with the use of technology. There is no doubt that the tremendous strides made in technology have served to democratize the world in ways beyond what we have known in recent history. Yet, with this rapid evolution also comes the challenge to create healthy boundaries with something that offers limitless instant “gratification,” either through fulfilling our desires or feeding our fears.
“In order to encourage your own individual self to be healthy, you have to be very careful to not have your attention drawn away either by something you are attracted to or by something you are terrified of. In both cases your prana is being dragged away along with your attention.”
“If there is insufficient prana in the body, the body will still be filled with energy but it will not be pranic energy. It will be Vata energy. Prana and Vata are both created from the air element. The air element, the only quality it has is the quality of motion. So there will still be the energy of motion in the organism but the difference between prana and Vata is the prana is aware of how to center itself in the body. It is aware of how important it is to have itself be located in the subtlest and the deepest part of the organism. And it is well aware of how important it is to keep the peripheral nervous system calm. Vata, on the other hand is […] outward expanding, moving away from the center. Vata always promotes the activity of the peripheral nervous system. It encourages the limbs and the head and the mouth – and everything except the central parts of the organism – to have lots of energy, creating that kind of nervous energy that has to be used up, boiled away instead of stored and carefully circulated.”
~ Dr. Robert Svoboda, International Yoga & Ayurveda Conference, 2009.
Prana is like a gentle wave at the core of our being. Vata is like too many cups of strong coffee.
During the majority of the day, most of us have on our being a contraption that can instantly draw our awareness, and thus our prana, out of our bodies towards our desires or fears. What most of us are seeking is peace of mind, a sense of wellbeing, fulfilling relationships and a feeling of security. Ironically, as we allow our awareness to escape our being, we create an internal environment of exactly the opposite.
In my practice, I regularly question my patients about their use of their smart phones, tablets, computers, etc. How much time per day are you spending on your devices? How many browser windows do you have open at a time? Are you multitasking when using them? Are you using them for work or during leisure time? Are you using them during mealtimes? What do you watch/search for?
As with anything powerful, it can be used for either evolution or destruction. How can we begin to create boundaries with the technology in our lives so that its role can be one that supports our creative efforts while not simultaneously robbing us of our life force energy? Creating boundaries with our use of technology is critical for our health and wellness. Here are a few practical tips to begin incorporating on a daily basis:
1) Keep your bedroom free of TV, computers, tablets and smart phones.
- If reading at bedtime, read from a good old fashion paper book rather than from a tablet.
- Use an alarm clock rather than a cell phone for waking. Better yet, keep your blinds cracked and rise with the sun.
2) Limit the amount of browsers open at one time.
- Multitasking is one of the easiest ways to draw prana out of the body and aggravate Vata, which can quickly lead to a sense of overwhelm.
3) Keep mealtimes “tech free.”
- Avoid using any devices while eating. Distracted eating leads to suboptimal digestion. Improper digestion is the root of disease in the physical body.
- Because our fire element is stoked during the digestive process, we will digest all sensory impressions more deeply into our system. Stressed about work? “Eating” work with your lunch will just draw it more deeply into your system and compound the issue.
4) Shut down at least 1 hour before bedtime.
- Instead, meditate, practice yoga, drink tea, spend time with loved ones, give yourself an oil massage or take a bath.
5) Set days/times to take a break from your devices.
- Do you need to be on your smartphone on Sunday morning? If not, shut it down. Go for a walk in nature instead. Going on vacation? Take a vacation from your tech too.
6) Connect and be present with those in your immediate environment.
- Ayurveda sees human connection as crucial to our health and wellness. More time connecting with those around us and building relationships impacts our health on a profound level.
These practices can help us to maintain our awareness within our being. Where awareness goes, prana will follow. Where prana resides, there is vitality.
* In addition, some draw in prana through certain yogic practices and aspects of meditation.