Remember that whenever you are practising something, two components have to come together: awareness and relaxation. Even if you are in the most difficult of postures, you have to relax in it, not remain tight and tense. Plus, you have to be aware of what is happening, not by putting your mind into a body part but by visualizing and observing it from above. A few days ago I gave the example that when people talk, they move their hands and body. I am also moving my hands while talking to you, yet I am aware of those actions, and that is due to the fact that I am not looking at my hands, I am looking at myself from somewhere above my head. I can see the whole picture.
When you are doing something with your body, you try to bring your mind into a specific part. By doing that you actually limit and confine your awareness, from broad to narrow. You have to be aware of the movement and the experiences it is creating, sure, but then move up and see the whole body, not just one part which is moving. Just as you can see my whole body and also the finger that is moving, I see myself in the same way. That is the awareness you have to develop in yoga: to be able to see the whole self while you are engaged in something. Even if you tie yourself up like a pretzel, be aware of the whole body and remain relaxed. That was the focus of our practices yesterday.
Today we are going to focus on prana. How do we experience prana at the time of performing an asana? Some people will say the movement of energy in the body, others will say heat, tingling, and so on. I differ from all those views.
Take the example of eka pada pranamasana, single foot standing salutation pose. It is a practice of balance. Where is the awareness of prana in this posture? Everywhere? Wrong. Ajna? No. Here the entire focus is on the foot, for it is the foot that is supporting the body, it is the foot that has to be firm and strong. If the foot is firm and strong, the body remains unmoving. If there is fluctuation of prana in the foot, you will be swaying. So the focus comes at that point of the body from where stability is being created and experienced. Here the entire force and power of prana is on the foot on which you are standing, not in the whole body. The prana is focused and centred in the foot. If the pranas were not focused and centred in the foot, you’d be unable to stand on your single leg. You do not focus on the swaying of the body and try to reduce it, that only increases the swaying. You have to focus on the foot and the ankle, and be firm and immobile.
The stability, the firmness, the stillness, that is the control of prana, not feeling little sensations travelling from head to toe and getting electrical shocks. You have to become aware of prana in an asana by becoming aware of the strength that you are using to make a movement or hold a posture. Where the pressure and the force is, that is the area you need to stabilize. Wherever you are using your strength or force, it is in that region that you have to focus.
Another example: if somebody has to do mayurasana, the peacock pose, then the focus of prana shakti will be in the wrists and hands, as they are using that prana shakti to keep the body in that posture. Once the awareness of prana shakti comes there, the wrist and hands will become firm. Therefore,
you have to direct the prana shakti, like they do in martial arts – punching with the breath – there is a power, strength and firmness in the action. In the same manner, in yoga too, wherever you are feeling the pressure or the force, that is where you have to concentrate to experience the prana shakti.
One final point should be clear. Even if you are focusing prana shakti in a specific part, the form of your awareness continues to be of the whole body.
26 October 2018, Munger Yoga Symposium