You probably know the term 'prana' from the yogic technique known as 'pranayama'. To break it down, 'prana' means 'energy' and either 'yama', to 'direct, master, manage' or 'ayama' meaning to 'extend or draw out', as in extending the life force. So from these two interpretations you can see that pranayama is both dealing directly with the breath, in that we learn to control and manage the breath, and also directly influencing the life force, which we extend through these practices.
Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga and is possibly the most important, underpinning our entire spiritual progress, because it impacts so hugely on every single one of the other limbs. Without conscious breath, asana won't come easily and you certainly won't reach the states of deep meditation, let alone samaadhi, if you're breathing unconsciously. (For more on the eight limbs of yoga, read my blog on 'What is Yoga?' here).
But pranayama goes beyond breath. It deals directly with the life force; how much energy we have day to day, and how much energy we have to live a long and fruitful life, how much energy to dive really deep, stay safe and come back with a huge smile on our face. This is HUGE!
There are many ways that our pranic flow becomes blocked; mechanical and physiological issues such as muscle tension and injuries; sickness and the build up of 'ama' (waste products of our metabolism), and crucially, our mental patterns and limiting beliefs.
With regard to freediving, most of us are already doing a lot for the physical body - stretching, building strength, working on O2 and CO2 adaptation, seeing chiropractors, massage therapists and other body-workers. We are probably limiting the build up of 'ama' through a conscious, primarily plant-based diet. We all work with the breath, doing tables, lung stretching and all kinds of other breathing and breathhold exercises. But many of us are still unsure about the aspect of the mind and how to get it to play its part in maximising our energy flow and enhancing our performance in the water.
Much of it comes down to BELIEF. If you believe that you have more energy than just the air in your lungs and your arterial system, you start to open yourself up to the possibilities of being able to access it. The life force is also known as the Kundalini energy; it sits, coiled up in the depths of our belly, waiting to be ignited so that it can serve us to really fulfill our purpose (and our dives). When I dive I visualise this energy in my belly waking up, pushing its way up my spine, a golden light flooding my body and filling it with warmth and powerful energy.
The energy moves up through the spine - exactly the direction that I am moving when I head down in to the depths, and then back up to the surface again. Believing in, and visualising this energy was hugely powerful for me in my deep dives.
I also connect with the energy of the ocean, the sun, the creatures around me - being part of the ocean feels like swimming in a vast bowl of energy soup! I tap into the energy that I see and sense around me, and this gives me further strength and power on my dives.
We are not alone. We are connected, deeply connected, to the Universe and to the Infinite energy of creation. When we start to believe, we lose our doubts and fears, recognise we are held and our dives and our lives unfold into an incredible flow of expansion and bliss.
If you wish to dive deep into this exploration of your own pranic potential, you can get your own copy of Energy Beyond Breath, my six-week Yoga for Freediving online course, which focuses on Prana and prana. Sat nam, wishing you a beautiful, Prana-filled day and life!