February 29, 2012

Is Your Prana Low? How Sanskrit Can Help. ~ Dr. Katy Poole

Pedro Moura Pinheiro

There’s a secret I’d like to share with you about why you feel the way you do: It’s not about the other person.

But before I describe how your feelings have everything to do with the blockage of prana (life-force) in your body, I have another secret that will help put my explanation in context: In any yoga teaching composed in Sanskrit, the first word of the text expresses the meaning and feeling of the whole teaching.

For example, the first word of the Bhagavad Gita is dharma. The entire discussion between Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield between good and evil was about doing the right thing—the thing most aligned with the divine purpose guiding your birth— your dharma.

We all want to do the right thing, but sometimes we just don’t feel like it. We eat the wrong food, hang out with the wrong people, think the wrong thoughts, and say all the wrong things. And most often, we don’t even know why we feel so off when we should feel so on.

The same thing happened to Arjuna.


Itching to get on with the bloody brawl against his relatives who’d illegally stolen his familial property, he found himself suddenly queasy with uncertainty. As he stared into the loving eyes of his uncles (who once bounced him on their knees and now were poised to kill him), his logic failed to produce an adequate reason for going ahead with it—where it had just moments before convinced him of the war’s rightness. Shaking inside with a sickening prescience of how the whole thing would go down in the end, grief filled him with a bitter effervescence. His limbs quivered. His bow slipped from sweaty palms. Parched, his voice could only produce a squeak of uncertainty, doubt and despair.

Why did Arjuna’s feelings change all of a sudden? You’ve asked yourself the same question whenever you’ve been overtaken by an emotion. Where is this coming from all of a sudden?

But rather than stay with your awareness focused on where the feeling is arising within you, your attention travels outward instead, toward an external cause. Blame of another swoops in, steals away your logic, and drops it on the doorstep of your mother, father, friend, boss, and so on. And if you should act on your unexamined feelings directed externally in this way, the consequences will be—without doubt— misaligned with dharma. You’ll suffer.

With the first word he speaks, Krishna teaches Arjuna how to act according to dharma instead: Kutas? “From where?” Where is your attention? For Arjuna—as it is for many of us when powerful feelings overtake us—it was outside himself.

A yogi, on the other hand, pulls her attention inward when faced with conflicting emotions. She observes carefully: Where does this feeling arise specifically in the body? In the heart? In the throat? In the stomach? Where’s the energy stuck that’s communicating a feeling impeding dharma or body, breath, and mind in perfect alignment with a purpose higher than changing emotions?

With this kind of yogic observation, you can discover not only how unproductive feelings entrap you, but also where. By keeping your awareness focused inside, you can experience how blocked energy or prana communicates specific feelings from within the six cakra regions. (And since sound is the best conductor of life-force, how you can increase prana within the cakras by intoning potent Sanskrit syllables to raise low emotional energy toward a higher and more dharmic expression.)

For example, boredom overtakes you from stuck prana in the muladhara cakra at the base of the spine. Obsession and addiction breed from burnout in the svadhisthana cakra, the space behind the genitals. Greed and jealousy emanate from the manipura cakra, the naval center. Hatred and fear contract within the anahata cakra, the heart region. Grief chokes you in the vishuddhi cakra at the throat. And finally, anger flares from the ajna cakra, in-between the eyebrows.

Take a moment to observe. What are you feeling right now? Close your eyes and locate where its sensation lies in the body. Keeping your awareness on the bodily location of the feeling, intone the sound—mmmmmm—like when Mom makes something good to eat. “Mmmmmm, good.” Feel how the sound resonates in the center of your forehead.

In Sanskrit, the “mmm” sound is called anusvara, or “nasalization.” When pronounced properly, anusvara generates a buzz in the nasal cavity, a place where highly refined nerves form a dense matrix. These nerves serve as a distribution center of prana throughout the entire body.

According to Tantrika theories of the subtle body, each cakra contains a central Sanskrit sound that combined with anusvara enlivens positive pranic flow within them. When intoned with full breath and attention on the cakra region, prana is then released with great power, reversing the negative emotional experience to its positive and more liberated counterpart.

You can then watch how boredom shifts to enthusiasm, obsession to creativity, jealousy to generosity, hatred to love, grief to gratitude, and anger to insight. You can see how clearly that it isn’t about the other person after all. It’s about your prana.

When your body blossoms with life-bestowing prana, it’s very easy to act according to your right purpose and eliminate suffering—no matter how difficult your dharma may be in the moment.

(As for the feeling at the top of the head, the sahasrara cakra, there is no duality. It’s all bliss. And that’s another Sanskrit letter for another time—ahhhh!)


Sanskrit for Yoga with Katy Poole:


Editor: Brianna Bemel



Katy Poole, Ph.D.Abandoning the safety of her academic career for the less-traveled thrill of an infopreneur, Dr. Poole has spent the past ten years serving as an author, teacher, Vedic astrologer and tour-guide of  what’s sacred and profane in India.  She’s also enjoyed applying her very fine education (and many years spent geeking-out with crazy holy men) toward producing high-quality online courses on Sanskrit for Yoga. Recently, she and her husband got rid of their car and ride their bikes everywhere. It’s making her dream of living like a real Himalayan Baba one pedal closer.  Check out her free 10-video mini-course and ebook, Awakening with Sanskrit, and find out how Sanskrit revolutionizes your yoga by turning off your mind and tuning you in toward your higher source: http://www.SanskritforYoga.com


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