At its heart, hatha yoga is the management of prana, the vital life-force that animates all of life, at all levels of being. The most obvious vehicle for prana in human beings is the breath, however, prana is found in all aspects of the human condition - physically, mentally emotionally and spiritually. Yoga is principally concerned with the movement and understanding of prana. In Yoga-Tantra, prana is referred to as Prana Shakti, the Great Mother Energy, and is known to be that which activates all of the manifest world. From the yogic perspective, when we are talking about creation at any level, we are referring to prana. There is not a single aspect of creation that has not been made manifest, sustained, or dissolved without prana. All of the various types of yoga - hatha, bhakti, jnana, kriya etc., are all aimed at consciously accessing, directing and mastering this vital force and using it to clarify the body, mind, emotions and spirit.
Can we enhance prana?
This is where yoga can have such profound impact, as, by its practice, we can replenish and improve the quality of the prana, even if we genetically inherited a poor pranic blueprint.
Yoga also acknowledges another great force at the core of human existence: manas (the mind). Yoga Masters throughout the ages have said that these twin forces of mind (manas) and life-force (prana) are responsible for all of life, action, wisdom. Consequently, if there is an imbalance between energies of mind (manas shakti) and energies of prana (prana shakti) this leads to an imbalance throughout all areas of life.
Specifically, the harmonising of manas shakti and prana shakti find expression in the balance between ida and pingala nadis, the active and passive energy pathways within the body, mind and spirit. This is why, in the study of yoga, we first of all emphasise the purifying and balancing practices of hatha yoga, before proceeding to more advanced yoga practices.
When the manas and prana shaktis are out of balance, many physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual afflictions can be experienced. For example, when prana shakti is out of balance (either in excess or depletion) this can manifest as physical ailments. For example, if the prana shakti at Manipura Chakra is imbalanced, there may be digestive issues such as loss of appetite and weight loss (depletion) or indigestion and acid reflux (excess). When manas shakti is out of balance (either in excess or depletion) this may result in mental obstructions and disturbances such as depression, psychosis, or simply feeling unmotivated on a daily basis. The mind cannot be made free to shine its true nature unless the manas shakti is harmonised and harnessed. It is easy to see how imbalances between manas and prana shakti in an individual can extend out to family, community, and the world at large, resulting in conflicts and difficulties.
Consequently, an understanding of prana shakti and manas shakti is of benefit in working in more refined ways in personal yoga practice and in teaching classes. All of the practices - asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, dhyana (concentration) - can be approached from this dual understanding. Simply by practicing yoga, this balance is occurring naturally, however, there are many ways to enhance this process by bringing awareness to it and tweaking the practices here and there for more specific effect.
Yogis and yoginis have always known that balancing the manas and prana shaktis is necessary to live a healthy, vibrant life. The Ashram Yoga teacher training courses guide participants towards ever deepening understanding of these dual forces of manas shakti and prana shakti, and how to utilise that knowledge for personal practice and for the preparation of yoga classes.