Yoga works. You feel better when you walk out of a class than when you walked in. Why?
One reason is that yoga activates your parasympathetic nervous system through calm, relaxed breathing and through lengthening and strengthening your musculature. ICY instructors often talk about the parasympathetic nervous system in classes; it is the part of your nervous system that slows you down and it is responsible for telling your muscles to relax, improving your digestion and assimilation, boosting immunity, and helping you sleep better. It also assists in regulating your blood pressure and lowers your heart rate. It counteracts many of the stress-related symptoms and the negative by-products of our fast-paced lives. Poses such as forward bends, hip openers, supine, prone and seated postures as well as inversions and holding poses longer help encourage the deep relaxation that stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system.
Another reason that you feel better after yoga is prana, the life force inside of you. Prana has always played a vital role in yoga. Ancient Tantric texts, like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita, list various techniques to help build, channel and regulate life force. In these texts, asana is described as the foundation for hatha’s deeper practices because it is accessible and helps to free prana: the process of holding a pose and breathing through it helps dissolve pranic blockages. Different asanas unlock prana in different ways. Forward bends, for example, increase the types of prana that calm, soothe and ground; backbends unblock prana that is more energizing, revitalizing and expansive.
A yoga practice moves prana in a way that is balanced, complete and/or suited to your mental and physical needs which is a main reason you feel better after class. The more you learn and practice how postures affect prana, the more you know which poses to practice to help move your energy. You may notice a particular class at ICY that once made you feel great is doing so less and less; that may be a sign to move to a different level or type of class.
The more you control and build your storehouse of prana, the more benefits you will achieve through practice. The more you learn to skillfully utilize the power of life force that includes breath and poses, the closer you come to feeling yoga’s limitless potential.
“Prana is the breath of the soul,” says Swami Mayatitananda, “a bridge between body and mind, so conscious breathing practices can nourish our spirit and heal even our most grievous spiritual and emotional wounds.”
Yoga helps you create space for energy to move – it opens up the body, dissolves tension, helps bring awareness to where you hold tensions, stress, patterns, and personal stories. Then this life force can flow through you and you can wake up to the flow of prana.
“To change something we must alter the energy which creates it,” says Yogic and Ayurvedic scholar, David Frawley. “To bring about positive changes in the body and mind we must understand the energy through which they work. This is Prana – primary energy. It is sometimes translated as breath or vital force, but it is more than these. Prana has many levels of meaning – from the breath to the energy of consciousness itself. Even Kundalini-shakti, the serpent power or inner force that transforms consciousness, develops from awakened prana.”
ICY’s class schedule is designed to help you experience your prana in different ways and through a variety of practices. Choose the level that feels right for your energy and remember you can always move to another class to experience different energy flow through your body, mind, breath and spirit. Attend ICY classes and feel good!