Dear yoginis and yogis,
How’s your prana today? Whether you are just back from holidays, exhausted from the summer rush (I’m thinking of friends in Spain), recovering from an operation, or, like me, have recently spent a fair bit of time visiting hospitals and nursing homes, I bet your energy levels are something you ‘ll be thinking about, consciously or not. How does it feel to get out of bed in the morning? How are you digesting your meals, how optimistic and funny are your conversations? A yogi would say – how is your prana?
Prana is a Sanskrit word and a central theme in yoga, usually translated as “life energy”. A lot of prana is the difference between a wilting flower and a fresh one, between a supermarket lunch warmed up in the microwave and a home-cooked meal, between a shirt you’ve worn all day and one that’s freshly washed and ironed, between you after a week at a desk in an air-conditioned room and you after a holiday … you get it, right?
Everything in life has more or less prana.
Traditional yoga and ayurveda are all about raising your energy level. Through yoga asanas, healthy food, contact with nature, a right balance of sleep and activity, massages, and of course the breathing exercises known as pranayama (translated as controlling / guiding prana), yogis increase their level of energy, in order to live their life to the full and, maybe one day, to attain enlightenment (which requires loads of prana).
When this subtle energy is low, illness can enter the body (or the mind – depression is symptomatic of low prana). Consequently, the aim is to keep prana high to stay healthy. But also, when illness does occur, it makes sense to work on the prana level of the patient. Unfortunately, in hospitals and nursing homes (but also in schools and universities, and many offices, and public transport systems, not to mention prisons), I often notice that the atmosphere and the way of dealing with people are not conducive to health. Of course, it would be great if people had daily yoga classes (both patients and nurses, teachers and students, wardens and inmates…). But so much can already be achieved with the quality of the air, the presence of plants (and pets), the use of music, a hand/ foot massage (the cumulated effect of touch and of the presence of the kind person giving the treatment), essential oils, herbal teas, medicinal spices, the choice of colours for walls, furniture and clothes, keeping things clean, as well as avoiding noise and loneliness.
I am absolutely certain that patients would heal faster, students drop out less, employees be more productive, inmates be less likely to re-offend, if the focus were put on raising their prana. What may seem too costly is actually a way to cut long-term expenses. I am sure many pilot projects have already proven it, and at least in certain places, one can see efforts being made. It’s all about the prana!