Yoga helps us to connect to, and work with our energy in lots of different ways. One of the principles of yoga is Brahmacharya, or ‘right use of energy.’
As Hannah Barrett explains so beautifully in her book Yoga Happy, Brahmacharya can be seen as being about cherishing and respecting all life energy, and that includes our own. She goes onto write: ‘Are you able to notice whether you are finding the right balance and right use of your energy? And are you ‘taking time to reset, breathe and look at your bucket of energy and know that this is a necessary part of life?’
Below are 7 ways you can use to connect with and relate to your own bucket of energy in your practice on and off your mat.
- Visualise your current energy state as a season of the year. Come to sit quietly, close your eyes and place your hands on your heart, taking a moment to gather all of yourself into the present moment. Bring your awareness inwards. Be with yourself and whatever is arising for you, in particular feelings and sensations, allowing them to flow freely whilst you observe them. Ask yourself – what season am I today, spring, summer, autumn, or winter? Allow your inner voice to answer instinctively, and be aware of the thinking mind coming in with any thought stories about your response. Each of the seasons has an associated energy to it and no season is better or worse than the other – all are necessary and have their part to play. Identifying which season you are feeling today may help you to connect with where your energy is, and subsequently guide your practice on the mat and beyond.
- If your internal state was a landscape, consider what type of landscape it would be. A variation to the above practice is to ask yourself instead, or perhaps additionally – what is my inner landscape today? Is a storm raging, the energy unsettled? Is it the calm after a storm has come through, the energy dormant but with regrowth waiting to happen? Is it a full flowering garden, the energy singing and abundant? Again, allow the feeling mind to answer and use this self-inquiry to guide you as to how you might work with and honour your energy on and off the mat.
- Connect with your breath. When you first come to your mat, take a moment to become aware of your breath, attaching your awareness to the natural flow of each in and out breath. Start to imagine that with each inhale you are calling all of your energy home to you – all the parts of you that have been scattered throughout the day, the parts of you that may be stuck in the past or moving into the future, all are called home to you through each and every in breath. And start to notice how each exhale is serving to leave you calmer and more connected. As you move through your practice, you might start to further work with your breath, perhaps consciously deepening and lengthening the breath as you come to the complete yogic breath and work with directing energy within. As Christina Brown writes: ‘Conscious breathing brings oxygen and energy to the cells and enhances all cellular processes. It’s a fantastic source of energy. It’s simple: when we breathe better, we feel better.’
- Visualise and connect with your energy in your asana (posture) practice. Erich Schiffmann explains that each asana is a specific template to work with the energy flow within you. He writes: ‘Yoga done properly is a matter of creating, directing, and channelling energy through these various templates.’ Erich suggests that as you come into and hold each individual asana, visualise deliberately funnelling your energy and breath through the posture and its lines of energy, which originate from your centre. For example, Trikonasana (triangle) pose has five lines of energy – lines reaching through each arm, lines travelling down each leg and a line extending though the spine. As you connect with this way of practicing, are you able to detect stuck places in the energy flow, which need gently nudging into, which need your breath, awareness and intention to open up? Next time you are on the mat, explore how you feel after working in this way. Does your energy enhanced, more freely flowing, more alive?
- Work to build strength in your asana practice. There can often be a flexibility focus to yoga, but like all things it is a balance and when we work with strength not only does it allow us to stretch safely, it also generates energy within. As Anodea Judith writes in the book Chakra Yoga, ‘Effort generates energy because it requires energy.’ Modern science explains the system of yoga’s intuited understanding of this thusly: ‘Exertion spurs your body to produce more mitochondria inside your muscle cells. Mitochondria are known as the powerhouses of cells, because they create fuel out of glucose from the food you eat and oxygen from the air you breathe. Having more of them increases your body’s energy supply.’ After you have worked with effort, explore whether you can sense the energy you have created; you may even connect with using intention to direct the energy into various parts of the body, distributing it as needed. You may sense the energy as warmth or tingling. As Anodea explains: ‘When the effort ceases, the energy generated can then flow into the tissues. When charge is flowing freely through the body, it feels like gentle warmth pervading your flesh.’
- Rest when you are resting. When it comes to moments of rest in your practice, for example in Balasana (child’s pose), explore, are you truly resting, or have you still left your engine running? When a car is parked and left on a driveway, it is not left with the engine on and a brick still on the accelerator, yet this is often how we can be, even when we are ostensibly stationary. Next time you are in Balasana, ensure that you have turned the ignition off. Where can you let go and release more deeply, how much can you anchor your mind to the breath?
- Be with what is. So often we are in resistance – we don’t want what we are experiencing, or we want what we don’t have. This is an exhausting place to be. To paraphrase Byron Katie, when you fight life you lose, but only 100 per cent of the time. Drop the resistance. Cultivate an intimate relationship with reality. Rinse and repeat. Observe how much calmer you feel and how much more energy you have for this present moment, the only moment you can operate from.
© Catherine Rolfe 2023