When you read that the topic for this week is energy, what comes to your mind? Sometimes when a question like that is asked, the questioner has something in mind, but not today. There are so many possible answers. For some people, it’s a mechanical question – it’s the capacity for doing work. Physicists might consider it as potential, kinetic, thermal, electrical, chemical, nuclear, or other various forms according to Britannica.com. For others, the mind goes to energy as a fuel source – fossil fuels, wind, sun, water – all sources or kinds of energy. And for yet others, the immediate answer is more internal as we check to see what our own internal energy level is. For people who practice yoga, it may be a more esoteric answer. In a yoga practice, prana is vital energy, our life force. “Doing yoga maximizes your body’s flow of the universal life force, giving you better health and increased vitality.”*
I chose a picture of water for this week’s newsletter header because for me water represents energy in all of its manifestations. The crashing of ways is a vibrant, exciting, sometimes overwhelming kind of energy. But the water in slow rivers and still ponds is a calm, peaceful energy. The slow movement of a glacier is another version of water’s energy – slow but inexorable. Rushing floodwaters and relentless tsunamis show us the power of water to damage and a soaking rain brings new life to parched land.
Water is a visible form of energy that can help us understand the variable nature of energy. The practice of yoga helps us not only keep our energy flowing and healthy but can help us manage and change our energy when necessary. If we are tired (lacking energy), we can choose backbends for their revitalizing effect, but we can also choose forward bends for calming energy to help us sleep. When we are anxious or frenetic, we can turn to yoga for changing that energy to something more helpful or directed. When we are lethargic, we can use yoga as a way to get energy moving again rather than turning to caffeine or sugar. If we are sad or overwhelmed as many of us are in this time of turmoil, yoga can help us understand and acknowledge our emotions and ride the wave rather than be swamped by it.
In this way, yoga becomes a practice for our health as individuals, but also in community and in leadership roles. When we are better able to understand and manage our energy, we are better able to support those around us rather than cause them difficulties. Our energy is then life-giving rather than overwhelming and damaging. This week we’ll explore some of the lessons and postures of yoga that can help us keep our energy moving in a positive way.
*Budilovsky, J & Adamson, E. (1998). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Yoga, New York: Alpha Books. (is the title missing?)