In yoga philosophy, the Sanskrit word prana means “life force.” It’s the spirit that drives you. Energy moving through.
Sometimes it’s just not there, right? Last week Switzerland roasted under a massive heat wave. We all felt drained and sweaty and blah after endless days of 95° heat and humidity.
When cooling rain finally set in Friday night, it was like the whole country went “Ahhhhhh!!” And now, as the mist continues, our garden looks lush and green and renewed — and my body feels the same way.
We all do things, consciously and not, in our daily lives to feel more awake (or, in yogic terms, to increase our prana). We sing, or eat nourishing food, or dance, or play drums in an 80s band, or hang out with babies, or garden, or paint. And that’s great, because ultimately, we all want to feel more alive.
Especially if you are currently spending 8 or 10 or 12 hours in front of a computer in a cubicle in some measly office building off a concrete highway.
For me, a regular yoga asana practice makes all the difference — even if that’s just five minutes a day. Paired with walks in the forest near our home, I feel rejuvenated and connected and alive. That time is nature is essential.
What can you do today to increase your prana? It doesn’t have to be fancy. A quick puddle walk just might do the trick.
I use this word a lot in my yoga classes — purposely.
Because it’s a great one to make friends with. Normalize. Welcome.
“Soften your belly like a nice loose Buddha belly.”
“Bend your knees so much you can press your belly into your thighs.”
“Hug your belly toward your spine to stabilize.”
“I like to move my foot to the right a few centimeters in this pose to make room for my belly.”
And so on.
Say it. Love it. Embrace it.
Twice a week I teach yoga to my kid’s soccer team. The other night I had them lie back on the turf in Supta Baddha Konasana and place both hands on their bellies, and say “Thank you, belly.”
They giggled. A lot.
It was so sweet and silly. And gentle.
Can you be a little more sweet, and silly, and gentle with yours?
I say this about a million times per class. It’s the key to everything.
Yoga and meditation are all about learning how to FEEL. Staying with discomfort — whether that’s an emotion or a tricky pose — without freaking out or running away. Making friends with all the very human feelings that arise within the course of an hour or a day or a lifetime.
Which is hard in a culture where, from little on up, we’re told things like “Stop crying!!” or “Nice girls don’t get angry!” or “Why so serious? Put on a smile.”
Your anxious thoughts or difficult moods aren’t good or bad; they just ARE.
See what happens if you can start to just notice them (“Huh, isn’t that interesting, I feel completely pissed off right now”) and stay with them without judging (“Oof, my hamstrings are SCREAMING in this pose!! I’m gonna DIE!!”).
Sit tenderly, and turn toward the discomfort. Breathe into it.
Over time, slowly, surely, you’ll be less likely to get tangled up in your thoughts and feelings — realizing they’re temporary, and you’re steady, and spacious, like the sky.
It’s deeply psychological. We’re re-wiring, re-learning what it means to be fully human. (So much more than just poses.)
And that’s only a good thing.
Spending hours outside in the hot sun with your hands in the dirt? All that digging, planting, and weeding might mean that your shoulders, hips, and wrists need a little love.
That’s why we’ve created this series of six yoga poses for gardeners.
Move through this gentle, beginner-friendly sequence to unravel any lingering tension you might feel in your body or mind. Hold each pose for 5-10 full breaths.
As always, feel free to modify anything that doesn’t feel safe in your body today. Most importantly, remember to be gentle with yourself — and don’t take yourself (or your yoga practice) too seriously.
September is National Yoga Month, so what better time to quash some of the most common misperceptions about yoga? Join us in debunking the myths of yoga together — starting with perhaps the most famous:
- YOU HAVE TO BE FLEXIBLE TO PRACTICE YOGA.
Simply put, this one is a big NO. ❌ Yoga invites you to come exactly as you are: tight hamstrings, stiff shoulders, achy low back, creaky joints, busy mind, strained Achilles. If your muscles are tight, you’re in just the right place! Yoga was designed for you — and it will meet you where you are.
Pop culture representations of yogis tend to overemphasize already-flexible models performing flashy, bendy poses. Don’t let those fool you. Yoga is just as suited for the couch potato middle-aged dad who can’t touch his toes as it is for the ex-ballerina whose foot slides easily behind her head.
As you unroll your mat for the first (or 50th) time, trust that you’re in exactly the right place.