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What is Prana?

What is Prana?

By Christine (Citrini) Ware, Ph.D., E-RYT

I was recently aske388834_10150469850622487_1847652528_nd this question by a long-time student. Prana is defined in different ways: energy, life energy, breath. It can also be thought of as qi or chi (concepts from Traditional Chinese Medicine). In yoga philosophy, the two great aspects of existence are prana and cit (pronounced chit), energy and consciousness. Prana, as energy, exists everywhere and in everything. It is the energy of creation and the essence of matter and form in the universe. It flows through subtle energy channels called nadis. The breath is one of prana’s subtle material forms. The practices of yoga are designed to increase prana, by encouraging control of its flow and energy-enhancing (or “right”) actions. Prana Vidya is the knowledge of life energy; in other words, it is the knowledge and the application of this knowledge to control the flow of prana for greater health and awareness. Pranayama is defined as breathing practices that control and expand prana.

Prana needs to be experienced. It cannot be understood through explanation alone. This is the reason that yoga is an experiential practice in which self-experiment, self-inquiry, and self-realization are encouraged. The experience of energy, of breath flow, and of activity (prakrti) are ways to experience prana. We can experience prana and gain knowledge of it by tuning in to our experience of energy, breath, and activity, and more particularly, that which increases our energy, breath capacity and flow (svara), and ability to focus. The experience of prana can also be (and often is) quite subtle. For example, it may be possible to feel shifts in energy using hasta mudras (hand mudras) or subtle movements of the body in meditative states (prana kriyas). One may also be able to experience the subtle or energy body in relaxed and meditative states (as if experiencing an aura or energy field around one’s physical body). Kriyavati, the inspiration for the TriYoga Flows and Prana Vidya practices, is the manifestation of kundalini (universal life energy) via hatha yoga.

In class this week, I encouraged students to experiment with changing their breath pacing and the timing of their flows and movements, in order to experiment with and experience these shifts in prana. For example, it can be interesting to see how one’s focus, relaxation, breath, thoughts, and experience of energy change if one comes to Knees to Chest from Partial Recline (1) synchronizing breath and movements of legs and arms versus (2) when one breathes randomly and brings each arm and leg into the posture at a different time. The practices of TriYoga are designed to awaken, enhance, and control the flow of prana through encouraging positive lifestyle choices (including dietary choices), the TriYoga Flows, pranayama (breathing) practices, mudras, practices which focus the mind (pratyahara, the withdrawal of the senses; dharana, concentration; and dhyana, meditation), the experience of expanded consciousness (Samadhi), and selfless service (Karma Yoga). Prana is experienced more easily when the body is relaxed, the breath is rhythmical, and the mind is calm; this also expands prana.

The mind and breath are interdependent. Pranayama practices are one of the most powerful ways to control and calm the mind. Thus, yogic teachings maintain that pranayama is one of the greatest yogic disciplines because it brings the breath – and therefore the mind – under control. The more one can increase prana through the breath practices and calm and focus the mind, the more one can balance and increase the flow of life energy.

For more information, please study Kali Ray’s Prana Vidya manual (2008). For this article, with the correct Sanskrit transliteration markings, please download the PDF version from our website. http://www.mindbodyservices.com

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A Complete Yoga System: The Branches of Yoga and the Eight Limbs

A COMPLETE YOGA SYSTEM:
THE BRANCHES OF YOGA AND THE EIGHT LIMBS
BY CHRISTINE (CITRINĪ) WARE, Ph.D., E-RYT

Experience the kundalinī-inspired sequenced flow
of yogāsana (postures) synchronized with prānāyāma (rhythmic breath) and mudra (focus).
The result is increased energy … physically, mentally, and spiritually.
This gives the mental clarity to manifest one’s life with greater awareness.
– Kaliji
Image
TriYoga is a complete yoga system. To what does this refer, and how might this distinguish our classes or practices from other yoga classes? There are various ways that I understand and experience TriYoga as a complete yoga system.

Yoga refers to “union” and comes from yuj, to unite or connect; the act of yoking, joining, attaching, and harnessing. It encompasses the union of body, mind, and spirit. It also refers to the system or path by which we may attain complete union with the Supreme Spirit: the union of the individual with the Universal.

There are many “branches” of yoga, such as jñāna yoga (the path of wisdom or knowledge),
nāda yoga (the path of sacred sound vibration), karma yoga (the path of selfless
service/action), bhakti yoga (the devotional path), and haţha yoga (the path that balances
prāna; the path that balances sun-moon; the path that unites āsana, prānāyāma, and mantra –
or posture, breath, and focus). Many yoga classes today focus only on haţha yoga, or on one
aspect of haţha yoga. TriYoga not only incorporates and expresses all aspects of haţha yoga,
but all “branches” of yoga. In our haţha yoga classes, we may focus on sustained and flowing
postures, breath, and concentration/focus, yet the incorporation of music that calms and
elevates the spirit is an expression of nāda yoga. There is also an expression of both nāda
yoga and bhakti yoga in our kīrtan sessions (such as Chant Club). In our pursuit of yogic knowledge, whether expressed in learning about postures/Flows or whether expressed in other ways of seeking wisdom, jñāna yoga is expressed.

TriYoga also incorporates all of the “Eight Limbs” of Classical or Raja Yoga (the royal path).
The Yoga Sūtras are attributed to Patanjali, a sage from a couple of thousand years ago. He
detailed these eight limbs as
(1) Yama (moral principles or “restraints,” such as ahimsā, non-harming)
(2) Niyama (disciplines, such as svādhyāya, self-study)
(3) Āsana (posture)
(4) Prānāyāma (breathing practices)
(5) Pratyāhāra (sense withdrawal)
(6) Dhāranā (concentration)
(7) Dhyāna (meditation)
(8) Samadhi (expanded awareness)

Some forms of yoga focus on certain limbs more than on others. For example, some yoga
classes exclusively teach āsana; some focus on breathing practices; some focus on meditation.
There are also some yoga schools and teachers who believe that one must master each of the
eight limbs in succession prior to pursuing a practice in the next limb. TriYoga integrates
practices involving all eight limbs, for they all point us toward and move us into integration
and, ultimately, union. Of course, if a TriYoga student or practitioner has a particular
propensity or need to focus on one limb more than on another, this is also supported by the
method and teaching.

Finally, TriYoga is systematized. This systematization is expressed in the way that the
postures and Flows are systematically taught from Basics to Level 7, as well as the
systematized levels of Prāna Vidyā practices (incorporating Prānāyāma, Pratyāhāra, Dhāranā,
and Dhyāna practices), and in the ways that practices from each of the eight limbs intertwine
and integrate as one progresses in the practice. There is recognition in this systematization
that it is helpful to have a foundation of an ethical, moral, and disciplined lifestyle to help one
consistently pursue a haţha yoga practice. Furthermore, meditation and expanded
consciousness naturally arise from freeing the body of tension (through āsana and Flows),
calming the mind (through breathing practices, sense withdrawal, and concentration), and
developing the body-mind capacity to remain focused and still. We have all experienced how
difficult, if not impossible, it is to meditate when the body is full of tension/pain or when the
mind is active and thoughts are racing (the “monkey mind”). As complete yoga practices are
pursued systematically and regularly, yoga, as in “union,” is experienced and embodied.

Basics TriYoga Teacher Training with Senior Teacher Dr. Christine “Citrini” Ware – Yoga Event in Havertown on Sunday, Dec 1 – 2013

Basics TriYoga Teacher Training

Basics TriYoga Teacher Training with Senior Teacher Dr. Christine “Citrini” Ware – Yoga Event in Havertown on Sunday, Dec 1 – 2013.

What is unique about TriYoga?

“WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT TRIYOGA?”
AND OTHER BACKGROUND QUESTIONS ABOUT TRIYOGA
BY CHRISTINE (CITRINĪ) WARE, Ph.D., E-RYT

What is TriYoga?
TriYoga is a complete method that includes the full range of traditional yoga
practices, including hatha yoga, nada yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, and jnana yoga
practices. “TriYoga is in the tradition of the ancient yoga in that it is guided by the
direct experience and intuitive knowledge that arise from the inner flow of kundalini,
or universal life-energy” (Kaliji).

How does TriYoga differ from other styles of yoga?
The TriYoga Flows are similar to other hatha yoga methods in that they include
physical yoga practices, breathing practices, and practices to encourage
concentration and meditation. They include the use of props and modifications.
TriYoga is unique due to the Flows’ distinctive and systematic sequencing, the
wavelike spinal movements, the union of posture, breath and focus, the emphasis on
economy of motion, natural alignment, and pacing, and the systematized Prana Vidya
practices (the breathing practices, concentration techniques and meditation that
balance and increase prana, life energy). TriYoga is also unique because it was not
created, but rather inspired and guided by Kali Ray’s direct experience of kriyavati
siddhi (the spontaneous flow of asana, pranayama and mudra). Kriyavati (the
manifestation of prana, the universal life energy, through hatha yoga) continues to
guide the evolution of TriYoga.

Why is it important that TriYoga is systematized (and for students to progress
systematically)?
There are a number of ways to approach this question. In terms of learning, thesystematization allows students to learn foundational practices first, progressing as
knowledge, understanding, and comfort with the practices increase. With respect to
the physical body, the systematization allows one to build strength, flexibility,
endurance, and balance over time, beginning with simpler postures and sequences, and
progressing over time. The systematization also allows students in earlier levels to
experience more restful, sustained postures that allow for integration of what one is
learning, while students in more advanced classes experience fewer rest postures and
more “meditation in motion.” In terms of energy flow, the systematization allows one
to feel how energy flows through the body and how the practices increase and direct
energy. This is experienced first in more straightforward postures, progressing to
more difficult sequences in advanced levels. In order to maintain dynamic
concentration and release tension to deeply experience meditation, the body and mind
may benefit from more and more challenging sequences as previously learned postures
and flows become effortless. Lastly, TriYoga is systematized because this is the way
that the practices flowed through Kaliji, guiding the development of the system.

Who is Kali Ray?KalijiPhotoonAlter CopyrightChristineWareKali Ray is also known as Kaliji, Sri Kali Lakshmi Deviji, and Swamini Kaliji. She is the founder of TriYoga, a systematized yoga method with Basics to Level 7 TriYoga Flows and Prana Vidya (the trinity of breathing practices, concentration techniques and meditation that balance and increase prana or life energy), as well as hundreds of hand mudras. Kaliji has devoted her life to sharing the ancient, universal teachings of TriYoga. Kaliji is a swamini from the Jayalakshmi Datta Avadhoota lineage, initiated by Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji. He recently conferred to her the honorary title of Vishwa Bandhu (Friend of the Universe). Many students throughout the world have been inspired and transformed by her presence, her mastery of the flow and the ageless wisdom inherent in the TriYoga teachings.

How did TriYoga evolve?
As a child, Kaliji was naturally drawn to self-inquiry and meditation. She would
frequently wonder, “Where was I before coming to this planet? Where do I come
from?” After asking these questions, she would feel blissful for a few seconds. She
had other childhood mystical experiences of inner connection. Then during a break
from college, after meeting a man who spoke to her about yoga and eastern
philosophy, Kaliji fell out of a boat during a storm. She thought that she was going to
drown. As she surrendered to this destiny if it was meant to be, she felt immersed in
bliss. After her rescue, she prayed for the Divine to reveal the source of this bliss.
At that moment, in July of 1975, kundalini (the universal life energy) awakened and
for twelve hours she was immersed in bliss. Five years later, on January 5, 1980, Kaliji
was leading a group in meditation. She shared a concentration technique of energy
rising up the spine. As soon as the meditation began, kriyavati siddhi spontaneously
awakened within her, creating the spontaneous flow of asana, pranayama and mudra.
Moved by the powerful energy and beauty of these flows, her students asked her to
teach what they had witnessed. This later became known as the birth of TriYoga.
Since then, the continuing flow of kriyavati (the spontaneous manifestation of
kundalini through hatha yoga) has flowed through Kaliji’s body while in meditation,
revealing TriYoga sadhana (practices).

What is the significance of the name TriYoga?
TriYoga represents the Universal Trinity that manifests the Divine. “Tri” means
trinity. The Trinity can be found throughout creation. In philosophy, TriYoga refers
to body, mind and spirit. In hatha yoga, TriYoga refers to asana (posture), pranayama
(breathing practices) and mudra (‘seal’ or practices to develop focus). TriYoga has its
source in the triple principle of sat (existence), chit (knowledge) and ananda (bliss).
The trinity also manifests as the three energies of the mind: sattva (balance, calm),
rajas (activity), and tamas (lethargy, stability). This Trinity is ultimately the formless
manifestation of the one Supreme Spirit.

What are TriYoga Flows?
TriYoga Flows is another name for TriYoga’s complete and systematic hatha yoga
method. The Flows integrate flowing and sustained postures (asana), breath
(pranayama) and focus (mudra) in systematized sequences. This trinity practice is
deeply meditative and transformative because it arose out of Kaliji’s direct
experience of kriyavati (the manifestation of the flow of prana, life energy, through
hatha yoga). There are seven levels of TriYoga Flows in addition to Basics. The Flows
are comprised of poses that are categorized into seven main posture groups:
Standing, Forward Bends, Spinal Twists, Backward Bends, Balancing, Inversions, and
Sitting. Since the method is systematic, students can progress from Basics to Level 1
and then to subsequent levels as they increase their flexibility, strength, endurance
and knowledge of the method. Through sustained awareness on all aspects of the
practice, the inner flow naturally emerges.

Common TriYoga Terms and Phrases Translated

COMMON TRIYOGA TERMS AND PHRASES TRANSLATED

BY CHRISTINE (CITRINĪ) WARE, Ph.D., E-RYT

pranayama tortoise Copyright Christine Ware

One of you asked mto translate some of the most common TriYoga terms and phrases. Here are a few  (…with more to come). (Please note: these do not have transliteration marks, so if you need assistance with  pronunciation, please ask your TriYoga teacher).

 

yoga – “union;” “effort;” union of body, mind, and spirit; from yuj, to unite or connect; the act ofyoking, joining, attaching, harnessing; self-concentration, abstract meditation and mental abstraction practiced as a system with its chief aim being to teach the means by which the human spirit may attain complete union with the Supreme Spirit; the union of the individual soul with the universal soul

yogi; yogin (male); yogini (female) – one who practices yoga

Tri – mother; trinity; triple

TriYoga – mother yoga; trinity yoga; merging toward cosmic consciousness where the trinity is inherent; yoga manifesting the trinity (e.g., satcitananda, triguna, mind-body-breath)

hatha yoga; hata yoga – yoga that transcends the pairs of opposites; union with the supreme via discipline; based on the trinity of asana, pranayama, and mudra (Note: if you pronounce it with a “th” sound, the word means violence, force and ultimately to kill – this is not what we want)

asana; yogasana – “seat;” yoga seat; yoga posture

kriya – means “action;” actions that propel one toward higher awareness; term often used in terms of cleansing practices; flowing from posture to posture is extremely cleansing to the body/mind… thus, kriya is used to denote the continuous movement

prana – energy; life energy; universal life energy; derived from “pra,” continuous and “na,” movement; prana also means “in breath;” that which allows the energy to flow in to nourish the body; in the context of the movement of apana and prana: prana is affected by the inhalation

prana vidya – the knowledge and its application in controlling the flow of prana for greater health and awareness; “knowledge of prana”

pranayama – “the control and expansion of prana;” breathing practices; from “prana,” life energy, and “ayama,” to control, to expand

mudra – meaning “sealing in the energy;” a seal; postures especially with hands and face to assist in inner communication

mantra – transcendental chant; that which protects the mind; from “man,” the mind, and “tra,” to protect

aum; om – sound representing universal energy; primordial sound

nada pasyanti – light and sound concentration practice; energy visualization

nidra; yoganidra – sleep; deep relaxation; the sleep of yoga, where the body is resting but the mind is awake

jaya or jai – victory

guru – teacher; that which dispels darkness and reveals light

jaya guru devi – “Victory to the Cosmic Energy which reveals the Light;” “Victory to health, wisdom, and happiness;” I have also heard this translated as: “Blessings for a prosperous life physically, mentally, and spiritually”

namaste (accent on the 2nd syllable) – “I bow to the Light within;” “Salutations to the Light in you;” “I honor the One Spirit in everyone” (as opposed to namaste with the accent on the 1st syllable, which means “to have nothing in your mind”)

mata – mother

guru mata ki ~ jai – “Honor to the mother teacher (who dispels darkness and reveals the light) ~