by Michael Ketterhagen
Every religious and spiritual tradition calls our life force by a different name or label. Christianity calls it “pneuma” in Greek or “spiritus” in Latin, which refers to the Holy Spirit or God. Judaism calls this creative force of all life, “ruah,” the force that swept over the vast, formless wasteland at the beginning of Creation. Islam calls this force the source of life and labels it “Allah.” The Hindus call it “Brahman,” while the Native American Indians refer to it as “The Great Spirit.” Yoga labels our Life Force as “prana,” and closely associates it with our breath.
All of these different labels really refer to the same reality even though many people think that we are talking about different gods. All these religious and spiritual traditions say that the Life Force gives humans life. This Life Force is in charge of us.
We do not keep ourselves alive at night while we are sleeping. We do not decide to digest our food. We do not make the antibodies in our blood rush to the virus that attacks us. We do not decide our blood pressure or our heart rate. We may have an influence on them because of certain stress-filled choices that we make.
By and large, we have very little control over sustaining our life, even when we abuse it with excessive food, drink, or habits. Because of our mental freedom of choice, we can greatly affect the quality of our physical, emotional, and mental life. However, we are not in charge of our life. Something else is and that “something else” is our Life Force.
So, what is this Life Force that is beyond our control, yet within our influence? Can we know it? Yoga says, “Yes! but we can only know it experientially.” According to yoga, we can only truly know the life-sustaining presence of the Life Force by experiencing and becoming sensitive to and aware of the Prana that permeates and flows through every cell of our body and even extends beyond our “bodily boundaries” into the “atmosphere” around us.
We can do this by developing the awareness of a seamless, effortless flow of breath. It starts with deep relaxation and our exploration of our internal self without “thinking about, imagining or visualizing” what we experience. We just focus on becoming “aware” of it. Yoga says that deep relaxation pushes us to the awareness of our life force the more we focus our breath at the tips of the nostrils and just feel the flow of our breath in and out. For it is Prana, the Life Force, that rides on that breath and pushes us deep into our internal world, where the Divine Force of Life, Our Prana resides and performs its life-sustaining work.
Have fun getting acquainted with your Life Force!