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Managing Your Precious Energy with Yoga

We know what it's like to feel tired? Physically our eyes get heavy, we can feel that sleep would benefit us. After a night's sleep, we start a new day and can feel the effects of balanced physical energy as our day begins. We can easily grasp this concept, it makes sense. Every where we look we see countless things that validate that we should prioritize our physical energy. From marketing advertisements showing us the latest trends in physical fitness, to the guidance of our health care professionals offering advice on well balanced eating, we have been taught a lot about how to take care of our physical energy.

But have you ever had a day where you are well rested, got in some exercise, nourished your body with delicious whole foods and still feel zapped?

One of the most impactful things I learned through my yoga studies, is the concept of energy according to yoga philosophy. This view expands eloquently on the concept of us and opens our eyes to a richer understanding. Studying energy over the years has allowed me to deepen my self care and understand what true self care means beyond bubble baths, candles and cups of warm tea.

I'll start simply with a beautiful definition of energy. Here in the West, we tend to think of energy as something we have, loose, drink some caffeine and gain again from an external source. Yoga philosophy presents a beautiful blueprint that is a little different, offering a deeper meaning to energy.

In yogic philosophy energy is described as your life force. This comes from the translation of ancient text in which pran or prana is written about in sanskrit. This reference to our life force is related to the journey of stars in the night sky. When you burst into this world on the day of your birth, you are born with all the life force you will need to sustain your journey as a person. Your miraculous body is also somehow born knowing just what to do with this life force.

Just like us, a star is born with all the matter it will need for its journey in the night sky. The star knows just what to do with this matter, burning it up through nuclear fusion. When all the life force is used up the star dies, in what is the most glorious event in all of astronomy - a super nova and it spews what little particles of matter is left back into

the night sky to be transformed into something else. Yoga philosophy carries this same view - that nothing ends - in its approach to understanding our energy. That it doesn't end, it just gets transformed. So we view prana as a sacred source flowing through each human being and that prana never gets lost, but instead it gets blocked/stuck and this blocked energy can diminish the fuel for your journey, or very simply - blocked/stuck energy affects our internal bodymind system, weakening our ability to stay well as an organism, allowing sickness and disease the ability to take root.

So yoga practices like breath work, meditation, yoga postures are profound tools to support, strengthen, unblock and renew the continuous flow of our life force to sustain us.

Beautiful huh? Gives your more appreciation for coming to a yoga class, doesn't it. Well this story of understanding our energy isn't going to stop there...oh no my friends - it gets even more beautiful.

Yoga philosophy explains that all this internal life force is governed or moved around by a something called The 5 Vayus. Best to think about this like your energetic anatomy. We have gross - bones, muscles and we have subtle. This Yoga model helps us make sense of how our gross system is fed by our subtle system if you will.

Each of these Vayus (sanskrit for wind) governs a region of the body and has a directional flow. So for example, on the illustration, look at the downward arrow at the bottom depicting your Apana Vayu. This shows us there is an internal energetic reason to our bodies function of release, as this wind governs the organs of elimination. So, through yoga philosophy and the science of Ayurveda we would see any issue in the bowels or intestines as a conversation of blocked energy in that part of your energetic system. Get the energy unblocked and you will alleviate the external symptom that is showing up. This is where yoga poses have true power that is sooooo much more than just fun tricks to post on your instagram. Yoga Asana (posture) is a more modern addition from the early 20th century and it's design was rooted in the philosophical understanding of this 5 Vayu model. Postures do totally strengthen the body, but their true beauty lies in how they are designed with a deeper understanding of how energy moves.

Now remember that you are so much more than just skin, bone and muscle. You inhabit a bodymind system with complete and intricate design all working together, fed by your life force. One last piece of the puzzle is to understand that your energy manifest in 4 dimensions as explained by Dr. John Loehr

  1. Physical

  2. Mental

  3. Emotional

  4. Spiritual

Meaning that we can be well rested and fed and still be zapped because there is more to care for than just the life force feeding your body. You can work too much on a project and expend too much mental energy and feel drained unable to carry on conversations. You can go through something that claims more emotional energy on any given day and you feel like you could cry at the drop of a hat. It's all energy and we spend too much time doing self care for our bodies and not enough time expanding our view to look at how are we also using our mental energy, spiritual energy and emotional energy.

Tony Schwartz said "manage your energy, not your time."

I couldn't agree more. I believe the key to balance and deep well being is in taking care of all 4 dimensions of our energy. It just so happens, that yoga practices cover all the dimensions to give you a complete tool for your highest level of well-being. As I started to learn more about energy and focus on looking at how I was also using my mental, emotional and spiritual energy in a given week, my knowledge of what I needed deepened and I was able to better take care of myself and bounced back quicker if I felt zapped.

This is because not everything can be solved by taking a nap. Have you ever felt what you would describe as exhausted, then went to bed only to toss and turn all night unable to fall asleep. I have come to see this more deeply and through this yoga model have realized oh I am tired, but its mental tiredness today and that needs something different than being physically tired would require.

Using the example above - now that I know more about the 4 dimensions of energy, I can better identify what dimension of me is "tired" and then more effectively use a yoga tool to bring myself back into balance. With the example of mental tiredness, I might do some chanting to balance my mental energy. Other simple examples would be, if I am having a day where more emotional energy is being used, say I am really angry about something one day. I would use a breathing exercise to help bring my emotional energy back into balance and soothe my system.

The more I have learned, the more my appreciation for this path deepens and the more that opens up acceptance and deep self love and self compassion blossom more and more every day.

Because at the end of the day, its all energy and I find fulfillment on my path in dedicating my efforts to protecting my sacred life force with the tools and teachings from the path of yoga.


Jessie Kates is the owner of SHIFT YOGA Studio in Fulton, Maryland.

In addition to writing blogs, teaching yoga classes and leading a yearly yoga teacher training, she is a compassionate Yoga Therapist, seeing clients one on one to provide guidance on how to use yoga practices therapeutically to heal.

Want to work one on one with Jessie? Click here

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