Although there are a lot of technical terms, which we yoga instructors might use during a class, keeping the language simple does have its advantages. However, there are certain conversations that do require the use of yogic phrases, and generating energy during any yoga series requires first a basic understanding of what energy is and how it can be generated.
What yoga teachers mean by energy is prana. Prana is Sanskrit for “vital life,” and though the Western mind might have difficulty understanding this concept, yogis understand prana to be the force vitalizing all life. Prana is related to breathe because in some Eastern meditative philosophies, energy is revered, and so the practice of yoga – deep breathing techniques synchronized with poses – help the body interface with different energy channels within it. Yoga practitioners believe that this energy, this prana, can be accessed, generated and manipulated with a yoga posture series.
One way to generate prana is to warm up with sun salutations. Sun salutations create heat and flexibility and usually serve as the basis for vinyasa yoga sessions, including power yoga and Ashtanga yoga. As practitioners practice deep breathing techniques, of which there are a variety, they synchronize their movements with their breath to gain access to channels of energy, or prana, within them.
Practitioners have described occurrences where they begin their yoga sessions tired and not fully aware of their internal energy. As they begin to pay full attention to their breath, however, the mechanical energy that simply places the body into the correct pose begins to transcend itself. In other words, yogis describe an energy channel that pulls the body up on inhale and down on exhales, and this energy can sometimes even begin flowing into the pose itself.
The sun salutation series are exceptional for generating energy because of how each pose flows into the next pose. What this does is allows our students, who are breathing correctly, the opportunity to create energy and then access it by working from, say, mountain pose to forward bends to planks to dog poses and then back up again. As the sun salutations stretch the spine and open the chest, they also challenge leg, arm and core muscles. By working all the areas of the musculature to generate energy and flexibility, sun salutations enable the practitioner to access and explore various energy channels and generate prana.