Build resilience : increase your Prana

If we take the definition of the concept resilience “ability to come back”, to bounce back or to adapt to new conditions really, we can compare it to Ayurveda’s idea of finding balance in the doshas. There is a before and after, just like with the trauma that leaves a trace in us. And just like the process of resilience, we need a certain number of factors to exist in order for the process of balance to emerge. We need to feel balanced before it happens and we need to understand what our needs are. This way, when imbalance happens we are capable of defining its context and consequences more easily in the “after” so that the process of balance can take shape. 

So if we begin with looking at what can go wrong in the “before” it starts with something very common : us ignoring what our needs actually are. But maybe more than that, our condition is to not prioritise those needs and instead favour expectations (or our beliefs of) from others. 

Or as the vedic philosophy predicted our tendency for this : the root cause of suffering is ignorance. By developing Self Knowledge we learn to not suffer, we learn to recognise the pain for what it is and therefore not resist it which creates the suffering in the first place.

What would make us ignore what reality is showing us? The mind of course! We are so quick to trust the thoughts in our head that we just take them for the truth even when the mind has become broken from a broken world for instance. When our brain is convinced that it’s keeping us safe from danger “out there” or from famine for instance, it will do whatever it needs to counter that and so we experience the world as a threat and accumulate stress hormones to protect us. 

If we look at the most common “modern world” diseases, they are often linked to a heightened state of stress hormones. Actually, many of their causes have been defined as “unknown”. Autoimmune diseases, depleted states like burn-out or even depression are often put in the “unknown cause” box and the reason for that is usually found in the holistic approaches because they include something that modern medicine does not : energy. Prana, life force, vital force, Qi, Chi, and of course therefore VATA.

If they don’t acknowledge prana then naturally they can’t name it as the root cause of a disease and if there is no known cause there must certainly is no cure. Hence the word “chronic” of these conditions, as they all seem to be. 

But Ayurveda tells us that VATA is the root cause of all diseases really. Because it’s the leading dosha and it’s the most unpredictable. Why is it the leading dosha? Because nothing can be without it. Fire can’t spread without air and water cannot change without movement. The subtle energy of the Vata dosha is Prana, lifeforce. The same way that the subtle energy of the Pitta dosha is Tejas or strength and the subtle energy of the Kapha dosha is Ojas or vitality. 

When there is no life force, there can be no strength or vitality. 

So if I would narrow it all down to one phrase it would be that resilience in Ayurveda means to focus on prana or energy. 

Therefore, if we want to enhance our process of resilience in times of imbalance, we would want to focus on finding balance in our subtle energies, in our prana. 

We believe for the most of us that we increase our prana through sleep and food. This is of course correct but it’s not the totality of this truth. Because we can sleep for 10 hours or eat the most nutritious food in the world, if we are not absorbing the nutritious factors in these two energy sources, we will not increase our prana. The only way that we can increase our body’s capacity to resource itself is to make sure it does not stay in fight or flight mode. Or even more, that it truly is in rest and digest mode. Even this denomination of the parasympathetic nervous system says it : the rest and digest mode. It means that if we cannot actually relax, it doesn’t matter what we do because nothing increases our lifeforce. 

Let’s be clear : to relax is NOT to watch Netflix, to drink alcohol, to indulge in our favourite foods or to scroll on social media.  

ALL of the above are distractions from what stresses the system. It puts us in an idle position so we might believe that we are relaxing because we are switching our focus from what truly creates the stress in our lives but nothing is actually relaxed. Our brains and our default mode network are absolutely in action during distraction time. 

We relax when we fully shut this down and when our muscles are relaxed. Think of shoulders, neck and jaw and how often they are tight. 

In Ayurveda, relaxation happens with proper nidra, proper sleep. 

Staying awake at night increases VATA, aggravates it. Ayurveda does not speak of how many hours you should sleep but more when you should sleep.

The way we can learn to relax our system is to align with our circadian rhythm. 

When we are awake at night, our cortisol is running amok in the system because we would have needed it when keeping the rest of the community safe or while guarding the fire in prehistoric time. 

Therefore, one of the very first things we need to tend to in order to learn how to relax, is WHEN we sleep. Much more than how much.

Once your sleep pattern is settled in its circadian rhythm, your body will restore itself more easily which means that you metabolism will increase so that you can actually absorb nutriments properly. 

Can you see how it’s all intertwined? ….  

Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always had a deep curiosity toward eastern and western approaches to understanding the mind, and the ming/body union. You’ll find me in the lovely Canggu Bali, nestled amongst coconuts, palm trees and sunshine 🥥🌴🌞



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