I recently glimpsed an article about a man who died from consuming several energy drinks in a day. I’m happy to report I’ve decreased my own caffeine intake drastically over the past six months – but, I can certainly understand how this could happen. The article says “low-dose caffeine effects are wakefulness, a little bit of arousal, and slight euphoria.”
Don’t we all seem need a little more energy, a little slight euphoria?
There’s a Starbucks on every corner, luckily. Sale on Red Bull! I was driving behind a truck advertising “Venom” energy drinks a few days ago.
Just what is it that is sapping all our energy?
I, like many people, am touched by depression. It will come like a heavy, gray cloud to sit over me. If I’m not aware enough to notice or work with it, this gray cloud starts to sap my energy. Worrying and brooding drains my energy – I start thinking negative thoughts, brewing over comparisons between myself and others, dwelling in fear of the future – the mean “me” works overtime to make sure I know where I’ve failed. Before long there isn’t much energy left to even find the things that would normally sustain me. Energy Crisis!
Of course, not everyone who feels they need extra energy is depressed. Rolf Sovik, PsyD, spiritual director of the Himalayan Institute suggests that our everyday “Energy Crisis” could be due to, in part, unconscious breathing habits. “Poor breathing,” he writes “can undermine the breath’s effectiveness. Low energy levels, shortness of breath, anxiety, low moods…are just some of the resulting symptoms.” In yoga, the practice of consciously observing and refining the breath is called pranayama – prana is the field of energy that brings the body-mind to life. Maybe we can work on this level – with prana, with breath – to solve our “energy crisis.”
Sovik suggests that breath awareness is a good place to begin to reduce our weariness and replace it with new energy. “Sit in your most comfortable chair…focus for a moment on your body. Feel the support of the chair, and let your body rest. Take a moment to become as comfortable as possible. Then close your eyes. Reflect for a moment that you live on the planet Earth, a planet surrounded by an atmosphere filled with air. Living beings share the atmosphere with one another,and it is high enough, broad enough, vast enough to support all these various lives. We live and breathe in a great sea of air and energy.
“Now turn your awareness toward your breathing…during exhalation, the lungs are emptied and the wastes are carried away. During inhalation, we draw air and energy from the sea of air around us and fill the lungs with it. There is more than enough. Thus, each exhalation is cleansing, and each inhalation is nourishing…”
Soften the abdomen, and the sides and back of the rib cage in order to let the breath flow freely. Focus on the rising and falling of the belly and lower ribs – a wave in the body that feels very pleasant. Sovik calls a deep, healthy breathing a “resilient friend.”
To complete this post, I’d like to share a story from the Chandogya Upanishad about how powerful the breath is as a source of energy – of prana:
The sense—organs disputed among themselves about who was the best among them, each saying: “I am the best,” “I am the best.”
They asked their progenitor: “O revered Sir, who is the best among us?” He said to them: “the one whose departure makes the body worst.” The organ of speech departed. After being away for a whole year, it came back and said: “How have you been able to live without me?” The other organs replied: “We lived just as dumb people live, without speaking, but breathing with the prana, seeing with the eye, hearing with the ear and thinking with the mind.” Then the organ of speech re-entered the body.
The eye departed. After being away for a whole year, it came back and said: “How have you been able to live without me?” The other organs replied: “We lived just as blind people live, without seeing, but breathing with the prana, speaking with the tongue, hearing with the ear and thinking with the mind.” Then the eye re-entered the body.
The ear went out. After being away for a whole year, it came back and said: “How have you been able to live without me?” The other organs replied: “We lived just as deaf people live, without hearing, but breathing with the prana. Speaking with the tongue, seeing with the eye and thinking with the mind.” Then the ear re-entered the body.
The mind went out. After being away for a whole year, it came back and said: “How have you been able to live without me?” The other organs replied: “We lived just like children whose minds are not yet formed, without thinking with the mind, but breathing with the prana, speaking with the tongue, seeing with the eye and hearing with the ear.” Then the mind re-entered the body.
Then ,the vital breath began to depart – as he left he uprooted the organs from their places just as a noble horse tears up the pegs to which its feet are tied. They came to him and said: “Revered Sir, be thou our lord; thou art the best among us. Do not depart from us.”
Adapted from Rolf Sovik’s article “Getting up from feeling down – breathing away depression” Yoga International Feb/Mar 2005 p 38 – 42