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This post originally appeared over at The Art of Being Happy. Thanks to Allison Modafferi Brewster for letting us share it with you!

Begin with a breath! Tune in and enjoy its rhythm, as it flows in and out of your body. Invite your breath to breathe life into your day!

Our focus this week is prana. Prana means “breath” and “life force”, and desribes the flow of these energies in our bodies and all creation. In yogic philosophy, as in many stories across cultures, it’s said that we are breathed into existence. Prana is the breath of life, as well as the quality of our existence. The concept of prana is analagous to  (or chi), in Chinese philosophy, medicine, and martial arts.

Move your Body & Breath
One of the reasons yoga feels so good is it gets our prana moving. As we tune into the breath and move in sync with it, we energize and balance our pranic flow. The breath is powerfully transformative, and an effective tool to calm, center, reveal, release, invigorate, and inspire. Many of the benefits of the breath happen on their own, but we can also employ the breath to receive its gifts! Practice observing your breath this week, especially on the yoga mat. Notice when you’re breathing fully, and when your breath tends to shorten or shallow. Welcome an inquisitive inhale and exhale the urge to judge. Get moving on your mat or go play outside, and enjoy the flow of prana in your body and your life!

Pranayama
Pranayama means “to control the breath”, and pranayama exercises help build prana by restraining or directing breath in the body. In this week’s video, we’ll practice ujjayi breath. This pranayama exercise (whose name means “victoriously uprising”) employs a gentle constriction of the throat muscles, while breathing in and out through the nostrils. The result is a quiet ocean-like whisper of sound that is calming and centering. Try creating this sound by sighing out through your mouth, as if you were fogging up glass. Make the same sound, half-closing your epiglottis, as you inhale. Once you’ve found this, close your mouth to breathe through your nose and then the gently-engaged muscles of your throat. Listen. Settle into the sound of this pranayama, the voice of your breath.

How else can we build prana? 
Prana is very much affected by what we consume: foods, drinks, thoughts, emotions, etc.. When what we bring in is vibrant and healthy, our breath and life force move with more freedom. To take care of our prana, we must regulate what we bring and allow in, and clear whatever’s in our way or keeping us stuck.

Full, free-flowing prana is also supported by good hydration. It’s so important to drink plenty of water, especially as the weather heats up! Try this experiment this week: Every morning, begin your day with 2 mugs of warm water, before you eat or drink anything else. Add a little lemon juice, if that makes it more palatable. Notice if you’re able to breathe more deeply and feel more energized throughout the day! If you’d like to up your prana more, up your greens intake. Greens (and all fresh foods) are high in pranic energy. Plus, greens are light and detoxifying, which clears space for our prana to move more freely. Not so sure? Skip your normal breakfast this week and experiment! There’s no better way to find out than to see how you feel! Here’s a how-to video to help you out: Green smoothies 101

This week’s playful, pranawesome video features Ashley Voyer, a yoga and pranayama teacher at Be Yoga. Click on the photo to open the video. The password is “prana“.