Last week I went on social media (like we do) and saw two friends of mine having a discussion—well, more like a flaming brawl. I’ll keep the topic out of it to protect their privacy, but it was, quelle surprise, about politics. Both of these people are awesome; they’d give you the vintage Duran Duran T-shirt off their backs. Yet one stated an opinion, the other smacked back, and it was all hell from there.
I had an opinion, too. Because I am all Yoga-like and teach Yoga and wrote an entire book about Yoga, I was trying to think of the Yoga-est way to respond. I spent a lot of time and energy thinking about what I could say that might convince these two to do the right thing, or at least stop damning each other to hell. And eventually, as more people joined in and post-shouted, I saw the most Yogafied thing I could do: stop wasting my energy.
In Yoga, energy is known as Prana, or vital life force. It’s a general concept that describes everything from what powers a lightbulb to the sun to a living being. There’s Prana in food. Natural food is said to have lots of Prana; processed salty snacks, low to no. There’s Prana in air, so we can get energy from certain breathing techniques.
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As living beings, we have Prana naturally, but it can get drained faster than your phone battery by things you’d probably rather not waste it on. Thankfully, we can also get more energy through some easy practices. Here’s how Yoga has taught me to conserve, wisely spend, and increase my energy levels:
- Unplug before bed. The light emitted from smartphones, TVs, and even the alarm clock by your bed can disrupt your sleep patterns, which will leave you feeling like a zombie the next day. Let your phone go to bed too (i.e., stop looking at it) 30-60 minutes before you go to bed, shut off the TV, and turn your alarm clock away from your eyes.
- Take a tech sabbatical. Once a week, practice Pratyahara, the Yoga tool of sense withdrawal, with a tech sabbatical. On Sundays, I stay off social media and use my phone only for talking. The degree to which I get antsy about this shows how much I need to do it. A nice side effect is that you strengthen your Dharana, ability to focus, by not getting distracted every few minutes checking email and social media. Overall, your brain will feel refreshed by the end of the day.
- De-process. Does a lot of your food come out of a bag or a box? Get real and go for what grows. Eat actual, not man-made fresh food that is as un-processed and as close to natural as possible. Within a few days, you’ll really feel more energetic and clearer. And try to cut sugar down to once a week; you’ll avoid insulin highs and lows, and your skin will look amazing.
- Move it. The middle of the afternoon used to be the dead zone for me. I’d start falling asleep sitting up and usually grab snacks and caffeine to wake up. When that resulted in extra pounds and energy crashes, I tried something else: moving. Taking a walk got me away from the mesmerizing screen and got my circulation going again, and the fresh air woke me right up. Research shows that walking can even improve long-term memory. Next time you’re in the mid-afternoon blahs, take a five or ten minute stroll, outside if you can.
- Choose your battles. Back to my example of the online argument. I expended a lot of energy, and spent time, trying to figure out how to jump into that fight. Instead, I decided to make a donation to a charity that was helping the cause I was going to argue about. That took less than 60 seconds, and it made me feel good all day long. You can choose your battles, and you can also choose how to fight them—or if you’re going to fight at all. Put your Prana in the right place, and you can create positive change while you’re using your energy wisely.
We have a lot to do each day, and a lot of what we do is a great way to spend our energy. Some of it, though, we might want to reconsider. Taking a moment to consider whether something is worth your valuable Prana can give you more energy for the things that really deserve it.
Suzan Colón is the author of Yoga Mind: Journey Beyond the Physical, 30 Days to Enhance Your Practice and Revolutionize Your Life From the Inside Out.