Today I’m so happy to be blogging in partnership with two fabulous women, Lianne Raymond and Heather Plett. We’re all writing on the theme of “location dependence” and connection to place. Lianne and Heather are both remarkable writers and leaders. Check out their posts here: Feels Like Home to Me and A Declaration of Dependance.
And here’s my post…
I love the moment at the end of a sun salutation, when we inhale, sweep out our arms far and wide, and come to a standing position, face to the sky, spine in a slight backbend. I’ve always reached out as far as I could at that moment, put all my energy into the upward lift, getting a little high off that big inhale and floaty feeling.
And then, a few weeks ago, my yoga teacher Kate said that in every movement, two energies are at work — prana and apana. They need to be balanced, neither one dominating the other, in each pose, and in life.
Prana is the energy of upward, outward movement, of expansion, blossoming, rising, she explained. It’s the energy of backbends and extensions. It’s the energy of inhalation. It’s about “going out to the cosmos.” Apana, in contrast, is the energy of downward rooted movement, of the body, inner awareness and of exhalation. Prana is associated with masculine energy and apana with feminine energy. Too much prana / not enough apana manifests as fatigue, scatteredness, overwhelm. Too much apana/ not enough prana manifests as dullness and listlessness.
We each have a natural tendency to get out of balance in one direction or the other — to tend toward prana or apana, Kate said. Our work is to consciously bring the less dominant energy into our lives, to work against our tendency, in order to create balance.
As you might guess, I tend toward prana. That’s why I love that moment in sun salutation so much. It’s why I tend to load up 1000 things on my plate, think we have to see every movie playing at the film festival, and whip myself into a frenetic tailspin of projects and artistic pursuits. I rarely get stuck in my life because I get bummed out. I get stuck because I get disconnected from myself and from the goodness of life, exhausted after multi-day high on expansion, doing and possibility. When that happens, I’ve learned, I need to ground, turn my awareness inward through meditation or writing, and feel my feet on the ground.
So as Kate reminded me of balancing earth and sky, inhale and exhale, during that final moment of sun salutation, I made some adjustments. I reached my feet downward as my hands reached up. I grounded in my body as I lifted towards the sky. I reduced the backbend and tucked my tailbone under.
I could feel a different energy, one that felt strong and stable, flow through me. I felt like I had come home, like this was right-energy for a human being, for the creatures we are: part prana and part apana, part body and part soul, part here on earth and part one with everything in the cosmos.
Take a moment and inhale now. Feel the rising, branching energy of prana. Then, take a new breath and focus on the exhale: feel the downward, grounding, emptying energy of apana. Now, do it again, this time noticing, which energy do you like better? Which way do you tend to tilt in your life?
Location independence, traveling the world, feels to me like a powerful expression of pranic-like energy. It’s the energy of reaching out, expansion, freedom from the earthly ties that bind. It’s literally about inhaling — taking in — the wider world.
(For those that don’t know, location independence is a popular movement promoted by many bloggers. It’s about finding a type of work – often working for yourself – that you can do from anywhere, carrying your “office” in your laptop, reducing possessions, and traveling the world or living without “dependence” on being in any one place.)
There’s much to love about the location independence movement: it challenges the silly story most of us were told about adulthood: that growing up means settling down and being tied to a workplace, in order to get a paycheck every two weeks for the next fifty years. Upending that story is a good thing. Empowering people to shape more free, more true-to-their-values lives? That’s a good thing too. So is dispelling the myth that travel and adventure are available only to the kids with trust funds. I’m certainly all for that.
But somehow, in all our fervor about injecting some prana back into overly apanic adult suburban life, we forgot about balance. There is something exhilerating and important about the energy of travel, expansion, free movement. There is something equally rich and important about this other energy — of putting down roots, grounding in a community, staying with relationships, with tethers, with commitments, even as they get messy, muddy, oh-so-very earthly.
Each energy speaks to a fundamental spiritual truth of who we are: prana speaks to the part of us that is beyond the body and profoundly free. Location independence in some ways symbolizes that. Apana speaks to our embodied-ness, our sacred connections to others, our nature as cells within a larger organism. Staying home, settling down, and growing connections to a place symbolizes that.
There is a beauty of leaving and a beauty of staying. Of reaching up and of rooting down. Of autonomy and of connectedness. Health is bringing both into balance in our lives.
The work for each of us is to discern: which energy do I tend toward? Do I usually get stuck, held back, run down, in prana or apana? How are these energies balanced, or imbalanced in me today? What does balance look like for me, at this stage in my life? What is the energy I resist/long for/need for balance, and I how will I open to it in my life?
Go check out those other posts!
Heather Plett’s Feels Like Home to Me
Lianne Raymond’s A Declaration of Dependance.