Q: I’ve been thinking of ways to make positive changes in the world around me. I’d like to be a conduit of divine grace, but in spite of my good intentions, I haven’t been able to make meaningful changes in myself, let alone in the wider world. I seem to be stuck. Is there a yoga practice that will help?

A: Bringing about change requires power (shakti in yoga terminology). The power of divinity in its manifest form is called prana shakti, the life force. Prana shakti is the link between inner intelligence and the tools—our mind and body—that inner intelligence uses to express itself. Prana shakti manifests in the form of breath, in the functions of our limbs and organs, and in our mind and senses. Before we can accomplish anything, first we need to focus our prana shakti—our life force—and then channel it in the direction we want.

Yoga offers a variety of techniques for focusing prana shakti.

The problem many of us face in accomplishing what we set out to do is that our mind is scattered. When the mind is scattered, prana shakti is scattered, which undermines our ability to complete a task. The firmer the bond we create between prana shakti and our mind, the more power we have at our disposal and the greater ability we have to bring about positive change.

Yoga offers a variety of techniques for focusing prana shakti. One way is to undertake a deceptively simple practice for bringing the scattered forces of our body, mind, and prana together in a gentle manner.

How do you do it? Start by becoming aware of your body. Find a comfortable sitting posture. Breathe. Be aware of your body and the space occupied by your body. Take your time. Relax your shoulders and straighten your spine. Close your mouth but do not clench your teeth. Pay attention to how you are inhaling and exhaling. Let there be no shakiness, noise, or jerkiness in your breath. Be completely relaxed. Be so acutely aware of your body and of yourself as a breathing being that you are no longer aware of anything else. This is called aharana, bringing every part of your pranic force and mind back to where it is meant to be. In scriptures such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Yoga Vasishtha, the state created by aharana pranayama is loosely translated as “breath awareness.”

Conscious awareness of the flow of breath automatically creates a condition for the mind to become clear and calm. It is neither brooding over the past nor anxious about the future—all causes of disturbance have vanished. Your nervous system has calmed down, and all the cells of your body have come to a state of balance, free from any trace of agitation. The mind is now free to focus on whatever it wishes.

What else happens? In that relaxed, effortless state, your entire muscular system relaxes. All the resistance you have been carrying in your skeletal and cardiac muscles, as well as in your smooth muscles (the supporting tissues of your blood vessels, stomach, intestines, and bladder), melts away. This accelerates a balanced process of detoxification and nourishment. Your organs are fully prepared to receive a fresh supply of nutrients and to let go of anything harmful or useless.

When all your cells are fully relaxed they are open to giving and receiving. This goes all the way to receiving the grace of the divine and becoming a conduit of that grace. You are now a wonderful container of all the love, grace, knowledge, and wisdom that is showering on you—and you are spontaneously able to share that infinitely vast gift with others. You have become a perfect conduit of divine grace, and you will accomplish anything you set out to do.

More in this Series

Inner Quest: Seeker’s Q&A