The other day a friend commented that it seemed that a major contributor to global climate change is how we have set out to control our environment instead of aligning with it (my paraphrase). So much, he said, of what contributes to global climate change is how we heat and cool and light our homes and work places. For example, instead of honoring the change of seasons, we overcool in summer and overheat in winter, so that we can wear the same clothes and eat the same foods year round in apparent comfort.
This comment resonated with me deeply. It brought to mind what I have been taught about possible approaches to pranayama — the yoga practice of conscious breathing. Pranayama usually as translated as breath control or restraint. This assumes that the conjunction in sanskrit is of the two words “prana” and “yama.” Prana here refers to the subtle energy of the life force in general, which we can understand best through the breath. Yama means restraint. If, however, we think of pranayama as the conjunction of “prana” and “ayama,” which is a reasonable way of looking at the way the word is formed, we can understood pranayama to be the practice of expansion or alignment with prana.
When we seek with our yoga breathing practices on the mat or with our technology and lifestyles off the mat to restrain and control nature at the expense of listening and understanding, we will be at war with ourselves and the earth. If, however, we seek to align better with nature on and off the mat, to expand and enhance our relationship with the life force, rather than to restrain and control nature, we will expand our awareness of the subtle forces of the earth and live in a more life-affirming way.