You can tell what your energy level feels like from day to day. You know if you're sluggish, if you're hyperactive, or if you're feeling productive with a sense of ease. That vital force of energy is prana, and the corresponding sheath is called the pranamaya kosha. The way for you to notice the movement of prana is your breath. Try the following exercise to begin to become acquainted with your breath:
As you read this, notice your breath. Did it stop when you tried to notice it? Try noticing again, without controlling the breath. Let it flow in and out. Is it flowing slowly or quickly? Is it shallow or deep? Do your belly and chest expand and contract? To turn inward and really get a sense of how your breath is flowing, close your eyes and just watch the breath flow in and out a few times, without forcing it. Take a moment to try that. Just notice the breath.
Now you've watched your experience of the sheath that is your connection to universal life-force energy (the force of creation that helps plants and trees grow, and that brings you health and vitality). In yoga practice and in sports, you increase your body's ability to strengthen and avoid injury when you focus and control the breath. Professional teachers and trainers can tell you which movements to make on the inhale and which on the exhale so you're using the breath to support your practice. And if you experience strong emotions, slowing and deepening the breath can help settle difficult emotions and calm your thoughts when they begin to race. You can practice pranayama, ways of controlling the breath, to help you either rev up your energy or calm you down (see Chapter 11).
In relation to chakra healing, when you practice breath awareness and yogic breath control, you nourish the respiratory and circulatory systems, whose major organs are the lungs and heart. The lungs and heart reside in the chest, which is the area that receives the energy of the Annahata Chakra, the Heart Chakra. So, connecting to the breath and pranamaya kosha through pranayama is important for Heart-Chakra balancing.