Do you ever wish you had more energy? Do you drink coffee or tea to get an energy boost? Caffeine is by far the most-consumed drug worldwide, and the reason is simple: we all want to have more energy than we do. Unfortunately, caffeine is generally not the best way to get it, because after a caffeine-induced energy boost your energy levels tend to crash to a new low, requiring ever more caffeine.

Yoga on the other hand provides us with a healthy and sustainable energy boost that does not cause our energy levels to plummet later. The most important source for this energy boost is the breath. In our normal unconscious breathing, we typically only use one tenth of our total lung capacity. Simply improving our posture to maximize space in the chest cavity and consciously and deeply inhaling and exhaling through the nose to move more air in and out of the lungs provides us with more energy, because a more active breath in the middle of the torso has an up-regulating effect on the autonomic nervous system, which makes more energy available to the skeletal muscles and makes us feel more alert. Explanations that attribute this effect to an increased oxygen supply don’t have a factual basis. We seem to get enough oxygen even with shallow breathing, but the energizing effect on the autonomic nervous system of a calmly energetic breath is real.

Another great source of increased energy is finding meaning in what you do. When you are doing something you don’t find meaningful or useful, you tend to have less energy than when you do something you consider meaningful. However, even when you are doing something you find tedious, like dealing with government bureaucracies or doing the dishes, becoming more present in what you are doing will allow you to transform these erstwhile tedious tasks into mini-meditations on mindfulness. And becoming present for what you are actually doing rather than escaping into daydreaming will result in a rise in your energy levels. If you find your life full of things you struggle to find meaning in, then it may be time to change some things about what you do, but simply bringing more awareness to the tedious things you do may surprise you in terms of how it boosts your energy levels.

Lastly, some specific yoga poses are known to boost energy levels, including backbends and inversions. This week, we will focus on energy-boosting pranayama, on linking our breath to our movements to maximize the breath, on mindfulness, and on specific movements and poses that increase our energy levels.