In the general language of the modern day the word “energy” is used for almost any phenomenon that is not material. Whilst matter is characterised by solid structures and definable descriptions, energy in its nature is shown in movement or use of power, which can only partly be measured or described .
In the teaching of yoga the word “prana” exists for all impulses of movement and power that in a first instance are not of a material kind. Sadly this description of the Sanskrit word prana, which essentially means life-energy, has been used in a banal way for all kinds of phenomena connected with body and psyche. A more precise differentiation details the existence of 5 so-called life-energies or vayu. These are apana, prana, viyana, udana and smana.
In Anthroposophy this terminology has not to date been adopted from the Sanskrit, as Rudolf Steiner followed more the occidental occult schools and spoke, similarly to the ancient Greek initiates, of the etheric body and its four-fold nature. The etheric body is subdivided into warmth ether, light ether, chemical ether and life ether.
An analogy between these ethers and the 5 vayu only works within limits, as these systems have evolved and developed from very different preconditions and the individual terms would be levelled out unnecessarily.
Samana is the form of energy that is localised in the digestion. The word can be translated as “to meet” or “to combine in a way that balances harmoniously”. It promotes the element of homogeneous meeting. If the evolution of this Sanskrit word is researched, then in the word for “homogeneous meeting” there is actually an energetic meaning: In digestion the body “draws together” with its movements of enzymes and proteazes in order to fortify and build up substance. It contracts and substantiates itself in this action of forces, and this process happens on an immaterial, or generally speaking on an energetic, concentrated basis.
The chemical ether is the one which most impressively and closely describes this contractive force, which is most active in the intestine. One of the most beautiful and best exercises which shows how this centring takes place in the lowermost part of the spine and in the digestive region, at around the level of the navel, is the following exercise; baddha konasana. The movement is mobilised entirely through the power of contraction in the lowermost region of the body, while the upper body finds its way to stretch out and lengthen more freely and easily.
This visual representation shows the relationship that takes place between the lengthening movement outwards and the simultaneous contractive force in the region of the sacrum. By paying attention to this relationship in the movement the practitioner can develop the pose relatively easily and above all can bring the spine into the forward bending relationship without forcing.
The drawing at the end shows how from the free extending and co-ordinating elements of movement, the centring in the lower back develops.