Last week I was in yoga class and we were doing my favorite pose (not!)—boat pose (paripurna navasana). As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I really dislike any exercise or yoga pose that extensively calls on the abdominal muscles. My stomach is my Achilles heel. I know I need to strengthen it, but I hate doing it.

As the class was struggling (well, not everyone was struggling, but some of us were) through the various gyrations the yoga instructor was taking us through in boat pose, he said something to the effect of, “Let your chi carry you through this pose.”

That was immediately followed by a comment from a male who was a few mats over from me. “Does chi mean pain?”

For those of us who could still catch our breath, a wave of laughter trickled throughout the room, and the instructor got a big laugh out of the comment as well. I could just imagine thinking, Come on, Maria, let the pain you are carrying in your gut carry you through this excruciating pose.

I was happy to know that I wasn’t the only one in severe pain.

I was also glad to know that I wasn’t the only one in class who didn’t know what the meaning of chi was.

So, really, what is chi?

For all of you yoga fans out there who don’t know the meaning of chi, it is basically the same thing as prana, which means energy or life force. Chi is what gives power to the oxygen in the air we breathe and the vitamins and minerals in the foods we eat. It is what we live off in air, food, sunlight, water, and even in our thoughts. Every human possesses a soul, and the energy that our souls transmit to our hearts, minds, and bodies is our chi.

What is chi? It is what lets us do everyday tasks like practice yoga, tell a joke, or eat an ice cream cone, but it is also responsible for critical tasks like healing our bodies from sickness.

The important thing to remember is to respect your chi; it is the gift of life and energy and can be used for positive or negative actions. So, next time I’m in boat pose, I will remember to use my life force in a positive manner, to enjoy the challenge and benefits of the pose instead of having malice and ill thoughts about it.

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