Prana And Pranayam
Prana is the universal pinciple of energy or force. It is the vital force. It is all-pervading. It may be either in a static or dynamic state. It is found in all forms from the highest to the lowest, from the ant to the elephant, from the elementary forms of plant life to the developed forms of animal life. It is Prana that shines in your eyes. It is through the power of Prana that the ear hears, the eyes see, the skin feels, the tongue tastes, the nose smells, the brain and the intellect do their functions. The smile in a young lady,the melody in the music, the power in the emphatic words of an orator, the charm in the speech of one’s beloved are all due to Prana. Fire burns hrough Pranas. Wind blows through Prana. River flows through Pranan. The aeroplane moves in the air through Prana. The steam engine works through Prana. Trains and motor cars move through Prana. Radio waves travel through Prana. Prana is electron. Prana is force. Prana is magnetism. Prana is electricity. It is Prana that pumps the blood from the heart into the arteries of blood-vessels. It is Prana that is responsible for the processes of digestion, excretion and secretion.
Prana is expended by thinking, willing, acting, moving, talking, writing, etc. A healthy, strong man has abundance of Prana or nerve-force or vitality. The Prana is supplied by food, water, solar energy, etc. The supply of Prana is taken up by the nervous system. The Prana is absorbed by breathing. The excess of Prana is stored in the brain and nerve centers. When the seminal energy sublimates, or transforms, it supplies abundance of Prana to the system. It is stored up in the brain in the form of Ojas. Ojas is nothing but Prana.
The Yogi stores abundance of Prana by a regular practice of Pranayam just as a storage bttery can be made to store Prana radiates strength and vitality all round. He is a mightly power-house. Those who come in close contact with him imbibe Prana from him, and get strength, vigour, vitality and exhilaration of spirits. Just as water flows from one vessel to another, Prana actually flows like a steady current from a developed Yogi towards weak persons. This can be actually seen by the Yogi who has developed his inner Yogic vision.
Pranayam is the control of the prana and the vital forces of the body. It is regulation of the breath. This is a most important step. The aim of Pranayam is the control of Prana. Pranayam begins with the regulation of the breath for having control over the life –currents through the control of breath. Brath is the external manifestation of the gross Prana. A correct habit of breathing must be established by the regular practice of Pranayam. In ordinary worldly persons the breathing is irregular.
If you can control the prana you can completely control all the forces of the universe, mental and physical. The Yogi can also control the omnipresent manifesting power out of which all energies take their origin, wether magnetism, electricity, gravitation, cohesion nerve-currents, vital forces or thought vibration; in fact the total forces of the universe – physical and mental.
If one controls breath or Prana, the mind is also controlled. He who has controlled his mind has also controlled his breath. If one is suspended, the other is also suspended. If the mind and the Prana are both controlled one gets liberation from the round of births and deaths and attains immortality. There is an intimate connection between the mind, Prana and semen. If one controls the seminal energy, the mind and Prana are also controlled. He who has controlled his seminal force has also controlled his Prana and mind.
When you wish to hear a faint sound, the breath gets automatically suspended for a short time. The coolly who carries heavy bags of rice at the railway station instinctively fills his lungs with air and practises unconscious retention of the air (Pranayam) till the bag is lifted onto his back. He who crosses a small rivulet by jumping he who practises long jump and high jump and various exercises with the parallel bars practises retention of breath instinctively. This retention of breath augments his vitality, strength. It provides abundance of energy immediately.
Just as a goldsmith removes impurities from gold by heating it in a hot furnace and by blowing strongly through a blow-pipe, so also the Yogic student removes the impurities of the body and the indriyas by blowing his lungs, i.e., by practicing Pranayam.
The chief aim of Pranayam is to unite the Prana with the Apana and take the united Prana-apana slowly upwards to the head. The effect or fruit of Pranayam is awakening of the sleeping Kundalini.
Pranayam, though it concerns the breath only gives good exercise also to the various internal organs and the whole body. Pranayam removes all sorts of diseases, improves health, energises, digestion, invigorates the nerves, removes passion tand awakens Kundalini Sahkti. It bestows good health and steady mind. A Pranayam practitioner can stop his breath. People can break stones on his chest. He does not feel anything because he has controlled his Prana. A Pranayam practitioner will have a light body free from diseases, a very fair complexion, a sweet melodious voice, and a pleasant smell from his body.
He who practises Pranayam will have good appetite, cheerfulness, a handsome figure, great strength, courage, enthusiasm, a high standard of health, vigour and vitality and good concentration of the mind. This Pranayam is quite suitable for people in the West and East, men and women.
A Yogi measures the span of his life not by the number of years but by the number of breaths. You take in a certain amount of energy or Prana from the atmosphere along with each breath. Vital capacity is the capacity of a man to inhale the largest quantity of air after the deepest possible exhalation. A man takes fifteen breaths in a minute. So the total number of breaths amounts to 21,600 per day.
The room in which you practise Pranayam must not be damp or ill-ventilated. It must be dry and airy. You may practise by the side of a river or lake, in the corner of a garden in the open air, when there is no chill or draught of cold air or on the top or foot of a hill. The practice of Pranayam should be performed daily with the mind firmly fixed on Truth. Then the Chitta is absorbed in the Sushumna. Consequently the Prana becomes steady. It does not fluctuate. Pranayam requires deep concentration and attention.
There should be no strain at any stage in the practice of Pranayam. You should experience joy and pleasure in doing the same. You should not feel any undue strain. Always inhale and exhale very very slowly. Do not make the least sound. Whenever you feel uneasy, depressed, or dejected, practise Pranayam.
The practice of Kumbhak (retention) in Pranayam produces heat and thereby the Kundalini Shakit is awakened and passes upwards along the Sushumna Nadi. Kumbhak increases the period of life also. Mild Kumbhak during the practice of Asans augments the efficacy of Asans and gives increased power and vitality. During the practice of pranayam repeat your Ishta Mantra (Japa). That will be pure Yoga.
As there is always some dorwsiness when one gets up from bed, it is advisable to do a few Pranayams, 10 to 20 mild Kumbhak just to drive off dowsiness and to make you fit for meditation. The mind gets one-pointed after the practice of Pranayam.