Prana and Pranayama
What is Prana?
What makes any motion possible: the blink of an eye, the budding of a flower, the splitting of atoms or the fall of a meteor? Thousands of years ago, the yogis living in the shadow of the Himalayas the inherent quality of the motion in creation and they called it prana. One may roughly translate the word prana as energy or vital force, but neither definition offer the precise equivalent of the Sanskrit term that emerged from the higher states of contemplation. The word prana assumes the quality of livingness. From the yogic point of view, the entire cosmos is alive, throbbing with prana.
Prana is ever present in every aspect of creation. The prana within every created object gives existence and material form, whether it is a planet, an asteroid, a blade of grass or a tree. If there were no prana there would be no existence. If prana were withdrawn from the universe, there would be total disintegration. All-beings, whether living to non-living, exist due to prana. Every manifestation in creation forms part of a never-ending matrix of energy particles, arranged in different densities, combinations and variations. The universal principle of prana may be in a static or dynamic state, but it is behind all existence on every plane of being from the highest to the lowest.
Play of Prana and Chitta
Both prana and consciousness must be present for life to exist. The conscious experience is chitta, that which takes one closer to the conscious experience is prana, and that which motivates prana is vasana, inherent desire. So, prana and vasana are the two supports of consciousness. A living being is called a prani, one who has prana and thus consciousness. It is not that consciousness is the cause of existence and prana the result, now is prana the cause of conciousness the result. They are two aspects of existence which determine the nature of everything.
Consciousness is being, awareness, knowledge; prana is becoming, manifestation through motion. Consciousness is a dormant experience whereas prana is the active principle of manifest energy. They are the two internal principles that are the basis of the macrocosmos and the microcosmos. Everything is a combination of prana and chitta. The entire universe, creation and existence are a play of consciousness and energy. The life force and mental force permeate every atom and cell of the universe, though remaining at different degrees of separation.
Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama initiates a process in the physical body whereby the energy molecules and the mental forces which interact with one another in life and consciousness are transformed. When the molecules of mind are transformed, higher qualities such as love, compassion and unity arises. Matter is energy and, therefore, the physical body can be transformed into energy. The physical body is not merely a bundle of bone, marrow, nerves and mucuc. One must re-analyze and re-define what the body is and how far its transformation can be effected.
Can this body be turned into light particles? This must be considered in terms of science, not in terms of belief. This physical body can be transformed, if the molecules can undergo a state of metamorphosis, how is that achieved?
The answer is that the body is extremely subtle and pure through the process of yoga and accordingly transformed. Pranayama is a key method. When the yogic texts state that through pranayama one can transform and transcend any impurities. Brining intrinsic transformation.
The aspirant who practices pranayama in a sustained manner will find that every aspect of their being, at any level, is gradually being impacted. As one advances in the practices, the structure, the skin and the smell of the body begins to change. One is always full of fresh energy, and the senses are calmed and their outgoing tendency diminishes. Impurities are removed not only from the physical but other subtle bodies too.
From the mental, emotional, psychic and causal bodies. As a result, the intellectual capacity increases and the mind and thoughts become more powerful. As prana flows freely through all the levels of being, the negative tendencies begin to drop off almost automatically. The small things that could earlier spin one out of control dissolve into nothing, and the connection with and experience of cosmic prana becomes stronger and steadier.
Awakening of vital energy
Digestive and eliminatory system
Experience of higher consciousness
Purification of Nadis and Chakra system