In the previous post, we had the opportunity to discover our personality through the Who Am I Test? This post we shall see the Science Behind Pranayama. Prana is our vital life force and enables us to be a living being. It is the cosmic catalyst and is present throughout the entire universe.
Prana flows everywhere and in many directions, influencing all functions that take place within the universe. These different flows are known as vayus. ‘Vayu’ translates to mean ‘wind’. Although there are many different vayus, there are 12 prominent ones that influence the body and mind. Within this group, there are five major vayus, five minor vayus and 2 para prana vayus (in this instance the translation of ‘para’ is ‘other’).
All vayus come from one prana, the chief prana or great prana (Muktya Prana or Maha Prana). It is this prana that flows in many directions and forms different branches to influence and perform different actions and tasks physically, emotionally and spiritually.
A simple way to describe this as follows: prana is directed through a series of energy zones known as nadis to different areas of the body. This can be understood easily if we compare it to the electricity that we use to power a house. Electricity travels around the house through a series of cables and is directed to different areas to perform different tasks. It is the same electricity used for different tasks.
Early yoga practitioners were very aware of the prana and its movements. They viewed the body as being created by different layers or sheafs, known as koshas. Koshas reveal the five levels of existence and are often referred to as the five bodies. Prana helps us to experience a sense of unification between all five of these koshas. The koshas are interlinked and are as follows: the physical body (annamaya kosha), the energetic body (pranayama kosha), the mind (manomaya kosha) the wisdom or intellect (vijanamaya kosha) and the bliss body (anandamaya kosha).
Through our yoga practices, we can experience unification by allowing and encouraging prana to move around the body. Free flowing prana helps to keep the vayus balanced. When the vayus are balanced we positively influence all levels of our existence, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
On all levels, we are intimately connected both within the body and within the universe. To experience and utilize these unions each system is required to function efficiently and to provide support to other systems. This goes beyond the physical processes and extends into the emotional and spiritual. Prana helps balance our entire being, with awareness and practice we can experience this sense of harmony and feel connected within ourselves and the universe.
A simple pranayama focusing on the journey of the prana:
Begin in a comfortable seated meditation asana with a straight spine. Breathe slowly in and out through your nose; establish a smooth steady flow of breath experiencing the natural pauses after inhalation and exhalation.
When you feel ready follow your breath as it enters and leaves your body. Spend a little time to connect completely and focus fully on your breath.
Then watch the complete path that the prana takes on an inhalation, every cell in your body receives prana, feel the prana move to your outermost layer, just watch the breath and work to connect completely to the flow of prana around your body. Do this a few minutes. The longer you practice this technique the more awareness you will develop.
Now watch the prana leave your body, be aware of the journey it takes, and how it becomes one with all and everything. As you practice this technique you begin to discover and appreciate the never ending presence of prana. Watch your exhalation for a few minutes.
When you feel ready to return your focus to the smooth steady flow of breath to contain your energy before finishing this practice.
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