Prana, The Vital Force

As any athlete who strives to balance strength and fitness, some of us at Globeracers aim to do the same. In pursuit of that balance we practice yoga regularly. As our teacher Mr.Ranjay Kumar says “Know Yoga Know Peace, No Yoga No Peace”, there is a well established link between yoga practice and overall health of a person, physical and mental. Read on to know the distinction between Prana and Pranayama.
Prana is the vital force which pervades the whole cosmos. Prana literally means ‘breath’ and ‘air’ as well as ‘energy’ and is the exact equivalent to the term ‘chi’ in Chinese Tao. Though closely related to the air we breathe, it is not exactly the same thing. Prana is more subtle than air and can be defined as the energy essence that is within everything in the universe.
Traditionally, prana (energy) in the body is divided into five elementary parts which are collectively known as the pancha pranas (five pranas). They consist of Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Vyana.
Prana: This refers to the original burst of pure energy that occurs at conception and breathes life into the fetus in the womb. Prana may be compared to the potential energy stored in a battery. It begins to dissipate from the moment of birth, and the rate of dissipation determines one’s lifespan. One reason that children are so much more active and energetic then adults is that they have not yet polluted and dissipated their original primordial energy to the degree that adults have. That’s also why children don’t show as severe symptoms of poor diet and breathing as adults do: they are still protected by strong primordial batteries. But by drawing on these batteries to compensate for poor diet and other bad habits they accelerate the rate of energy dissipation and sow the seeds of chronic debility in adulthood. Prana may be tonified and enhanced through diet, herbs, proper Pranayama, regulated asana (yoga pose) and other Yoga disciplines aimed at recharging primordial batteries, retarding the rate of dissipation and thereby prolonging life.
Russian scientists conducted practical experiments, which clearly revealed the existence of a field of force around and within the body. They called it bioplasma; we call it prana. Others have called it the aura, among other names.
Prana energy travel by nadis (vital energy channels). It moves just as electricity moves through a computer- along well-defined ‘circuits’. In Chinese medicine these circuits are called ‘meridians’, and they form a web like network of invisible channels that carry prana to every tissue in the body. Out of the large number of nadis in the psychic body, fourteen are more important, and of these, three are most important. These three are ida, pingala and sushumna nadis.
Pranayama is a method of refining the makeup of one’s pranic body, one’s physical body and also one’s mind. By making the mind calm and still, consciousness is allowed to shine through without distortion. Respiration is directly related to the heart. Slow respiration occurs with a slow- beating heart, and a slow-beating heart is conducive to long life.
It is written in the ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ the ancient text on yoga: “Life is the period between one breath and the next; a person who only half breathes, only half lives. He who breathes correctly acquires control of the whole being.”
The ancient yogis were fully aware of the importance of breath; no breath no life; breath is life.
There are many misconceptions about Prana and Pranayama . Prana does not specifically mean air or breath, though many people interpret the word in this way. The word Pranayama has far wider implication than the usual definition-‘breath control’.
In the ancient scripture called the ‘Satapatha Brahmana’ it is written: “Prana is the body of the Self (supreme consciousness)”. In other words, prana is the vehicle or the medium of consciousness. From modern science we know that matter is really no more than an expression of energy. As such we can say that prana means energy. This prana or energy, whether it is the mind, body, matter or any form of energy, acts as the medium for carrying consciousness. Without prana, consciousness would be totally unable to express itself in the phenomenal world to manifest myriads of life forms in the universe. Prana is the active aspect of existence and consciousness is the all pervading, inactive and witnessing principle. For life to exist both must be present.
By Ranjay Kumar.
Yoga instructor.