Learning and loving PRANA
Prana is energy, vitality, life force. Prana essence of all life; the energy and vitality that permeates the entire Universe. Prana flows in everything that exists.
Prana connects the material world, consciousness and mind. Prana regulates all physical functions, the breath, the supply of oxygen, digestion, elimination and more. The human body receives prana from the universe- distributes the energy and eliminates it. Illness blocks the flow of Prana. As we develop the ability to cleanse, heal and utilize Prana, we gain harmony and health of body, mind and an expansion of consciousness is experienced.
Prana is divided into ten main functions:
The five Pranas – Prana, Apana, Udana, Vyana and Samana.
The five Upa-Pranas – Naga, Kurma, Devadatta, Krikala and Dhananjaya.
There are four areas in the human body where the flow of Prana is intense – the sole of each foot and the palm of each hand. The feet are closely related to the earth element and represent negative polarity. The energy of the palms originates from the heart. It is related to the air element and produces positive polarity.
Here is an exercise through which we can very clearly feel Prana in the hands.
Raise the arms out to the sides of the body with palms facing to the front. Keep the arms straight and move them in a half-circle to the front of the body, slowly bringing the palms towards each other. Remain completely relaxed, slowly reducing the distance between the hands. As the palms become closer, you will be conscious of a growing sensation between the hands, or a feeling of pins and needles in the palms. Bring the palms closer until the distance between them is only about 1 centimetre. Now, due to the energy that streams from your hands, it feels as though the hands are really being pulled towards each other. Prana causes this. If you now move the hands apart again, you will feel pressure on the back of the hands, producing the opposite effect. This is also Prana, because Prana flows without hindrance throughout the entire body.
Prana is distributed throughout the physical body, through the energetic body’s conductors: the Nadis. There are 72,000 Nadis in the human body. Of these, there are three main Nadis.
IDA, the “Moon”, correlates with the left nostril and the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
PINGALA, the “Sun”, correlates with the right nostril and the Sympathetic Nervous System.
SUSHUMNA, the “Central Nadi”, penetrates the spinal column and correlates with the Central Nervous System.
Asana and Pranayama bring harmony to the Ida and Pingala Nadis and is purifying, strengthening and balancing to the flow of prana in all 72,000 Nadis. Pranayama and Meditation encourage prana to flow in the Sushumna Nadi. When spiritual energy begins to flow in the Sushumna brain centers and Chakras are activated, creating a development and expansion of our consciousness bringing us to our tue self.
Prana itself is totally pure and neutral. Prana flows into the body clean and pure, but how it flows depends upon the individual – on their lifestyle, those they surround themselves with, their inner qualities and feelings, the type of food consumed and environment.
Balanced Prana radiates vitality, and strength. This vitality and strength reaches to those we surround ourselves with. Therefore, we should always strive to radiate positive Prana. The Prana that we radiate is our “vibration” or “aura”.
The practice of meditation and mantra maintains pure Prana and the practice of Pranayama increases our capacity to store Prana.
The Five Pranas
Prana is that special function of the Cosmic Prana, which supplies the human body with essential oxygen. Its energy flows from the nostrils to the level of the heart.
Clean air is vital for health however, on its own air, is not the decisive factor in good health. Some people are prone to illness, even though they are frequently out in the fresh air. On the other hand, people who live in rooms or suburbs with relatively poor air quality remain healthy. Our health is not influenced by external factors only. Health is also governed by our inner condition, by the power of resistance and the inner will – Atmabala – the inner vitality. When Atmabala is strong within, external forces can barely harm us. The practice of “Yoga in Daily Life” strengthens our vitality. Certain techniques in particular activate Prana Shakti, these are Bhastrika, Nadi Shodhana and Ujjayi Pranayama.
Apana Prana influences the lower part of the body from the navel to the soles of the feet. This Prana regulates the elimination process. Diseases that affect the lower abdomen, intestines, kidneys, urinary tract, legs, etc., are the result of disturbed Apana Prana. The techniques of Nauli, Agnisara Kriya, Ashvini Mudra and Mula Bandha serve to strengthen and purify Apana Prana.
Vyana Prana flows through the nerve channels of the human body. It has an effect upon the whole body and particularly on the Nadis. Poor circulation, impaired nerve stimulation and nervous breakdowns, originate from a deficiency in Vyana Prana.
Vyana Prana is activated and strengthened in the practice of Kumbhaka (breath retention). With each natural, relaxed breath that we take, there is an automatic pause between inhalation and exhalation. In the practice of Pranayama, this pause is consciously lengthened. When we retain the breath, we withhold energy in the body with a resultant build up in pressure. This pressure has the effect of releasing energy blockages. Kumbhaka stimulates the nervous system. Anyone who has combined the techniques of Kumbhaka and Maha Bandha, knows the subsequent, pleasant sensation of peace that flows through the body. This is the reason for being able to meditate well after this practice. The feeling is produced by the increased flow of Vyana Prana throughout the whole body.
It is highly recommended to perform the following breath exercise several times a day.
Inhale deeply and exhale once
Again inhale and hold the breath for as long as comfortable (counting to 20, 30, etc.)
Exhale and hold the breath again for a while
Repeat this exercise 4-5 times.
The benefit of this simple breath exercise is quickly noticed and our nerves are truly grateful.
Udana Prana is the ascending energy that flows from the heart to the head and brain. Udana Prana accompanies the awakening of the Kundalini Shakti. It is with the assistance of Udana Prana that the Astral body separates itself from the physical body. A strong Udana Prana eases the phase of death.
With the control of Udana Prana, the body becomes very light and one may gain the ability to levitate. When Udana Prana is in our control, external obstacles such as water, earth or stones no longer obstruct us. Intense practice of the Yoga breath exercises also gives the possibility of walking on water, or even floating in the air. Fakirs who sit or lie on a bed of nails possess the ability to control their Udana Prana. Yogis who live in the forest and remain unaffected by heat, cold, thorns and insects, etc., are protected through the control of Udana Prana. Udana Prana is activated by the practice of Ujjayi Pranayama, Bhramari Pranayama, as well as Viparitakarani Mudra.
Bhramari Pranayama Technique
Close the ears with the fingers and inhale. While exhaling through the nose, hum like a bumble-bee (the mouth remains closed).
After about 5-7 breaths sit motionless and breathe normally with the ears still closed. Concentrate on your inner space and listen to the inner sound.
This exercise will calm the nerves and thoughts, promote concentration and bring you into contact with your Self.
Samana is a very important Prana that connects two main Chakras – Anahata and Manipura Chakras.
Samana Prana distributes the energy of nutrition throughout the human body. We are aware that food not only influences our physical body, but also affects our psyche and consciousness. The quality of our Prana (all types of Prana), is directly associated with the quality of our food. Pure, sattvic, vegetarian food and the practice of Pranaya ma will provide a healthy and balanced body for life.
Samana Prana has an influence on the Manipura Chakra, whose corresponding element is fire. When Yogis are able to control Samana Prana it is a pure flame within them. Those in whom Samana Prana is completely pure are surrounded by a radiant aura, which is even noticeable by those who do not have the ability to see auras.
This Prana is strengthened through the practice of Agnisara Kriya and Nauli. The practice of these two Kriyas prevents digestive problems and Diabetes. It also improves one’s resistance to infectious disease and cancer, due to the digestive fire that is awakened in the whole body, which purifies and cleans.
The most effective technique for awakening Samana Prana is Kriya Yoga. The practice of Kriya Yoga warms the entire body. This is due to the rising of Samana Prana. A very aware person can observe the aura of a Kriya practitioner becoming brighter and stronger with each round of practice.
The Five Upa-Pranas
The five Upa-Pranas regulate important functions in the human body.
NAGA – Burping
Removes blockages of Prana and Apana and prevents gas formation in the digestive system. Constant suppression of Naga can lead to Cardiac Arrhythmia. Other functions include triggering of the vomit reflex due to indigestion and dissolving blockages of Samana Prana.
KURMA – Blinking
This Upa-Prana functions in the area of the eyes, controlling opening and closing of the eyelids. The energy of this Upa-Prana is active when we are awake and is revitalised when we sleep. Kurma protects the eyes from the penetration of dust and foreign bodies etc. Disturbance of this Upa-Prana causes uncontrolled blinking and twitching of the eyelids. The practice of Trataka provides balance and strength to Kurma, as does the chanting of OM, placing warm palms over the eyes and Asanas where the head is bent forward.
DEVADATTA – Yawning
The function of Devadatta is similar to that of Samana Prana. Yawning expels gas, reducing tiredness after eating. Certain foods such as grains, onions and garlic cause fatigue. Many Yogis only eat vegetables and some milk products in order to sustain their level of vitality and thereby reduce lethargy.
KRIKALA – Sneezing
Clears blockages in the respiratory system. Sneezing can also ease headache as it releases energy blockages in the head and neck. A sneeze should not be suppressed, as this may affect vertebrae in the cervical spine. In folk tales it is said that he who sneezes loudly and strongly, has a long life. Weak sneezes indicate weak vitality.
DHANANJAYA – Opening and Closing of Heart Valves
Dhananjaya resides close to the Heart. It influences the whole body and in particular the muscles of the heart by opening and closing the heart valves. Cardiac Arrhythmia and even Heart Attack may occur due to a serious disturbance of Dhananjaya.