Divine Connection

Prana-related articles

The place of Breath Retention in Pranayama   

'When prana moves, chitta (the mental force) moves. When prana is without movement, chitta is without movement. By this steadiness of prana, the yogi attains steadiness and should thus restrain the vayu (air).'

Commentary, in part:
"By becoming aware of the breath, and restraining it, the whole system becomes controlled.
When you retain the breath you are stopping nervous impulses in different parts of the body and harmonising the brain wave patterns. In pranayama it is the duration of breath retention which has to be increased. The longer the breath is held, the greater the gap bewteen the nerve impulses and their responses in the brain. When retention is held for a prolonged period, mental agitation is curtailed."

Chapter Two/Verse 2    p150151  -  from the text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika  

Prana and the Nervous System

Prana is life-force. It is energy infused with consciousness.  It is love infused with intelligence.

Our vitality and personal growth depends on the degree to which prana is expanded throughout our body, mind and chakras. Prana, the tangible manifestation of the Divine Self, flows through all the pathways in the pranic body/system … the most important of these are known as ida, pingala and sushumna nadis. 

In his text  Prana, Pranayama, Prana Vidya Swami Niranjananda says:
“Ida and pingala are flows of charged ions capable of exerting an influence upon the flow of prana. Ida is a negatively charged flow of prana and pingala is a positively charged, flow.  From here, ida and pingala pranas divide into the five sub-pranas which exist in different parts of the body, each having a specific function and varying densities of ionic fields. Udana is the least dense, then sthoola, samana - and apana which is the most dense.  Vyana which flows over the whole body has a density which is the average of all the others."                                 
When prana is activated and harnessed in a balanced way the nervous system benefits directly – and balance is imposed upon it.  
Where prana is blocked ill-health, disease, mental and emotional problems occur.  We need the mechanical practices of yoga which will vitalize the prana and keep it flowing.
Through techniques known as pranayama  the yoga student is able to expand the flow of prana in the pranic system, which in turn feeds the entire nervous system. The mind and body are directly affected by the state of the nervous system – if the nervous system becomes weak, the body and mind do also. If the nervous system is strengthened and balanced the body and mind are also.  
Every asana movement gently, or strongly, directly influences the central nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. In asana the left and the right halves of the body are attended to equally and this affects the left and right hemispheres of the brain (and all associated behaviours in the mind  and process in the body) and ida and pingala nadis.

The cells, tissue and nerves of the spinal cord and brain are flooded with prana. Prana is generated to flow through every cell in the entire body through asana, pranayama, kirtan, mudra, bandha and deep relaxation. Even a simple thing like becoming aware of the breath – and/or manipulating the breath in specific and technical ways - expands the dimension of prana in the pranic body.

Mechanical though the techniques of yoga might be, they have art, beauty and spirituality in them also, which is what makes yoga such a glorious experience.

Prana and Nada

In Yoga it is said that from the Primordial Sound of AUM comes all vibration and therefore all sound. In the Bible it is said that in the Beginning was the Word and the word was with God.

One only needs to sing a beautiful melody to feel that they are with God. The Sound. The Word. The Vibration. Call it what you will, it is with God. Sound vibration is known as nada, in yoga. nada yoga stimulates prana.

When I was seventeen I sang in a church choir, and amongst other things we visited and sang in different churches around our region. In one, a simple very small church, the choir and the congregation sang with such utter power and beauty that the whole top of my skull tingled and flushed hot and cold as I sang. My hair felt electric and as if it was standing straight up. I didn't know then that this sensation was occuring because the prana in all my chakras was being activated and the effect was being felt as a pranic surge in sahasrara chakra. The crown chakra.

In nada yoga, sound vibrations are used to activate the whole field of prana, these sounds are called mantras which are said to have been heard in the deepest states of meditation. There is a specific sound vibration in each chakra where the flow of nadis converges at its centre. Visualise an ocean flowing to converge on rocks, crashing and swirling in an explosion of turquoise, dark blue, creamy-blue sea colours, nowhere to go but to crash and converge. This is what prana does in the chakras.

The sound occuring when the four nadis converge in mooladhara, is lam [more correctly pronounced lum]. In swadhistana, vam. In Manipura, ram. In anahata, yam. In vishuddhi, ham. In ajna, aum. Sit in meditation and focus into the convergence in each chakra, mentally repeating the bija mantra appropriate to that chakra. This is so delicious you might find an hour has passed before you know it.

Other sound vibrations commonly used in nada yoga, to stir the chakras are called swaras. These mantras are sa re ga ma pa dha ni sa. Like do re mi, etc.  They may be chanted slow, medium, fast, or superfast.  They may be sung in simple straight scales, or in beautiful complex patterns which dance the prana. Superfast activates the prana, slow activates the heart - but whether slow, medium, fast, or superfast - they concentrate and clarify the mind. They clear samskaras.

Connect with prana through nada.

This is said beautifully in the Mundakopanishad: Section 3: Part 1: Verse 4
"The vital energy (prana) radiant in all animate things is the Lord. The truly wise experience pure joy in Him. He whose delight is in the Self, whose joy is in the Self and whose life is spiritual becomes foremost among His followers.