Pranayama – from Yoga and Ayurveda, David Frawley
Dr. Frawley’s website: http://www.vedanet.com/
“We are all in pursuit of prana as our main activity in life, whether we are aware of it or not. Human enjoyment proceeds through the power of prana alone. The pleasure we feel in eating, in sex, in watching a movie, in running, skiing, jumping or any activity of the sensory and motor organs are all due to prana alone. However, because we are not in control of our prana, we can only produce pranic enjoyments according to external factors that remain limited and ultimately exhaust us.
Yoga teaches us how to master prana and unfold its deeper powers. The yogi learns to ride the waves of prana so that he can experience the bliss of prana in his own consciousness. He can take his mind into a state of great speed (prana), infinite expansion (vyana), unlimited ascension (udana), immutable calm (samana) or unbreakable endurance (apana). Once we learn to master prana we no longer require external forms of enjoyment. We gain power over the mind and senses. This same pranic force can be used to heal body and mind. A true ayurvedic doctor is a pranic healer who knows how to direct prana at will for the benefit of the patient, as well as how to use food, herbs and other healing substances as vehicles for prana.
According to the Vedas, the prana within the human body corresponds to the sun in the external world. Just as the sun revolves around the sky, so prana revolves through the channel systems of the body and mind. Just as the sun measures time externally, so prana controls it internally. Therefore the key to the movement of our lives and to taking us beyond the limit of time lies in our ability to control our prana. Just as learning to harness solar energy can transform the external world, so the development of pranic energy is the key to internal transformation.
Pranayama is one of the most central yoga practices, marking the fourth of the eight limbs of classical yoga. It is the prop on which the entire system of yoga rests. Prana purifies and energizes body and mind for higher meditational practices, without which we lack the energy to pursue them properly.”
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Prana means vital force and ayama means expansion. Therefore pranayama means expansion of the vital force. However, some people define pranayama as “retention of the breath”. While retention of the breath, if done correctly, is probably the most powerful method to expand the vital force, it is not the only one. If done incorrectly, it can constrict the vital force and aggravate many diseases, just as failing to breathe causes us to faint. Through pranayama one slows down and extends the breath so that the inner prana or higher life force can manifest. This aids in slowing down and calming the mind, facilitating meditation.
Pranayama is an integral part of ayurvedic treatment methods and lifestyle regimens. It is most effective in treating diseases of the respiratory, circulatory and nervous systems, whose function depends upon the right flow of prana, yet it is excellent for all conditions of debility, low energy, chronic fatigue, weak immunity, and convalescence. It is probably the most important single action that we can do to improve our health. Life without pranayama is life without real prana.
Pranayama not only exercises the lungs but all the organs in the body through the internal massage action of inhalation and exhalation. This massaging action improves circulation to the organs and dispels toxins, bringing the doshas to the digestive tract for elimination. It sets up a deep and powerful organic rhythm to sustain not only health and strength but calmness of mind.
Pranayama is an important tool for treating psychological and emotional disorders. It is excellent to counter depression, release grief and attachment and reduce stress and tension. It is much more effective in raising our spirits than any stimulant or drugs. Pranayama enhances the power of tonic herbal therapies to improve vitality.
Working on Prana
Proper nutrition increases prana on a physical level. This also requires proper elimination. … While right food sustains apana, right impressions are required to feed prana. For this, contact with nature, rituals and visualizations are important. As we grow spiritually we must learn to take in more prana to feed the spiritual powers within us.
Meditation itself, creating space in the mind, generates prana in the mind. When the mind is brought into a silent and receptive state, like the expanse of the sky, a new prana comes into being within it that heals and integrates our awareness. Wherever space and stillness is created, prana or energy must follow. However, the main method for working on prana and pranamaya kosha is pranayama or yogic breathing exercises.
Yogic practices work to raise apana up to unite with prana and draw prana down to unite with apana, which occurs in the region of the navel – the pranic center in the body.
Pranayama and the Doshas
The right practice of pranayama normalizes vata, the master dosha and expression of prana. Pranayama is one of the main practices for reducing kapha which has a tendency to stagnation and the production of mucus in both the head and lungs. In addition, special cooling pranayamas counter pitta and remove heat.
Inhalation, like eating, relates to kapha and has a building effect. Retention, like digestion, relates to pitta and has a transforming effect. Exhalation, like elimination, relates to vata and has a reducing or depleting effect.
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