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                                                     Understanding Pranayama - Part I
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                                                                                                                                     By Arun Goel


Pranayama works as the basis for spiritual awakening in yoga. Although this is the supreme aim, Pranayama brings about tremendous benefits along
the way such as increased energy, increased perception and development of various brain faculties.


What is Pranayama?

To most, control of breath is Pranayama. However, this is a result of wrong interpretation.

For a rightful interpretation, it must be understood that 'prana' is an energy or life force that is universal in nature - it is omnipresent. A portion of that prana
is also present in the human body. It flows at a superficial level to maintain the body and its organs.

The goal of Pranayama is to increase the quantum of this life force (Prana) so that it can reach out to 'hidden' recesses of the brain. This helps in
expanding the human faculties and retarding degeneration.


How Prana operates?

All the life force or Prana lies as dormant potential energy called the 'pranashakti' or 'kundalini'. It resides at a center which is found just above the genital
area, called the 'mooladhara chakra'.

According to yoga, this prana flows from the base 'mooladhara' center up along the right side of the spinal column into the center which lies at the top of
the spinal column. This center is called the 'Ajna Chakra'. The prana also gets distributed to the whole body through a different set of nerve channels so
that it reaches every atom of the body.

This is how prana operates in the normal body and the scope of Pranayama is to extend this influence beyond the physical body.


Prana and the Brain

Modern science has divided the brain into three parts: the new brain, the middle brain and the primitive brain. According to yoga, the primitive brain forms
nine out of ten parts of the brain. These parts are 'silent' and unexplored. The next phase of evolution will see the development of these parts and
Pranayama helps achieve that.

Pranayama helps create a greater quantum of prana and also purifies the channels that will carry this increased prana to these 'silent' areas of the brain.
It is very important that the channels be purified first to cope up with the increased energy created by Pranayama.

When this fantastic amount of energy is created it flows from the mooladhara through the right side of the spinal column (pingala nadi) and up to the Ajna
Chakra. From here it flows into the silent areas of the brain. These are the little known brain areas that house 'mysterious' faculties such as clairvoyance,
intuition and expanded awareness.



                                                     Understanding Pranayama - Part II


How Pranayama works?

Through the practices of Pranayama, a certain amount of heat is generated which influences the existing quantum of energy or Prana. For example, if you
produce heat in a vessel, it will heat the existing air.

We all have a certain amount of Prana which gives us life and maintains our organs. Pranayama serves to heat that quantum of Prana which then
ascends along the spinal column into the Ajna Chakra. When sufficient heat is generated within the system, the Ajna Chakra sends a feedback to the
base (the mooladhara) of kundalini and the dormant potential energy is awakened to increase the energy flow to the Ajna Chakra. This is the purpose of
Pranayama.

While Pranayama serves to awaken the kundalini, certain Pranayamas are done to purify the carrying channels so that this increased energy can be
handled appropriately. For example, the Ujjayi pranayama clears the pingala nadi for the ascension of kundalini.

The science of Pranayama is based on the retention of prana called 'kumbhaka'. Inhalation and exhalation are merely incidental. Those who are serious
in awakening the hidden recesses of the brain need to perfect the art of retention (kumbhaka). During kumbhaka there is an increased blood flow into the
brain and simultaneously heat is generated in the system.

The heat generates an increased energy in an electrical form. This electrical spark alters the chemical structure of the cerebral fluid which surrounds the
brain. When this fluid is chemically influenced, it affects the behaviour of the brain. This is why one experiences a dizziness.

All the great experiences take place in this condition of dizziness. However, it is important that when this occurs you are fully aware. Few people are able
to handle it and that is why the practice of Pranayama should be combined with the practice of concentration. When awakening takes place, dizziness
occurs and a visual aid is necessary such as a candle, a dot or the 'Om' symbol.

Therefore, the practice of Pranayama has to be done very intelligently and patiently.



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This article is based on my understanding and interpretation of the works of Swami Satyananda Saraswati through his lecture on 'Awakening Prana'
delivered in Denmark, September 1979 .
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Courtesy:  Arun Goel, health and yoga

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