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The secret of Pranayama PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Massimo   
Wednesday, 03 September 2008

Pranayama may seem at first to be totally involved with breathing. However, breathing is only one of the many exercises through which we get to the real pranayama, or control of the prana.

By Arthur Liebers 

Pranayama may seem at first to be totally involved with breathing. However, breathing is only one of the many exercises through which we get to the real pranayama, or control of the prana. According to old Indian philosophers, the universe is composed of two materials, one of which is called akasa, the omnipresent, all-penetrating existence. Everything that has form, or that is made up of compounds, evolves from the akasa. The akasa becomes air, liquids, solids, the sun, moon, stars and comets. It is the akasa that forms animal and plant life. It is everything we see, all that can be sensed and everything that exists. It cannot be perceived, as it is so subtle that it is beyond all human perception. It can be seen only when it has become gross and taken form. At the beginning of creation there was only this akasa, at the end of the cycle, solids, liquids and gases melt into the akasa again, and the next creation evolves from the akasa.

The akasa is manufactured into our universe by the power of prana. Just as akasa is the infinite omnipresent material of our universe, so is prana the infinite, omnipresent power of this universe. At the beginning and at the end of a cycle everything becomes akasa and all the forces that are in the universe resolve back into the prana. In the next cycle, out of this prana is evolved everything that we call energy or force. It is the prana that is manifested as motion, the power of gravity and magnetism. The prana is manifested as the actions of the body, nerve currents and thought. All thought and all physical motion are manifestations of prana. The sum total of all force in the universe, mental or physical, when resolved back to its original state, is called prana. The knowledge and control of this prana is really what is meant by pranayama.

This opens the door to almost unlimited power. Suppose, for instance, one understood the prana perfectly and could control it. What power on earth could there be that would not be his? Many believe he would be able to move the sun and stars out of their places, to control everything in the universe from the atoms to the biggest suns because he would control the vital force of the universe, the prana. When the Yogi becomes perfect, there might be nothing in nature not under his control. All the forces of nature might obey him as his slaves. But let us not reach beyond the stars!

The control of the prana is the one goal of pranayama. This is the purpose of the training and exercises. Each man must begin where he stands, must learn how to control the things that are nearest to him. Your body is the nearest thing to you, nearer than anything else in the universe, and your mind is the nearest of all. The power which controls this mind and body is the nearest to you of all the prana in the universe. Thus, the little wave of prana which represents your own mental and physical energies is the nearest wave of all that infinite ocean of prana. You must first learn to control that little wave of prana within you. If you will analyze the many schools of thought in this country, such as faith-healers, spiritualists, Christian Scientists, hypnotists, therapists and many psychologists and psychiatrists, you may find that each attempts to control the prana. Following different paths, they stumbled on the discovery of a force whose nature they do not know, but they unconsciously use the same powers which the Yogi uses and which come from prana.

This prana is the vital force in every being and the finest and highest action of prana is thought. There are several planes of thought. Instinctive thought has been called "conditioned reflex" by Western scholars. If a mosquito bites you, your hand will strike it automatically. All reflex actions belong to this plane of thought. There is also a higher plane of thought, the conscious. You reason, judge, think, see pros and cons of certain situations.

Reason, however, is limited; its sphere is very small. We are constantly confronted with facts which penetrate our consciousness from the outside, facts which are ordinarily beyond the powers of the reason. The Yogi believes the mind can exist on this higher plane, the superconscious. When the mind has attained to that state which is called samadhi—perfect concentration or superconsciousness—it goes beyond the limits of reason, and comes face to face with facts which instinct or reason can never know. Manipulation of the subtle forces of the body, which are different manifestations of prana, if trained, stimulates the mind, which progresses to the plane of the superconscious.

Let us repeat that pranayama has little to do with breathing, except insofar as breathing is an exercise which helps you attain control of the vital forces. The most obvious manifestation of prana in the human body, therefore, is the motion of the lungs. If that stops, all the other manifestations of force in the body will also stop. This is considered to be the principal gross motion of the body. To reach the more subtle, we must utilize the grosser and so travel toward the most subtle. Breath does not produce the motion of the lungs. On the contrary, the motion of the lungs produces breath. Prana moves the lungs, and the motion of the lungs draws in air.

From the explanation above, it can be seen that pranayama is not breathing, but controlling that muscular power which moves the lungs. Muscular power which travels through the nerves to the muscles and from those to the lungs, making them move in a certain manner, is the prana. Once this prana is controlled, we find that other actions of the prana in the body slowly come under control. If we have control over certain muscles, why not obtain control over every muscle and nerve? What stands in the way? At present, control is lost, and the motion has become automatic. We cannot move our ears at will, but we know that animals can. We do not have that power because we do not exercise it. This is what is called atavism.

We know that physical agility which has been lost can be brought back to manifestation. It has been shown, moreover, that by sincere work and practice, it is not only possible, but even probable that every part of the body can be brought under perfect control.



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