The Five Pranas and How They Changed My Life - Part III - Pranayama
This is the final article in a series on prana and how it changed my life. To read the previous blog articles you can follow the links below:
What is Pranayama:
Breath is the vehicle of prana. Much like the wind carries the smells of sweet flowers and vivid memories, so does the breath carry large portions of prana into our body. During and after asana (yoga postures), we perform the practice of pranayama. "Prana" translates to "life force energy", and "Yama" means "to extend". Ergo: we extend the life force energy.
In the practice of pranayama we slow the breath down to get the most out of it, or we speed the breath up to clear our pathways and energise ourselves. We move the breath around the body to offer every cell nutrients and life. We alternate the flow of breath through the nostrils to calm the mind. This offers us a balanced state of mind in which we are able to make decisions from a place of clarity.
We also pause the breath to take control of our physical body as well as our mental body. Every emotion, feeling, and memory comes with its own unique breathing pattern (think of when you are crying, excited, or stressed the breath changes). We encourage ourselves to become aware of this.
Most of the time our breath is on auto. This is convenient (after all, it keeps us alive, it could turn out pretty bad if we forgot). Our body is a super cool gadget and we could easily get lost in the technical apps and features of it. When practicing pranayama we turn off autopilot and switch to manual.
Disease From A Yogic Perspective
All diseases are, according to yoga and Ayurveda, linked with blockages in the nadi system. These blockages are called samskaras. It can take a long time for a blockage/samaskara in the nadi system to manifests in the physical body but ultimately it will (unless you become aware of and remove the blockage or misalignment before). The root cause of many of the diseases and ailments are found in the pranic and mental body.
This idea corresponds very well with the notion in the west of up to 80% of modern diseases being of a psychosomatic origin.
Samaskaras have the quality similar to a seed. The seeds you grow determines the plants you get. If you are planting a cactus seed you will not get sweet strawberries or juicy apples. No matter how much you wish or pray to God, the cactus will remain a cactus. You are responsible for and free to choose the seeds you sow and what fertiliser you use.
The Past Controls The Future
Everything around us is in constant motion (you hear me say that a lot :) ). We are surrounded by moving particles and atoms. Their movements create vibrations. Throughout life, there are constant background noises and sounds that we are not able to pick up on with our ears. Yet we still have the ability to perceive these vibrations through our skin and the linings of our inner organs. When we pick up on these vibrations they alter the natural vibrational pattern of our body. When our body resonates and when our organs are in tune with one another that is when we function best.
Samaskaras are stored all over the body and in all of our tissues. They also change the frequency of the vibrations and block the flow of prana. If we pick up on it at this point, we have the opportunity to restore and get straight back into tune, preventing future disease.
More Than A Blockage
Samskaras are our stories. And we need to tell the stories, listen to the stories and let go of them, to make space for new stories.
As water rolls onto the beach and wipes away the love letters written in the sand and as it claims back the castles on its way out, it leaves space for another couple's word and another child's fairytale castle. You want your samaskaras to be as impermanent as the lines drawn in the sand. The way you do this is by becoming aware; aware of every sensation, every change and every part of the breath.
Is Your Room A Mess?
The practice of pranayama is healing and empowering. Say you never tidy up your room. After 10 years your room is packed with mess, rubbish as well as all the good things, books, memories, letters and your favourite collections. But how will you find anything in there?
Your body is your home. It proves very difficult to pin down the cause of any disease if you have never taken the time to tidy up your inner home of memories, reactions, emotions, and habits. It is almost impossible.
Clean Is Not Something You Do
Clean Is Something You Keep
With yoga, pranayama, and meditation you are able to keep your body, mind, and spirit tidy, pure and powerful. Then when, and if something happens, you are more likely to find the origin and be able to treat it.