Prana is the life force, and life feeds on life. The main function of prana is to maintain itself, to keep you alive. To generate prana in your body you need to extract energy from the world, for example in the form of food, water, and oxygen, and use this energy to generate more energy within you.
To reach your greater pranic potential you need to fill yourself with the best quality of fuel at all levels of your being, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
You produce physical energy in mitochondria, little powerhouses that exist within the cells of the body. Healthy mitochondria are the physical basis of prana in your body. You have approximately 37 trillion cells in your body, and approximately 1,000 mitochondria in each cell – a lot!
All activity (all karma) uses prana. This includes movement, speech, thought, and emotion.
Healthy forms of exercise both use and generate more prana by stimulating the growth of mitochondria in your muscles. Certain activities use excessive amounts of prana, for example, worry or emotional distress, leaving you feeling depleted and exhausted, while poor diet and lifestyle can damage prana. Whereas negative emotions and depression deplete prana, loving experiences create prana.
You take in energy in the form of food and liquids, and from the air, you breathe. The more alive a substance is, that is, the more prāna it has, the more life force you can extract from that substance.
Generation of prana also occurs through stillness and deep rest. Deep restful sleep and meditation are the two best ways of generating prana. Though sleep is designed to restore energy, it is not always efficient, especially if you go to bed exhausted or full of worry and tension. This is why relaxation and meditation practices are the more efficient form of rest, allowing you to calm the mind and emotions and to deeply replenish yourself with energy. You can actually use meditation to tune into and access your prana at a very deep level of being.
Generate, Store and Utilize Prana
Yoga and meditation enable you to delve into the mystery of the life force via an exploration of the relationship between the breath and prana. You do this by utilizing physical postures, breathing techniques, and specific mental visualizations. These techniques provide a profound and systematic approach to sense what prāna feels like, how to generate and store it, and how you use it to your best advantage.
Yoga and meditation enable an authentic experience of prana.
You discover what lack of prana feels like and can feel where it is flowing and where it is blocked. You can then liberate the energy blocked and trapped within tensions, contractions, and negative patterns, thereby reducing the degenerative effects of aging and support healthy flow. You can actually influence the smooth flow of prana using techniques such as ujjayi pranayama, throat breathing, which is taught on several of Big Shakti’s meditation training programs.
As you develop pranic awareness you are tuned into, and become more sensitive to your body’s needs. You intuitively sense what makes you strong and healthy, and what makes you weak and sick.
The Breath and Prana
The key to the knowledge of prana and how to control it lies in the breath. There are two levels of the breath, the gross breath, and the subtle prānic breath. The subtle breath is the prāna itself.
1. The gross breath which takes oxygen into the body and removes waste gases. It has three phases: inhalation, exhalation and the pause or space between the breaths. Inhalation and exhalation have completely different characteristics. Inhalation is an active process. Energy is required to contract the breathing muscles, the diaphragm, and the ribs, in order to pull air into the lungs. Normal relaxed exhalation is passive; no muscular contraction is required. Exhalation can be made more forceful by muscular contraction, for example, in coughing and sneezing. Both inhalation and exhalation can also be slowed through conscious muscular control.
2. The subtle pranic breath can only be understood by experience. The gross breath and prana move in opposite directions. As you inhale the gross breath takes air down into the lungs, at the same time when you are tuned into your prana you can feel prana move upwards. When you exhale air moves up inside the body before it’s expelled from the body and at the same time you can feel that prana moves downwards.
The MP3 series Prana and Pranic Healing is systematic training in sensing and utilizing prana. This series of meditations on prana teach you how to experience these two levels of the breath and use them for health and wellbeing.
The meditation technique Ajapa Japa also utilizes these two breaths to integrate body, mind, and spirit. See the MP3 Ajapa Japa on Big Shakti.
The Pranic Body
The next step on the path to cultivating and refining your perception of and ability to utilize prana is to become aware of the pranic sheath, called the pranamaya kosha. A kosha is a term used in Yoga Philosophy to describe the five sheaths (layers) of existence, from the gross physical sheath to the energy (pranic), mental, psychic and spiritual sheaths.
The pranamaya kosha is comprised of 5 divisions of prana, called sub-pranas or vayus. It also consists of the channels that distribute prana in the body.
Each sub-prana is ruled by one of the five elements, earth, water, fire, air and space, and governs the growth and function of certain areas of the body. For example, prana combined with the earth element is called apana vayu (or just apana) and governs the pelvis and excretion as well as certain psychic functions such as a feeling of being secure. Prana combined with water is called samana vayu and governs digestion, with fire, prana vayu (a subset of prana shakti) which governs the heart and lungs, with air udana vayu which controls the head, and with space vyana vayu, which coordinates the other sub-pranas (vayus).
Pranayama, yoga breathing techniques, enable you to control the pranic sheath, either an individual sub-prana or the whole system. The most useful method of balancing prāna is ujjayi pranayama, throat breathing, which is the foundation of Pranic and Pranic Healing and Ajapa Japa techniques mentioned above.
Image by Okan Caliskan