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Mind and Prana

by Swami Rama

[This passage has been taken from the book Science of Breath, pp 72 - 73, by Swami Rama (Rama, S., 1979. Science of Breath. Himalayan Institute Press.)].

Book cover: Science of Breath by Swami RamaThe mind stands like a wall between us and reality. When the student comes in touch with the finer forces called prana he can learn to control his mind, for it is tightly fastened to prana like a kite to a string. When the string is held skillfully, the kite, which wants to fly here and there, is controlled and flied in the direction desired. All yogic breathing exercises, advanced or basic, enable the student to control his mind by understanding prana. Thus, the science of breath helps the student to bring prana under control in order to attain the higher rungs of spirituality. He who has controlled his breath and prana has also controlled his mind. He who had controlled his mind has also controlled his breath.

All aspects and principles that constituted the universe, or macrocosm, are embodied in all the microcosmic forms that constitute the universe, just as the mighty ocean is completely represented in a single, small drop of water from that ocean. The human body is sustained by the same prana that sustains the universe, and it is through the manifestation of prana that all body functions are possible and coordinated.

According to the ancient manuals of yoga, the cosmic force of prana in the human body is recognized and subdivided on the basis of the ten functions it performs. Of the ten pranas, there are five major and five minor ones.  The major pranas are udana, prana, samana, apana and vyana. Although the word prana is applied to all ten pranas, one of the five major pranas has also been given the name prana for reasons which will soon become clear.

Udana rules the region of the body above the larynx and governs the use of our special senses.  Prana rules the region between the larynx and the base of the heart. It governs speech and the vocal apparatus as well as the respiratory system and the muscles associated with it. Samana rules the region between the heart and the navel and governs all the metabolic activity involved in digestion. Apana has its abode below the navel and governs the functions of the kidneys, colon, rectum, bladder, and genitals. Vyana pervades the whole body and governs the relaxation and contraction of all muscles, voluntary and involuntary, as well as the movement of the joints and the structures around them.

The energy of prana is subtle in form. Its most external manifestation is the breath, and of the five major pranas in the human body, prana is the energy that governs the breath. It is through the control of respiration that the yogi proceeds to control the other subtle energies of prana, which may explain the use of the same word for the universal energy as well as for the specific prana governing respiration. The importance of this specific prana in allowing us to access the subtler energies of the cosmic prana is also seen in the fact that what we call death results from the cessation of respiration.



The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation

Purification of Thoughts     Dhyana    Mindfulness
Japa     Dharana     Shavasana
Breath Awareness     Qualified Preceptor
Guru Disciple Relationship     Unbroken Lineage
Yoga Nidra     Silence Retreats     Full Moon Meditation

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