By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
What should a Yoga teacher know about prana and pranayama? How can a Yoga teacher explain the concept of prana to his or her student’s? Prana, which is also known as vital energy, is in the air, our bodies, and objects around us. One teacher training intern remarked that prana could not be in his mat, since it was an inanimate object. After all, his mat was not a living being, so how could it contain pranic energy? How could ancient Yogis know of the existence of pranic energy about 5,000 years ago? We cannot visibly see vital energy? None of us can see the mind create ideas either. Yet the mind creates ideas, and we put them into action, with our voice and hands. So, prana is not an object. We cannot see a Yoga mat move, but it is moving all the time – at the atomic level. In fact, your mat is full of open space at the atomic level. Electrons are flying around in many open spaces within your mat.
On the other hand, we are born, live, and die, on planet Earth, a moving object, which does not appear to be moving at all. The universe is infinitely vast and infinitely small, at the same time. Prana is the power behind the perpetual movement of the universe. We now know that the universe is moving at every level. Within Prasna Upinshad, Chapter 2, Verse 5, Prana is described in this way: “It burns as fire. It is the sun, rain, Indra, wind, earth, and it is food. It is the luminous god. It is being and non-being. It is immortality.” To go a bit further on this point, you can see Prana is a power that is everywhere, is not an object, and apparently is difficult for the human mind to define.
We are smug and take our ability to learn about prana and pranayama for granted. At the touch of our finger tips, the Internet gives us much more access to knowledge than ancient Yogis had in all of their scriptures, and in any other scriptures that existed, on earth, at that time. However, the ancient Yogis took the time to observe nature and the cosmos. They were in tune with their surroundings and the natural laws of the universe. The ancient Yogis did not have to waste their time with spam and disinformation. Achievements and mistakes are always made, but they documented them, so we could learn from them.
Without tools, computers, or machines, Pranayama is a method to alter Prana at a level, in which the human mind can easily comprehend. Pranayama is Yoga’s answer to regulating Prana, with the breath. In Yoga training, Pranayama can be used to heal in times of need. Yogic breathing is useful for stress, grief, anxiety, nervousness, and many more ailments, which plague mankind, but Pranayama should be learned with the guidance of a competent teacher.
For physical health, Yogic breathing is the most important of Hatha Yoga’s many methods.
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