It’s time now to discuss & understand the real meaning of Pranayama. Literally, it means to expand the ‘Prana’ (Life forces/Life energies) within yourself. This is a process of conscious breathing which involves the inhalation, exhalation, and retention of the breath in full consciousness or awareness. It’s very important to understand the fundamental aspect of Pranayama. Maharishi Patanjali once said: ‘The one who has a control over his breath has a control over his body and mind’. Which means if you are consciously able to breathe, you can change the way your body and mind functions. Pranayama makes it possible for us to get into that kind of state. Let’s understand the basic aspects of the conscious breathing process. In the last article, we have already discussed the ‘Energy Body’. This is the body which acts as a scaffolding for the food and the mental body. Now in this energy body, there have been identified 72000 naadis/nerves (When we say Naadi we are not talking about the physical nerves which we have in our body, Naadis are the subtle pathways in our energy body within which our life forces travel or pass through, or in short the Naadis are the pathways or channel for our Prana (Prana is also known as ‘Chetna’ in Hindi and consciousness in English)). Out of these 72000 naadis, there are three basic but most significant naadis. In yogic science, these are known as ida, pingala and shushumna naadis. In our physical body, the ‘ida naadi’ passes through the left nostril. Similarly, the ‘pingala naadi’ passes through the right nostril. The shushumna naadi is the one which lies exactly between left and the right nostril. Again just to clarify that these are not the physical naadis or nerves, these are the pathways at the very subtle level of energy body which exists and decide the very quality of our life. So when we consciously breathe in and breathe out, the internal cleansing of all the 72000 naadis takes place. Hence pranayama is nothing but an effort to bring about a balance between the ida and the pingala naadi.
The Scientific basis of the ida, pingala & Sushumna naadis: The ida naadi corresponds to the cycles of the moon. The moon is a symbol of ‘Aesthetics & peace’. Similarly, the pingala naadi corresponds to the cyclical movement of the Sun. The sun is a symbol of a great amount of ‘Power’. Unless there is a perfect balance between the ida and the pingala naadi, the human life will suffer. As we all know and I have already discussed in the previous articles, that the human life has evolved on this planet because of the cyclical movement of the Sun and the moon within this solar system. Hence how balanced both these aspects are within our body will determine the very experience of our life. The Sushumna naadi lies exactly between ida and pingala and passes through our spinal cord up to the rectum. The shushumna naadi acts as an anchor for all the 72000 naadis or the pathways which exist within our body. Now apart from these naadis, there have been identified certain nodes within our body, wherein all the naadis meets and again redistribute the energy to the whole body. These nodes or the junctions are known as ‘CHAKRAS’ in the yogic sciences. Although there have been identified thousands of nodes, but out of which there are 7 chakras which are of utmost importance. These are Mooladhara, Swadhisthan, Manipur, Anahata, Vishudhi, Ajna & Sahasrara. We would be looking at the importance of these chakras in the upcoming articles. Right now we will focus on the Pranayama.
The qualitative aspect of ida and pingala naadis: Fundamentally the ida naadi refers to the Feminine energy within our selves & the pingala naadi refers to the Masculine energy within our selves. Now when we say feminine and masculine, we are not talking in context to two different genders. These are the qualitative aspects which we are talking about. There are certain qualities which have been identified as the feminine in nature and there are certain qualities which have been identified as the masculine in nature. Both these aspects are equally important. Let’s understand it with the help of an example. During the time when we were cavemen, the Man used to take care of the survival needs & the women used to take care of the basic aesthetics which will make the life worthwhile to live. Hence these are the two aspects which are fulfilled by the masculine and feminine energy respectively. Whether you are a man or a woman, both these aspects are present within you. If the ida naadi is more dominant in your body then you have feminine energy force dominant within you. If your pingala naadi is more vibrant then you have the masculine energy as the major driving force. If we look from the point of view of the modern world, today only the economic forces are the driving forces of the nation. That means we are only looking at the ‘Masculine’ aspects of our life or in other words ‘Survival’ process has become the major force of life. In this kind of scenario the feminine energy is bound to suffer, we have left no choice for us.
In a way pranayama is not just limited to the conscious breathing process, it is significantly related to the way we can achieve the balance between the masculine and feminine energies within our selves and in our ecosystem as a whole. Now is the time to realize both these energies, only then we will be successful to bring a sense of well-being within ourselves and in our whole nation and the world. Masculine without feminine cannot survive. We need to get rid of the primordial ways which we are currently using to live our lives. There is a phrase in yoga which says ‘Shiva without Shakti is Shava (Corpse). Which means that Shiva, the highest divine energy is like a corpse without a Shakti (Parvati) dancing around it. The perfect life has been defined as the body which is half male and half female. But the body is just the symbolical aspect of it & is used to make people understand the importance of masculine and feminine energies. There is a great story which revolves around it. When the Aadi yogi Shiva was transmitting yoga to the Sapt Rishis (The seven sages), the Shakti (Parvati) was watching this & out of curiosity she also asked Shiva to transmit this science to her. Shiva told Parvati ‘You don’t worry about receiving this science, you simply come and sit beside me. Shakti came and sat beside Shiva. Then the Shiva pulled her onto him and made her a one-half of himself. The featured image in this article portrays the same. I don’t want you to believe in this story, but we can certainly understand the message it gives. This story implies that the only way we can bring about a balance in our system and the world is by sheer inclusion. There is no other way. Inclusion or Wholeness or Oneness, whatever you want to call it, This is the recipe which will liberate you from the physiological boundaries and will make you one with the whole creation.
When you do pranayama practices with full awareness, the chakras start to get activated within your body at a very subtle level and you become more and more conducive to the universal energies which surround you and everybody in this creation. All these breathing techniques should always be practiced under the guidance of trained yoga gurus & trainers. These are very powerful and subtle techniques which creates the tremendous possibility of your transformation as a piece of life. Hence these should not be practiced by simply watching videos. If you continue to do yoga practices, physiologically you become calmer, composed & equipped to handle any kind of situation which you face in your life. Spiritually you become more aware of your existence and you start seeing the things the way they exist. Which means you are now liberated from the prison of your five senses, which only works within the purview of survival process. Once you have the ability to see things the way they exist, you come in contact with the nature of your existence or reality and you are able to successfully achieve the ‘Utmost Lightness of Being’.
In the upcoming articles, I would be talking about Dhyana (meditation) & its relation to Chakras. We will also demystify ‘Shiva’, which is the Omnipresent universal energy. I will conclude this article with a phrase written about Shiva in yogic science which says ‘I am available to all in ways which you will never imagine possible’. Stay tuned…………….
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