In the series of sayings, “You are what you think”, “You are what you eat”, we can also say that “You are your state of breath”. Our Mind, Food and Breath are closely interconnected. If there is something which we came into this world with and would carry till we leave this world, probably unchanged then it is our breath. Breath is equated with God in many scriptures and in Tamil it is called as SARAM (சரம்) and equated with a thread that binds.
சரம் பார்ப்பான் பரம் பார்ப்பாெனன்பது ேபால means, whoever can see movement of Saram / breathe they can able to see the almighty. One of the oldest scriptures in Tamil is Sage Agasthiyar’s Saranool, Nool in Tamil means book and also thread. Breathe is the thread that binds the Body, Mind and Soul.
In this book it is stated that first Lord Shiva taught this secret to Goddess Parvati and interestingly Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva “Lord tell me if a person does not understand cosmology (Astrology – science of time and space) then is there any way that person can understand the worldly secrets”. This emphasizes 2 things, first the importance astrology / astronomy as a subject and the second is from the answer to this question that the macrocosm can be understood through microcosm.
For this Lord Shiva said that “If one understands his breath then he can unlock the universal knowledge within himself and he taught this in Saranool. He also states that just like a huge Ox can be controlled by a rope through his nose, the universal knowledge and the ocean of birth and death can be overcome by humans only if they know how to manage their breath”.
Prana and Pranayama
Pranayama is an exact science. It is the fourth Anga or limb of Ashtanga Yoga. “Tasmin Sati Svasa prasvasayorgativicchedah Pranayamah”— Regulation of breath or the control of Prana is the stoppage of inhalation and exhalation, which follows after securing that steadiness of posture or seat, Asana. Thus is Pranayama defined in Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Chapter II-49.
‘Svasa’ means inspiratory breath and ‘Prasvasa’ is expiratory breath. Breath is external manifestation of Prana, the vital force. Breath like electricity, is gross Prana. Breath is Sthula, gross. Prana is Sukshma, subtle. By exercising control over this breathing you can control the subtle Prana inside. Control of Prana means control of mind. Mind cannot operate without the help of Prana. The vibrations of Prana only produce thoughts in the mind. It is Prana that moves the mind. It is Prana that sets the mind in motion. It is the Sukshma Prana or Psychic Prana that is intimately connected with the mind. This breath represents the important fly-wheel of an engine. Just as the other wheels stop when the driver stops the fly-wheel, so also other organs cease working, when the Yogi stops the breath. If you can control the fly-wheel, you can easily control the other wheels. Likewise, if you can control the external breath, you can easily control the inner vital force, Prana. The process by which the Prana is controlled by regulation of external breath, is termed Pranayama.
Just as a goldsmith removes the impurities of gold by heating it in the hot furnace, by strongly blowing the blow-pipe, so also the Yogic student removes the impurities of the body and the senses by blowing his lungs, i.e., by practicing Pranayama.
The chief aim of Pranayama is to unite the Prana with the Apana and take the united Pranapana slowly towards the head. The effect or fruit of Pranayama is Udghata or awakening of the sleeping Kundalini.
1. The Science of Pranyama by Sri Swami Sivananda
2. Know thy Nature by Raguram Gopalan, http://ragsgopalan.blogspot.com