What is Prana? – Part 3

Sub-Pranas and Their Functions

Naga, Kurma, Krikara, Devadatta and Dhananjaya are the five sub-Pranas. The function of Prana is respiration; Apana does excretion; Samana performs digestion; Udana does deglutition (swallowing of the food). It takes the Jiva to sleep. It separates the astral body from the physical body at the time of death. Vyana performs circulation of blood.

Naga does eructation and hiccup. Kurma performs the function of opening the eyes. Krikara induces hunger and thirst. Devadatta does yawning. Dhananjaya causes decomposition of the body after death. That man is never reborn, whenever he may die, whose breath goes out of the head, after piercing the Brahmarandhra (Sahasra Chakra or Crown Chakra).

The Color of Pranas

Prana is said to be of the color of blood, red gem or coral. Apana which is in the middle, is of the color of Indragopa (an insect of white or red color). Samana is of the color between that of pure milk or crystal or of oily and shining color, i.e., of something between both Prana and Apana. Udana is of Apandura (pale white) color and that of Vyana, resembles the color of archil (or that of ray of light).

The Length of the Air-Currents

This body of Vayu is 96 digits (6 feet) in length as a standard. The ordinary length of the air-current, when exhaled is 12 digits (9 inches). In singing, its length becomes 16 digits (1 foot), in eating it comes to 20 digits (15 inches), in sleeping 30 digits (22 1/2 inches), in copulation 36 digits (27 inches) and in doing physical exercise it is much more than that. By decreasing the natural length of the expirer air-currents (from 9 inches), life is prolonged and by increasing the current, duration of life is decreased.

The Centering of the Prana

Inhaling the Prana from outside, filling the stomach with it, centre the Prana with the mind, in the middle of the navel, at the tip of the nose, and at the toes, during the ‘Sandhyas’ (sunrise and sunset) or at all times. Thus the Yogi is freed from all diseases and fatigues. By centering this Prana at the tip of the nose he obtains mastery over the elements of the air; by centering at the middle of his navel, all diseases are destroyed; by centering at the toes, his body becomes light. He who drinks air through the tongue destroys his fatigue, thirst and many other diseases. For him who drinks the air with his mouth, during the two Sandhyas and the last two hours of the night, within three months, the auspicious Sarasvati (Goddess of speech) is present in his Vak (speech), i.e., he becomes eloquent and learned. In six months he is free from all diseases. Drawing the air at the root of the tongue, the wise man thus drinking nectar enjoys all prosperity.


The Science of Pranayama by Sri Swami Sivananda

What is Prana? – Part 2

By controlling the act of breathing you can efficiently control all the various motions in the body and the different nerve-currents that are running through the body. You can easily and quickly control and develop body, mind and soul through breath-control or the control of Prana. It is through Pranayama that you can control your circumstances and character and can consciously harmonize the individual life with the cosmic life.

The breath, directed by thought under the control of the will, is a vitalizing  regenerating force which you can utilize consciously for self-development; for healing many incurable diseases in your system; for healing others and for other various useful purposes. It is within your easy reach at every moment of your life. Use it judiciously. Many Yogis of yore, like Sri Jnanadeva, Trailinga Swami, Ramalinga Swami and others, had utilized this breath, this force, the Prana, in a variety of ways. You can also do so, if you practice Pranayama by prescribed breathing exercises.

It is Prana that you are breathing rather than the atmospheric air. Inhale slowly and steadily with a concentrated mind. Retain it as long as you can do it comfortably. Then exhale slowly. There should be no strain in any stage of Pranayama. Realize the occult inner life-powers which underlie the breath. Become a Yogi and radiate joy, light and power all around you. Pranavadins or Hatha Yogins consider that Prana Tattva is superior to Manas Tattva, the mind-principle. They say, Prana is present even when the mind is absent during sleep. Hence Prana plays a more vital part than the mind.

If you go through the parables in Kaushitaki and Chhandogya Upanishads, when all the senses, mind and Prana fight amongst themselves as to their superiority, you will find that Prana is regarded as the highest of all. Prana is the oldest, for it starts its functioning from the very moment the child is conceived. On the contrary, the organs of hearing, etc., begin to function only when their special abodes, viz., the ears, etc., are formed. Prana is called Jyeshtha and Sreshtha (oldest and best) in Upanishads. It is through the vibrations of psychic Prana that the life of the mind, Sankalpa or thinking is kept up and thought is produced. You see, hear, talk, sense, think, feel, will, know, etc., through the help of Prana and therefore Srutis declare: “Prana is Brahman.”

Seat of Prana

The seat of Prana is heart. Though the Antahkarana (fourfold mind) is one, yet it assumes four forms, viz., (i) Manas (Mind), (ii) Buddhi (Intellect), (iii) Chitta (Subconscious) and (iv) Ahamkara (Ego) according to the different functions it performs. Likewise, though Prana is one, it assumes five forms viz., (1) Prana, (2) Apana, (3) Samana, (4) Udana and (5) Vyana according to the different functions it performs. This is termed as Vritti Bheda (difference in thought waves). The principal Prana is called Mukhya Prana. The Prana, joined with Ahamkara, lives in the heart. Of these five, Prana and Apana are the chief agents.

The seat of Prana is the heart; of Apana, the anus; of Samana, the region of the naval; of Udana, the throat; while Vyana is all-pervading. It moves all over the body.


The Science of Pranyama by Sri Swami Sivananda

What is Prana? – Part 1

“He who knows Prana knows Vedas” is the important declaration of the Srutis. You will find in Vedanta Sutras: “For the same reason, breath is Brahman.” Prana is the sum total of all energy that is manifest in the universe. It is the sum total of all the forces in nature. It is the sum total of all latent forces and powers which are hidden in men and which lie everywhere around us. Heat, light, electricity, magnetism are the manifestations of Prana. All forces, all powers and Prana spring from the fountain or common source, ‘Atman’. All physical forces, all mental forces come under the category ‘Prana’. It is force on every plane of being, from the highest to the lowest. Whatever moves or works or has life, is but an expression or manifestation of Prana. Akasa or ether also is an expression of Prana.

The Prana is related to mind and through mind to will, and through will to the individual soul, and through this to the Supreme Being. If you know how to control the little waves of Prana working through the mind, then the secret of subjugating universal Prana will be known to you. The Yogi who becomes an expert in the knowledge Of this secret, will have no fear from any power, because he has mastery over all the manifestations of powers in the universe. What is commonly known as power of personality is nothing more than the natural capacity of a person to wield his Prana.

Some persons are more successful in life, more influential and fascinating than others. It is all due to the power of this Prana. Such people manipulate everyday, unconsciously of course, the same influence which the Yogi uses consciously by the command of his will. There are others who by chance tumble unaware of this Prana and use it for lower purposes under false names.

This working of Prana is seen in the systolic and diastolic actions of the heart, when it pumps the blood into arteries in the action of inspiration and expiration during the course of breathing; in the digestion of food; in the excretion of urine and faecal matter; in the manufacture of semen, chyle, chyme, gastric juice, bile, intestinal juice, saliva; in closing and opening of the eyelids, in walking, playing, running, talking, thinking, reasoning, feeling and willing. Prana is the link between the astral and physical body. When the slender thread-link Prana is cut off the astral body separates from the physical body. Death takes place. The Prana that was working in the physical body is withdrawn into the astral body.

This Prana remains in a subtle, motionless, unmanifested, undifferentiated state during the cosmic Pralaya. When the vibration is set up, Prana moves and acts upon Akasa, and brings forth the various forms. The macrocosm (Brahmanda) and microcosm (Pindanda) are combinations of Prana (energy) and Akasa (subtle matter). That which moves the steam-engine of a train and a steamer, that which makes the aeroplanes fly in air, that which causes the motion of the breath in lungs, that which is the very life of this breath itself, is Prana. I believe, you have now a comprehensive understanding of the term Prana about which you had a very vague conception in the beginning.


The Science of Pranyama by Sri Swami Sivananda

Life is a Billion Breath Package – 2

We can correlate the frequency of our mind and breathe. Scientists today have assigned names for the mental states which are as follows:

  • Delta Wave – Less than 4 Cycles per second (CPS). It’s a deep meditative state and also experienced in deep sleep state. Our body recharges itself in this state, life force is acquired and our immune system strengthened. At this deep meditative state the breath is almost suspended and this is the difference between this and deep sleep state. We would see in the later chapters as to why continuous sleeping cannot increase our life span and why after longer periods of sleep we feel tired.
  • Theta Wave – 4 to 7 Cycles per second (CPS). It is the dreaming state and the yoga Nidra happens at this state. During this state the subconscious mind is active for any programming.
  • Alpha Wave – 8 to 13 Cycles per second (CPS). This is a mild meditative state or a conscious state which is tension or anxiety free.
  • Beta Wave – >13 Cycles per second (CPS). This is our normal wake up state in our worldly life. They say that the Joy center in our brain works at 17.65 Hz and below.

So today scientists say that lower the mental frequency, healthier it is for the human being. This is what Sage Patanjali told in his Yoga Sutra as definition for Yoga itself as“Yoga Chitta vrtti nirodah!, That which removes the vibrations of the mind is called Yoga”.

I would encourage you to visit http://www.bevolution.org. They have been working on the impact of electro-magnetic pollution on human life and they state that above 33Hz panic, anxiety and nervousness start. They have classified few more states like High Beta, Hyper Beta state, Ultra Beta states. Normal exposures to electricity which is at 50Hz disconnect our mind from our higher mental states. The state of electro-stress starts at this stage. This means we are permanently in the state of electro-stress. Using Cordless DECT phone in our home invites an electro-stress of 100Hz shock waves being sent to brain continuously. The impact of Bluetooth, 3G and Wi-Fi services are also highlighted which results in hormonal disturbances, stress related disorders, cancers and other diseases.

So we are in some sort of a trap of electromagnetic pollution and it is important to protect our health and the health of our family. This book gives some secrets and techniques to quickly gain back our health but most importantly understand the nature of things within us.

We generally tend have a tendency to take things for granted that are simple and free. We are both ignorant and indifferent to the fundamental activity – breathing that is an inseparable part of us. Our ability to drive ourselves to the edge without an internal credit management for this current account of breath drives our risks higher of being “liquidated” earlier than budgeted.

Breathing is simple and air around us is free (so far) but we tend to ignore the effects of managing the same beneficially. I just want to wish you that “May every moment of yours be a breath-taking moment, so that you conserve your breath for longer and healthier life”.

Life is a billion breath package and how much have you used up so far? 🙂


Know thy Nature by Raguram Gopalan, http://ragsgopalan.blogspot.com

Life is a Billion Breath Package -1

According to ancient scriptures, each and every thing in the universe undergoes a cycle of birth and death, including the universe itself. It is told that all living beings (in the traditional sense – because there is no such thing called non-living thing) are endowed with a life span which can be calculated by the number of breaths we take. As a wise man said, “Language of the gods is mathematics”.

So, what if I tell you that the math about one’s life span is controlled by our breath and nature endowed count for every human being is the same? They say that the effect of Karma and the consequences of our action in this life impact this naturally endowed life span.

Not many realize that when we were born we have been given a current account which is filled with a billion breaths (approx) and we are programmed to continuously withdraw at some rate from this account and this program is called as “Life”. They say that when we manage to exhaust this current account then ‘death” occurs. The math goes something like this:

  • We are supposed to take 4 seconds for one breath, so it is 15 a minute and 21600 for a day (15*60*24).
  • The natural age endowed to a human being is 120 years.
  • So it is – (21600* 360*120) just about a billion breaths (0.933 billion to be precise) which is endowed to us by nature as our life span.

In our daily life we spend energy to get things done. When we spend energy we breathe heavily and hence withdraw from our current account of billion breaths. Now let’s get this little more nuanced. A breath has four components – Inhale, Retain, Exhale, Retain outside. In normal day today life there are only 2 components – Inhale and Exhale.

Against a budget of 15 a minute, we spend 12 a minute while sitting, 18+ while running, 25 while sleeping, 32 during sex and between 32 to 64 breathes a minutes during emotional upheavals like Anger, fear. Effectively it’s the rate of breath which changes with time. Now recollect that Swami Chinmayananda said “Time is nothing but a period between 2 thoughts”. Hence under extremely excited / tense situations we expend far larger quantity of breath than our budget.

Some key items to be noted as follows:

  • The very essence of saying that “Anger or Fear as emotions are suicidal or it is like holding a hot iron rod and it injures the self first before others” can be well understood since we are losing a part of our endowed life because of these emotions.
  • Irrespective what we do, we seems to be wasting our breath that includes sleeping. The thing that we need to be clear about is when we sleep; we recharge our body at the expense of larger breath counts than what is budgeted to us.
  • The importance of “Pranayama” can be better understood now which is stressed for the longevity and health. In Pranayama, all the 4 cycles of breath are effectively used and the mind is calmed for better health. Pranayama is the one of the ways for effective breath management and longer life.
  • The secret of youth and healthy life is effective breath management. The longer we retain the breath, the deeper our breaths, the younger we are and the longer we live.


Know thy Nature by Raguram Gopalan, http://ragsgopalan.blogspot.com

Breath, Prana and Pranayama

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


Today, for quick travel, the material world presents us the Railway, Steamers, Aeroplanes and so forth, but the Yogis claim that by Yogic culture the weight of the body can be so reduced that it can fly over the space to any distance in an instant. When we are anxious to know the welfare of our own relations in a distant or foreign land, we take recourse to writing letters sending ordinary or urgent cables. But the Yogis claim that they can, by meditation (Dyana), know anything that happens in other parts of the world by a projection of the mind or by mentally travelling the distance which is only a matter of few seconds. Today when a man is suffering from a disease the material world presents us with doctors, medicines, injections and so forth, but the Yogis claim that by a mere glance or by simple touch or by recitation of Mantras, not only the diseases can be cured but also life can be given to a dead man.

These Yogis by persistent effort in concentration get different Yogic powers that are known as ‘Siddhis’. Those who acquire these Siddhis, are known as Siddhas. The process through which they obtain Siddhis, is called Sadhana. Pranayama is one of the most important Sadhanas (spiritual practice). Through the practice of Asana, you can control the physical body and through Pranayama, you can control the subtle, astral body or the Linga Sarira. As there is an intimate connection between the breath and nerve-currents, control of breath leads to the control of vital inner currents.

Pranayama occupies a very important place in Indian religion. Every Brahmachari, and every Grihastha (householder) also, has to practise it three times every day morning, noon and evening in his daily worship during Sandhya. It precedes every religious practice of the Hindus. Before he eats, before he drinks, before he resolves to do anything, Pranayama should be performed first and then the nature of his determination should be clearly enunciated and placed before the mind. The facts of its preceding every effort of the will is a surety that, that effort will be crowned with success and the mind will be directed to bring about the desired result.

He who has grasped this Prana, has grasped the very core of cosmic life and activity. He who has conquered and controlled this very essence, has not only subjected his own body and mind but every other body and mind in this universe. Thus Pranayama or the control of Prana is that means by which the Yogi tries to realise in his little body the whole of cosmic life, and tries to attain perfection by getting all the powers in this universe. His various exercises and trainings are for this one end.

Why delay? Delay means so much of additional suffering and misery. Let us increase the speed, struggle harder until we succeed in bridging over the vast chasm of time. By doing proper Sadhana let us attain the goal at once in this body, right now in this very moment. Why not we get that infinite knowledge, infinite bliss, infinite peace and infinite power, now alone?

The solution of the problem is the teaching of Yoga. The whole science ‘Yoga’ has this one end in view, to enable man to cross the ocean of Samsara (birth-death cycle), to increase power, to develop knowledge and to attain immortality and eternal bliss.


The Science of Pranyama by Sri Swami Sivananda