BREATH BASICS: A Word About Prana
Prana is the life force in the air you breathe. In the east it’s known as ‘the breath within the breath.’ The breath of life. Prana contains the life force, which is transferred to you when you breathe. It’s much more than simply a combination of oxygen, nitrogen and other chemical components. It’s the subtle universal force that is in all things. Some believe that in Christianity, when they speak of ‘the holy ghost,’ they’re speaking about the subtle force of prana.
Prana can heal you. Conscious breath exercise brings you into a centered state of relaxation.
You take your first breath when you’re born and you breathe your last breath when you leave the body. If that’s not a clue as to the important of the breath, I don’t know what else is.
When you breathe properly and your lungs fill completely, they push down on the u-shaped muscle of the diaphragm. This pushes down on the neat package of internal organs in your body cavity. Just breathing properly can improve your health by giving the internal organs a good massage which results in better digestion.
Yet, breathing properly is so much more than a simple internal massage. When the lungs fill properly, the subtle energy of the life force in that breath, which is the charged aspect of the prana in the air, transfers into your core. The core is at the level of the third chakra, at the navel. This is your balance point. Your absolute center. It’s the seat of your will power. Your gut.
There are 72,000 nerve endings here which spiral out to the rest of the body, ending up in the hands and feet. This spiral of nerves is likened to the sun. When you charge this navel area with prana it fires the solar energy, which then radiates through the rest of the system through the chakras. This ‘fire in the belly,’ is where you draw on your personal will power. For this reason it is very important to have a strong abdomen and to constantly exercise the navel point.
As hard to believe as it may be, many people breathe improperly. Many are taught to “suck in your gut.” This causes what’s known as paradoxical breathing. It’s like telling someone at your door to ‘come on inside,’ but pushing the door closed against them as they try to come in! If you don’t allow the abdomen to properly expand on the inhale, the lungs don’t fill properly and the prana doesn’t transfer into the body properly.
What’s worse is that breathing is very closely linked to emotions. When your emotions change, your breathing changes whether you’re aware of it or not. As a result, if you’re consistently breathing improperly, emotions become trapped inside of your energy field. As odd as that may sound it’s a case of ‘just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it ain’t true.’ When you breathe fully, properly and consciously, these emotions and other sub-conscious debris are released, resulting in a feelings of bliss. It’s not always bliss, however. Many people experience these emotions as they’re leaving, but with a regular practice, good rest and lots of water it passes quickly. Once you ‘take out the garbage,’ though, breathing properly gives you a steady, if not constant feeling of well being.
In yoga, breath exercises are called Pranayama which can basically be translated to mean breath control. Every meditation has some mention about the focus of the breath, because the breath is life. You take your first breath when you’re born and you breathe your last breath when you leave the body. If that’s not a clue as to the important of the breath, I don’t know what else is.