PRANA YOGA (The Science of Life Energy flow and Nerves)
The concept of Praan is not so well known, primarily because it is not a physically verifiable organ in the body. The word Praanaayaam is widely known but is generally understood to be the breathing process, that of inhaling and exhaling air, as it is seen and experienced by everyone and easily understood in the gross. But the Praan or life energy automatically flows in the body with every breath. Being a subtle energy flow, it is formless, cannot be seen or physically experienced but its understanding is possible by observing certain definitive responses that result from manipulating the flow of Praan in the body. Praan is also called Vaayu, for it is not static but moving, it enlivens the body and enables it to perform different functions. Accordingly, it is divided into five Praans, viz. Paan, Apaan, Byaan, Udaan and Samaan, and five sub-Praans, viz. Naag, Koorma, Krikar, Devadatta and Dhanajaya respectively.
The Paan Vaayu resides in the heart, the seat of Anaahat Chakra, and functions from the mouth and nostrils down up to the stomach. It is responsible for the working of all the organs in this area but its primary role is in the smooth running of the respiratory and digestion processes.
The Apaan Vaayu resides at the Moolaadhaar Chakra and operates in the lower parts of body, downwards up to the feet. It can be felt from the energy required for its main functions, viz. the release of the urine and excreta from the body, ejaculation of semen in males and pushing the fetus out at the time of childbirth in females.
Samaan Vaayu resides in the navel, the Manipur Chakra, and operates between the heart and navel region. It is responsible for proper assimilation of the nutrients (extracted from food) in the blood stream and its distribution to all parts of the body through the blood circulation.
Byaan Vaayu resides in the region between the navel and the sex organ, the position of Swaadhisthaan Chakra, and is responsible for communications all over the body through the network of nerves.
Udaan Vaayu resides at the dip on the throat, the Vishuddha Chakra, and is responsible for activity of the organs situated upwards up to the crown. It provides the ability to the body to stand and is also the vehicle for the transmutation of the Soul, at the time of death, to the next destination.
The concept of Praan can be explained convincingly by a simple example. Praan is independent of the Aatman in the sense that until the Praan enters the body, the Aatman alone cannot activate the body. We all accept that God is all-pervasive, residing in both living and nonliving matter. But it is the Praan that starts activity in the body with Aatman’s impulse. In other words, Praan alone also cannot start activity in the body in the absence of the directions from Jivaatmaa. The best way to understand this complex situation is to think of the body as the car, the Jivaatmaa as the driver and Praan as the electricity provided by the battery by the turn of the car key. We may also consider the example of the clay pot. The potter cannot handle the clay without water. We can say that water is like Praan for helping the potter work with the clay.