Prāṇa – Its origin, function and malfunction

PRANA

Prāṇa – Its origin, function and malfunction

The phenomena of body energies and their emanating energy field are found recorded within most Asiatic traditions. Both Chinese and Indian thought have a rich textual history of bio-energy, its function and effects of its malfunction.

In each of these traditions a system of medicine evolved aimed at enhancing and sustaining the flow of Ch’i or Prāṇa within the individual and much interest is now being shown in the West in Traditional Chinese and Indian medicine.

The previous article on the presence and actions of Prāṇa Śakti established links between the mind, breath, and Prāṇa but posed the problem of both Yoga and Āyurveda texts presuming knowledge of what Prāṇa is, how it functions within the individual, and what is the role of Yoga and Āyurveda in relation to sustaining the intensity of Prāṇa within an individual’s health, harmony and mental stability

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The force called Śakti or Kuṇḍalinī is indeed Prāṇa……

prana

“Then he has certain ideas also about Kuṇḍalinī.
The force is Prāṇa,
the force called Śakti or Kuṇḍalinī is indeed Prāṇa.
The only means that can have any effect is the use of Prāṇāyāma,
with emphasis on exhalation and the Bandha,
aided by devotional chantings.
And the evolution of Kuṇḍalinī is very much linked to the person’s state of mind and Vairāgya.”
TKV Desikachar from lectures on ‘The Yoga of T Krishnamacharya’,
given at Zinal, Switzerland 1981.

The presence and actions of Prāṇa Śakti……..

The presence and actions of Prāṇa Śakti

Generally the purpose of Yoga is to bring about a change within the prominence of awareness and its subsequent impact on the attitude and function of the individual.

Whether this change is explored as a yoking of two opposites, as in Prāṇa and Apāna, or an unyoking of two seemingly inseparable aspects, as in Puruṣa and Prakṛti, time and a process are involved. Also this notion of change may be initiated within an individual’s physical body, energetic processes, mental attitude and emotional responses.

However, within Indian thought there is a concept that is common to the different philosophies and to the different aspects of the individual. This concept is the presence, power and actions of Prāṇa.

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Then there are those Āsana that you learn solely for practices other than Āsana.

Āsana_68

Then there are those Āsana that you learn solely for practices other than Āsana.

In each one of us there is something that experiences.

purusa

“In each one of us there is something that experiences.”
– TKV Desikachar introducing the Taittirīya Upaniṣad 2001

Conscious breathing is one of the greatest tools to influence the effect of the postures…..

Āsana_24b

“Conscious breathing is one of the greatest tools to influence the effect of the postures
without changing the posture.”
– TKV Desikachar

In the Yoga Sūtra the purpose of the different Sādhana is to clear the mind…..

Āsana_6

“In the Yoga Sūtra,
the purpose of the different Sādhana is to clear the mind,
so the light can come out.”
– TKV Desikachar 1984

We start our practice where we are and look toward a certain goal….

Desikachar_France_1999

“We start our practice where we are and look toward a certain goal.
Then we choose the steps that will lead us toward realising that goal
and will gradually bring us back into our everyday life,
but our daily practice does not return us to the exact place we started.
The practice has changed us.”
– TKV Desikachar

Exhalation is the most important part of the breath……

asana_53
Exhalation is the most important part of the breath,
it encourages the inhalation.
By increasing the exhalation we bring attention to the lower abdomen.”
– From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992

Variations of Āsana to make Navāsana more accessible……

navasana

Practice Study Question around Āsana Planning Theory:
Identify a minimum of two variations of preparatory Āsana
which can be used to make Navāsana more accessible.

To Download or View this Question as a PDF Study Sheet

The breath makes Āsana part of Yoga.

Āsana_25b

“The breath makes Āsana part of Yoga.”
– From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992

The focus during Āsana should be on…….

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“The focus should be on
the contraction of the abdomen or
the expansion of the chest during Āsana.”
– From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992

Svādhyāya – to look at that which helps me understand.

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Svādhyāya – to look at that which helps me understand.”
Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 1

We can learn how we can fine tune our practice according to our basic nature…


One of the potentials in the Haṭha Yoga teachings of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar is the understanding around the viniyoga or application of Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā in terms of their potential to enhance sensory stimulation or to diminish sensory stimulation.

Both approaches can be used where appropriate to impact on how we are stimulated by the world through the senses and thus be more drawn to interact with it in a more extravert way, or how our sensory stimulation is quietened and thus we are more easily able to withdraw from the activities of the senses.

Both approaches are valid and applied according to our changing age, life situation and life stage. Here the role of a teacher is helpful in learning the skills of self application within our daily practice. We can learn how we can fine tune our practice according to our basic nature and where it needs to be within day to day living and its demands.

This alchemical process would also be difficult to explore other than in some very generalised way within a weekly group class given the mix of the age, gender, interests, needs, potentials and core physiological, energetic and psychological natures of the students.

Let alone where they are in their life circumstances, external demands, work roles and life stage or even the teacher having time and situation to explore each student personally to gain some insight into what is happening at that life moment within the small window offered by time and group size.

Hence throughout Krishnamacharya and Desikachar’s teaching life, apart from group classes for children and young adults, they taught only personal lessons.

Often people have little distinction between Exercise and Yoga….

siksana

“Continuing the idea of Śikṣaṇa,
it is possible to put further categories into Sādhana.
It is important,
as often people have little distinction between exercise and Yoga.
According to texts and great masters Sādhana is not just at the body level,
but at the Indriya level, the mind level and possibly even further.”
– TKV Desikachar France 1983

Laṅghana Kriyā can be used for pacification or for purification…….


Following on from yesterdays post on Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā as expansive and contractive activities I felt it could be helpful to republish a post from last year developing the concept and application of Laṅghana Kriyā. There is little published information available on these important concepts that Krishnamacharya drew from Āyurveda and applied through his Yoga teaching. For more on this teaching relationship of Yoga and Āyurveda view ‘The Krishnamacharya methodology of melding the viniyoga of Āyurveda with that of Yoga‘.

Whilst reposting this piece on Laṅghana Kriyā and its application within the teaching concepts of Śamanam Kriyā and Śodhanam Kriyā, I have also added links so the reader can further reference the Saṃskṛta Words Compendium, with its now 750 Saṃskṛta word database cross linking concepts and texts.

Finally the original piece can be downloaded as a PDF and is listed on the Yoga Posts as PDF’s Repository, a further resource now approaching 200 downloadable PDF Links.

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Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā as Expansive and Contractive potentials…..


Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā as expansive and contractive activities are two potentials actualised through the Breath and Āsana.

Within the practice of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma they are actualised through an understanding of the primary principles that inform Haṭha Yoga and Āyurveda.

The alchemical process underpinning this understanding is the relationship between the two primary principles of Prāṇa and Agni in order to influence Haṭha Yoga concepts such as PrāṇaApānaNāḍī, CakraAgni and Kuṇḍalinī.

In terms of Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā, the viniyoga of Bṛṃhaṇa affects a dispersion of Agni from the core to the periphery and the viniyoga of Laṅghana affects a withdrawal of Agni from the periphery to the core.

Understanding the application of this particular process facilitates access, through the Vīna Daṇḍa (spine), Prāṇa and Agni, to energising, cleansing and aligning potentials in the practice of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma.

All Āsana cannot be mastered by any one individual.

Āsana_61a

“All Āsana cannot be mastered by any one individual.”
– T Krishnamacharya 1984

The mind is agitated because of certain things inherent…..

klesa

“The mind is agitated,
because of certain things inherent,
not from the outside,
these are already inside.”
– TKV Desikachar 1997

108 Prāṇāyāma Practice Pointers – 4 – Four Quadrant Tool for the Mind

seated_pranayama_2

Prāṇāyāma Practice Pointer 4 – Four Quadrant Tool for the Mind

Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Morning,
– Can be a Means to Hone the Mind.

Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Afternoon,
– Can be a Means to Refresh the Mind.

Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Evening,
– Can be a Means to Clear the Mind.

Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Night,
– Can be a Means to Settle the Mind.

Link to Posts Series: 108 Prāṇāyāma Practice Pointers

List five of the key concepts for Chapter One of the Yoga Sūtra in order of appearance

Patanjali_3

Yoga Sūtra Study Question:

List five of the key concepts for Chapter One of the Yoga Sūtra in order of appearance.

To Download or View this Question as a PDF Study Sheet

Identify and illustrate four key Āsana to help prepare for Ardha Śalabhāsana

ardha_salabhasana

Practice Study Question around Āsana Planning Theory:
Identify and illustrate four key Āsana to help prepare for Ardha Śalabhāsana.

To Download or View this Question as a PDF Study Sheet

Viparyaya or mental activity that is based on something other than fact……

viparyaya

“Even when our understanding is consistent with our perception or repeated experience,
it does not necessarily indicate a fact.
For instance,
if we assume that a person is a woman simply because that person is dressed in a woman’s clothes,
this is called Viparyaya or mental activity that is based on something other than fact.
Viparyaya, then, is comprehension based on a perceived characteristic in the observer,
which leads to false assumptions.”
– T Krishnamacharya’s commentary to Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 8

The search for understanding is driven by misunderstanding……

avidya

“The search for understanding is driven by misunderstanding,
though not always in the right direction.”
– Reflections on Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 5

Prāṇa is the élan vital……

seated_pranayama

Prāṇa is the élan vital.
It is the mover and the sustainer of the body in all living beings.
Because of this all pervasive movement and irrepressible vitality,
it is also hard to keep reined in through the ten sensory horses.
When the personalised field of Prāṇa becomes unreined,
it transforms into Vāta and the system becomes disturbed.
The primary practice in Yoga to minimise the conversion of Prāṇa into Vāta is Prāṇāyāma.”