Prana and the benefits of Pranayam
What is Prana?
The cosmic energy takes the form of Prana or the vital breath in the living form. All living species are conscious as long as Prana resides in them.
The story of Prana
The Upanishads explain the concept of Prana beautifully. In the beginning of creation, Brahman or the infinite consciousness presides over the cosmic energy and creates the 5 elements – fire, earth, water, air and space.
From these 5 elements of nature arise the the five sense organs. From fire came the sense of sight, from air came the sense of touch, from water came the sense of taste, from earth came the sense smell and from space came the sense of hearing.
These sense organs came together in the body of a living being. After the sense organs came into existence, Brahman created good and evil. The constructive forces that would bring welfare on the creation were termed as Devas or Gods and the destructive forces that would cause misery in the world were termed as Asuras or Demons. It was so destined that both Gods and Demons could preside over the sense organs of a living being.
When a child is born, the natural state for his or her sense organs is to be governed by divinity and goodness. However, as the child grows older, the law of creation dictates that it is his or her own free will that will determine whether Gods or Demons would rule his or her senses.
All the five sense organs are capable of being presided over by Gods or Demons. However the free will to choose remains with the individual.
The 5 sense organs and free will
Speech – When you choose to speak beneficial things you let divinity preside. When you choose to speak harmful things you chose to let the demons dominate.
Ear- The ear is always open and capable of hearing both the good and the bad.
Eyes– The eyes are prone to make you confused since they can see both the good and bad sights.
Similar is the case with taste, touch and smell.
The story of Prana and the benefits of Pranayam
There is a lesser known truth mentioned in the scriptures.
There is one function in the body which is only presided by the constructive forces and can never be affected by evil. That function is the Prana or breath in the body. All other sense organs can be influenced by good or evil forces. It is only Prana that can never get influenced by the destructive forces in the creation.
Therefore, in all ages, wise men to ensure that they realize the goodness and truth prevalent in them, attempt to control their Prana or breath. Pranayama or slow breathing is the most powerful way of ensuring that your senses and mind are never swayed towards evil.
The scriptures give the example of the tortoise who lives a long, peaceful life. With controlled breathing, the tortoise is always able to protect its limbs by restraining them inside the shell. Similarly the wise among men and women, are able to slow down their breathing with yogic practices, and are able to restrain their senses and achieve all that is good in this universe.