What is Pranayama?

Pranayama is not, as many think, something about breath; breath indeed has very little to do with it, if anything.

Pranayama really means controlling the motion of the lungs, and this motion is associated with the breath. Not that breath is producing it; on the contrary it is producing breath. This motion draws in the air by pump action.

The prana is moving the lungs, the movement of the lungs draws in the air. So Pranayama is not breathing, but controlling that muscular power which moves the lungs. That muscular power which goes out through the nerves to the muscles and from them to the lungs, making them move in a certain manner is the Prana, which we have to control in the practice of Prnayama.
Breathing is only one of the many exercises through which we get to the real Pranayama. Pranayama means the control of Prana. Just as Akasha is the infinite, omnipresent material of this universe, so is this Prana the infinite, omnipresent manifesting power of this universe.

It is the Prana that is manifesting as motion, gravitation, magnetism, actions of the body, nerve currents and as thought force. From thought down to the lowest force, everything is but manifestation of Prana. The sum total of all forces in the universe, mental or physical, when resolved back to their original state, is called Prana.

He who has grasped the Prana has grasped all the forces of the univese, mental or physical. He who has controlled the Prana has controlled his own mind, and all the minds that exist. He who has controlled the Prana has controlled his body and all the bodies that exist, because the Prana is the generalised manifestation of force.

Great prophets of the world had the most wonderful control of the Prana, which gave them tremendous will power; they had brought their Prana to the highest state of motion and this is what gave them power to sway the world.

What moves the steam engine? Prana, acting through the steam. What are all these phenomena of electricity and so forth but Prana? What is the Physical science? The science of Pranayama, by external means.

Prana, manifesting itself as mental power, can only be controlled by mental means.

That part of Pranayama which attempts to control the physical manifestations of the Prana by physical means is called physical science, and that part which tries to control the manifestations of the Prana as mental force, by mental means, is called Raja- Yoga.

How to control the Prana is the one idea of Pranayama? This body is very near to us, nearer than anything in the external universe, and this mind is the nearest of all.

The Prana which is working this mind and body is the nearest to us of all the Prana in the universe. If we can succeed in controlling this little wave of Prana, then alone we can hope to control the whole of Prana.

The Yogi who has done this gains perfection, no longer is he under any power. He becomes almost all-knowing.

A yogi who has controlled the Prana, has the power of bringing it into a certain state of vibration, which can be conveyed to others, arousing in them a similar vibration.

The whole scope of Raja-Yoga is really to teach the control and direction in different planes of the Prana. When a man has concentrated, his energies, he masters the Prana that is in his body. When a man is meditating, he is also concentrating the Prana.

To know more about meditation through Rajayoga please go through the spiritual articles of this website.

A collection from the writings of Sri Swami Vivekananda by Sri B.E.Sampath Kumar, Abhyasi of Sri Ramchandraji Maharaj Seva Trust, Kadapa.

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