About the Yoga

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Yoga :

            What is it

           How do we practice it?

           How does it add value to our lives?

One of the most highly read topics in this world is yoga. It is also one of the least understood. The western world has largely understood yoga an “Asanas” and that too in relation to possessing a healthy physical body. The eastern world where it originated (India) has done no better as it has complicated it for the common man. Most of the explanations have been done by spiritual persons in a manner that relates to ancient scriptures and not in alignment with the needs of the century.

The purpose of this article will be to “demystify” yoga while bringing out its real essence in a simple and scientific way that can be related to the man of today (whether from the East or West.)

Since the topic is vast I would be making the article available in a number of parts. I hope readers will get an understanding of yoga in a manner that would not only make them grasp its essence but also work towards practicing it to make their lives richer.

The Science of yoga

In order to understand Yoga a few basic building blocks need to be understood.

Building Block 1: Prana

Prana is the vital force that sustains not only the body, but also creation at every level. Every tool of yogic science is aimed at awakening and enhancing this vital force. The Sanskrit word Prana is a combination of two syllables, pra and na, and denotes a force in constant motion. Prana exists in sentient beings as the energy that drives every action, voluntary and involuntary, and every thought at every level of mind and body. Scientific research has found prana to be a complex multidimensional energy: a combination of electrical, magnetic, electromagnetic, photonic, ocular, thermal and mental energies.

Prana also exists in the insentient world, causing motion, growth and decay at this level. It is indeed the basis of manifested creation.

The existence of the pranic field has been proven by modern science. It has been found as a vapor of charged particles which can be affected internally by the mind and externally by electric and magnetic fields.

Prana flows through Nadis (channels of energy that are too subtle to be observed by science so far) and is stored in “chakras”, energy vortices.

Prana is inherent to all beings. We are born with a certain quantum of prana, we increase or decrease it through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the thoughts we have, the actions we perform and the kind of life we lead. When we die, the accumulated prana leaves the body.


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What is “Prana”?

“Prana”, also called universal energy, the energy of life, ki, qi, or divine energy, is the substance behind all creation.

It is the substance that allows objects to live in an inert state, as well as the essence of what makes living things live and move.

It is the one cosmic principle, the fundamental of life. Without it, nothing exists.


What evidence is there for the existence of Prana?

What is the most obvious evidence of prana?

On a scientific level, Kirlian photography which was discovered in 1939, shows that everything, even inanimate objects, have an aura that has nothing to do with lighting or a trick of the eyes. It is evidence that there is some ‘force’ within and behind things.

More concrete science that is publicly accepted, also points towards the existence of prana. On a subatomic level, electronics move with velocity. How do they move of their own accord and how do they seem to never run out of the energy that allows them to move? Electrons do borrow energy from one another, but if there were no sustained energy that was more particulate than the electron’s potential and kinetic energy, the universe would collapse from lack of energy as each electron would borrow from every other electron and everything would cease to exist.

There is also significant research that shows that one can observe the flow of prana, and even control its movement. “Energy healing” is a common practice today. The fundamental idea behind energy healing is that disease creates a state of low energy or prana in the diseased part of the body (or in the diseased mind or emotions), and that by guiding prana through subtle practice and concentration, one can intensely increase the rate of healing and even cure the disease. There is a lot of research that credits this theory.


The Spiritual Aspect of Prana – Its Origin and Purpose

How did prana come to be? Why does it exist?

It has been said, after deep contemplation by millions of people of the past and today, that the universe existed as a tiny contraction of existence no larger than a pin-point billions of years ago. This thinking is also mirrored by modern science in the ‘big bang theory’.

Prana existed in a state of non-activity and self-union. It was prana resting within itself, with no will or intention.

Then, at some point, this consciousness decided to express a will. It said something in the order of ‘I am one. Why not be many? I exist without movement. Why not move?

And so, there was an explosion of consciousness and the fabric of the universe expanded instantaneously to create creation. Prana started experiencing itself as myriad forms. By becoming many, it became self-cognizant, and fundamental meaning came into existence. For what Is the point of something capable of existing at all, if it cannot experience itself? It is like diamonds buried beneath the earth. Better it be on pendants and wedding rings.


The Spiritual Aspect of Prana – Conscious Spirituality

All forms of spirituality are an act of seeking. It is the seeking of prana to experience itself in a more deep and thorough way. Only through refining its self-consciousness can it give meaning to its own existence. That is the mystery of existence.

Those practices that deal directly with prana, such as Yoga or Qi Gong, seek to unite prana with itself in the most conscious way. They seek to first be aware of prana, then direct this awareness – which is nothing but prana in itself – towards prana more and more over time.

This results in ultimate self-cognizance. Illumination. Or from the perspective of the universal consciousness, self-illumination.

The Spiritual Aspect of Prana : Ancient Indian Texts and Traditions

Ancient Indian texts and understandings are very close to this practice and comprehension of spirituality.

They have many terms that do not exist in Western languages, for ascribing meaning and giving direction to aspirants who wish to be closer to the great mystery of the universe.

“Chitta” is the self-conscious aspect of prana. It is consciousness. It is the evolution of prana to the state where it can cognize itself. Prana is the substance of chitta. Chitta is beingness, awareness, and knowledge – the memory, present, and future of prana as self-awareness.

Both prana and consciousness must exist for life to exist. Prana on its own existed at some point. It was a state of existence where nobody lived. Then it became conscious of itself – and living beings were born. In between prana and chitta is “vasana” or desire. Without the desire to become self-aware, there would have been no direction in the evolution of prana that made it conscious. A living being is called a “prani”.


Humans as Prana

The quantum of prana of each individual is indicated by the power of their personality and depth of their souls – which is a direct reflection of their capacity to wield prana. Some people are more fascinating, commanding, and fascinating due to the level of their prana, the strength of their self-consciousness, and the length of the memory of their consciousness of themselves. This is not to be confused with ordinary memory, but the deeper memory of the soul wherein it remembers when it came to be and for how long it has been.


How is our Prana impacted by us?

Positive thoughts, higher emotions and yogic practices generate higher levels of Prana and obliterate pockets of low Prana in our systems.

On the other hand, negative or dull and repetitive thoughts, base emotions and heavy drinking or smoking or perverted sexual conduct greatly reduce our level of prana and create pockets of low prana that become blockages in our systems.

When the sexual urge and its energy are transformed from base carnal desire to love, Prana is conserved within our system and becomes ‘Ojas’ – a subtler form of energy. This energy accumulates in the brain and becomes a force for creative and spiritual development.


Yoga and the ‘Yogi’

In its essence, Yoga is a conscious attempt at connecting with spirit and transforming oneself into a more pranic being. Thus, there are many forms of Yoga – ‘bhakti’ or devotion, ‘karma yoga’ which has to do with performing acts in daily life that align oneself with prana and the higher principle of existence, ‘jnan’ yoga which involves meditating to directly illuminate the cosmic principle with one’s mind, and so on and so forth. A ‘yogi’ is one who practices some form of Yoga.

A yogi stores an abundance of prana within himself, just as a battery stores electricity.

The luminosity of his prana radiates strength, health and wellness to all around him.


Interactions of Prana in everyday life

At the material level one also receives prana from the environment – food, water, sun and the air.

Ancient Indian scriptures categorize foods by the quality of their prana. There are three kinds of food: sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic. Sattvic food has a neutral, healthy prana that nourishes the body deeply and affects the mind and emotions in a gentle, positive way. Tamasic foods have a less desirable amount of prana and affect the body-mind by dulling and slowing it. Rajasic foods also have less prana, but due to the way it impacts the body-mind, they are classified as foods that cause restlessness and agitation.

Pure air is essential not only for oxygen, but for the prana it provides.

The quality of air that one breathes affects one’s energy level directly.

The exhilaration and vitality one experiences near a waterfall or high in the mountains is because the quantum of prana in the air is significantly higher in these places.

On the other hand, when one is exposed to pollution or recycled or ‘canned’ air, the energy level quickly begins to decline.


Working with Prana

Prana is not received solely from external sources; it is also self-generated and its quality can be refined and directed. One can work with one’s own prana to enhance vitality and strength, cure diseases, boost capability and efficiency, and evolve to a higher consciousness.

The breath is the external manifestation of prana. A slower, longer exhalation indicates that prana is being more efficiently utilized by the body – more prana is being consumed from each atom of oxygen.

This is why yogic practices attach importance to different breathing practices, called ‘pranayama’.


The brain and prana

In the biological system, the brain uses the most prana. If the brain is not supplied sufficiently, the mind becomes restless and disturbed, constantly engaging in negative thoughts. This explains why when one is hungry or ill, one becomes irritable. The level of prana in the brain is greatly reduced.

As one works with prana through pranayama, its quality and quantum increases. The average human utilizes only one-tenth of his brain. Pranayama activates the dormant brain because huge amounts of prana are required to activate the whole brain and this practice is an enabler. Thus it awakens the genius in any individual.

Binod Singh

Of Self-Awareness and Self-Love

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Life…or Something Like it

Life is life. How often have we heard this? But is life – life – or is it deeply impacted by our perception of it – or indeed, by our perception of ourselves?

Who are we truly, and what are we made of? Beggars, priests, kings, lay people, or indeed, corporate folk – what is it that we can all call our own?

The answer is simple but profound: It is our sense of self. Or, how we perceive ourselves.

Inquire Deeper…

Are we the limited, conditioned ideas of what we think of ourselves? Are we what the billboard advertisements, YouTube, and religions of the world say we are?

It is worth questioning because there is only one thing that is truly constant. The fact that we exist. It might be dimmed when we sleep, or slurred when we are drunk, but we always know it – even and especially when we are completely alone.

So, what if we decide to look at ourselves anew? What would we find if we for a minute ignored what we think we know about ourselves?

The Startling Truth

The answer has been unanimous amongst sages, saints and indeed many profound thinkers and personalities. It is also echoed in the words of many people today – spiritual teachers, life coaches, and indeed even scientists and medical professionals.

The answer that you may find is that you are something distinct, yet so merged with everything, that it is hardly distinct at all. It is what they call an ‘open secret’.

You are Universal Consciousness. Divinity. The Holy Spirit.

Call it whatever you like, but it tastes, feels, and experiences itself in the same way regardless of who you are.

What is its nature? Abundance, radiant bliss, strength, and purity. What is its purpose? To express itself, as it is infinitely mysterious and yet alive and capable of self-expression. What is its form? It is YOU.