Prana, or the Subtle Life Force Prana, or the Subtle Life Force
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Prana, or the Subtle Life Force

Marshall Govindan Satchidananda
time 2 minutes

The Siddhas referred to the basic energy underlying all activities, both physical and mental, as ‘prana’, or subtle life force.

The only physiological function which is both voluntary and involuntary is breathing. Breathing can be controlled consciously by the mind or it can be allowed to function automatically like other physiological processes, such­ as digestion, under the control of the body. Breathing is thus an important bridge between the mind and the body, and can influence them both.

Our breathing patterns reflect our emotional and mental states. The breath is jerky during anger, momentarily ceases during periods of fear, gasps during amazement, chokes during sadness, sighs in relief, is slow and steady during periods of concentration, and changes during periods in which the mind is subject to passing thoughts and emotions of a random nature. While it is difficult to control the mind and emotions directly, they can be mastered indirectly by using the breath. Various meditation traditions have long taught their students to concentrate on breathing smoothly in order to eliminate distracting thoughts. In modern times, many scientific studies have confirmed the effect of breathing exercises in the treatment of hypertension and anxiety disorders.

[…] Finally, all the living cells depend upon the satisfactory working of the respiratory system for their entire needs of energy. The Siddhas referred to the basic energy underlying all activities, both physical and mental, as ‘prana’, or subtle life force. Prana is found in the air that we breathe, in the earth we live on, in the water we drink, and in sunlight.

Some of the channels through which the more physical pranas flow have been mapped out by both the Siddhas of India and China. The more physical channels have been identified as meridians in acupuncture, originally developed in India, and known as Varma in the Siddha system of medicine. It is practiced by Siddha Vaidya physicians to this day, particularly in the Nagercoil area of Tamil Nadu. It is also used even to this day by elephant trainers in India and in Sri Lanka. […]

The storing up of pranic energy

The Siddhas developed slow rhythmic breathing patterns in order to prevent such a loss of energy and to enable themselves to live as long as they wished, serving mankind. […] The extraordinary powers attributed to advanced Siddhas is largely due to the knowledge and intelligent use of this stored-up energy. […]

Supplying oxygen to the cells of the body and ridding them of the excess carbon-dioxide resulting from oxidation are the main purposes of respiration. It also aids in the neutralization of the temperature of the body and the elimination of excess water. Respiration occurs internally and externally. Respiration that takes place in the lungs, with the passage of oxygen from the alveoli to the blood, is known as external respiration, and the respiration that takes place in the cells of the body’s tissues is known as internal respiration. The Siddha’s science of longevity is mainly concerned with internal respiration. The secret of longevity lies in the technique of diverting the breathing to the subtle channels and centers.


An extract from Babaji and the 18 Siddha Kriya Yoga Tradition by Marshall Govindan Satchidananda

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How Do We Know Whether We Are Progressing Spiritually? How Do We Know Whether We Are Progressing Spiritually?
Illustration by Joanna Grochocka

How Do We Know Whether We Are Progressing Spiritually?

Marshall Govindan Satchidananda

How do we know whether we are progressing spiritually? This is an important question which every spiritual aspirant asks themselves at one time or another. It is also not an easy answer, because the spiritual path is progressive, and because the spirit has no form, it is difficult to measure. So, before defining progress, let us define what we mean by the ‘spiritual’.

In Yoga, we talk about the human dilemma of egoism, of identifying with the body and mind. We refer to five bodies: the physical body (anna maya kosha, literally, the food body), the vital body (prana maya kosha, which animates the physical, and is the seat of emotions), the mental body (man omaya kosha, including subconscious, memory, five senses, recognition faculties), the intellectual body (vinjnana maya kosha, including our reasoning faculties), and the spiritual body (ananda maya kosha, literally, the bliss body, or soul, which is pure consciousness, the Witness.) Ordinarily, because of egoism, one thinks and acts with the belief that ‘I’ am the body, or ‘I’ am my emotions, or ‘I’ am my memories or ideas. For example, one says: ‘I’ am cold; or ‘I’ am angry; or ‘I’ am married to so and so; ‘I’ am ‘Jane Doe’ or ‘I’ am a Repbulican. Yet, a month later, one might identify with their opposites: ‘I’ am hot; ‘I’ am content; ‘I’ am divorced; ‘I’ have a new legal name: ‘Jane Smith’; and I switched parties, and now ‘I’ am a Democrat. Obviously, we cannot be both opposites; we can only be what is….always. Yet, the power of egoism is so strong, that we constantly forget who we truly are: pure being and consciousness.

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