|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 175 ]
The yogis are aware that prana is our genuine food and without it no form of life is possible. They great assert that prana can be accumulated, stockpiled and amplified in the bio-energetic system of the being, a system which is in close connection with the biological nervous system.
For instance, vast amounts of prana are spontaneously accumulated in the solar plexus, at the level of manipura chakra.
As we have already begun to understand in our yoga practice, it is the power of mental concentration, or the mind that enables one to affect, at will, the pranic flow.
So in pranayama techniques, just as with all other yoga techniques, it is the mind that is the ultimate power behind the practice. In fact, it can be said that concentration of the mind is even more important in pranayama than it is with the asanas.
Without the appropriate use of the mind (or rather, the concentration), all the techniques amount to mere physicalities.
One of the most important truths that we'll continue to realize in our exploration of yoga is that "where the mind goes, so will prana." Mind can direct, activate, block or use prana, both for productive as well as destructive ends.
It is, unfortunately, a fact that most of us have developed powerful, unconscious mental strengths in the form of patterns or conditioned ways of thought. It is for this very reason that we continue to manifest the same tendencies over and over again, and hence the same results in our lives -- by unconsciously directing prana to those same ends.
We may be unconsciously directing powerful thought-waves which keep us in a certain career path or financial status, or continue to place us in the same forms of relationships, states of health, etc.
This reality of the power of mind over prana is something that we must take out of the realm of 'unconsciousness' and make it 'conscious', so that we can not only begin to direct our lives in more productive ways, but also in more spiritually evolutionary ways as well.
The yoga pranayamas, or initial practices of pranayama, help to prepare us for this, by purifying the body (nadis) and training and strengthening the mind. The practice of pranayama, in its classical sense, comes later, after appropriate cleansing and developing of the power of mental focus has been attained.
Most books on the commercial shelves today, therefore, are errant in their presentation of pranayama. Most talk about pranayama without even talking about prana. Some are filled with physiological and anatomical terminology with chapters of mechanical 'breathing' techniques without as much as a mention of the mind and mental focus.
Many modern yoga writers neglect to mention pranayama at all, leaving the impression that pranayama is not important, which I hope, by now, you can see that it is!...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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