|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 39 ]
Prana is not oxygen, or nitrogen, or hydrogen. These various gases in the atmosphere, however, rely on the catalytic action of prana for their actions upon organic beings.
Dust, smoke, or chemical substances released into the atmosphere by industry are harmful to this catalytic action and present great harm to the body when absorbed internally.
Our modern-day artificial environments also serve to interfere with the activity of prana. Plastic materials, such as those that comprise a large part of the construction of automobiles, as well as plastics/synthetics in furniture, carpets, wallpaper, paints and varnishes, plastic utensils and kitchenware, and so on, create an environment that inhibits the transmission and absorption of prana, leading to mental fatigue.
Synthetic textiles used in a great deal of commercial clothing also have the same effect, which is why cotton or other natural fiber clothes are always recommended.
Prana in Food
In the same way that prana is not the constituent elements in the air that we breathe, neither is it the nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, etc.) that we receive through food or drink.
The yogic opinion is that as long as food still emanates a natural flavor then it still has prana in it. Therefore, the natural flavor in any food gives a basic indication of the presence of prana.
Knowing this, the yogi chews food for long enough, until it becomes tasteless, entirely extracting the subtle energy at the level of the mouth (tongue). In that same way, water should be sipped slowly, and held in the mouth for a few moments before swallowing.
It is important, right from the beginning to learn to breathe deeply and slowly, in a controlled manner. This is known as dirgha pranayama, or simply, long or prolonged breathing.
The greatest amount of prana is absorbed by the nerve endings which line the lungs. The shallow nature with which most people breathe inhibits enough oxygen, and hence, prana, from being absorbed and assimilated via the lungs into the bloodstream, leading to an inadequate supply of nutrition to the systems of the body.
This alone is a major cause of many of the chronic health problems that people face today. It should be obvious that the re-establishment of healthy breathing, via the practice of pranayama, is paramount to re-gaining and maintaining good health...
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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