The pranic body

Modern Ayurveda

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Let us first of all discuss what yoga says about prana in relation to the human body. The sciences of yoga and physiology agree that there are various energies within the body: nervous energy, heat, biochemical energy, etc., which function in the different parts of the body. These energies allow all the different organs, nerves and muscles to operate and communicate with the brain. Without them the physical body and brain would not function. These energies can be classified as various forms of prana. Physiology confines itself to the study of these energies and their interrelationship with each other. Yoga, on the other hand, says that there are other forms of prana within and around the body, as well as the energies known and accepted by physiology. These other forms of prana have a great influence on our lives.

Yoga says that permeating and surrounding the physical body is an energy body which is known as the pranamaya kosha, literally the sheath of prana. This corresponds to the etheric body described by people who awaken their psychic abilities. Within this pranic body, the prana flows in fixed pathways. These are called nadis in yogic terminology. Many people regard these nadis as nothing more than nerves (and often blood vessels) of the physical body. This is certainly not what is meant by nadis. Though of course the nerves and blood vessels are passages for energy flow, the nadis refer to pathways or flow of a particular form of prana, more subtle than the energies normally considered by physiologists. This is not just an interesting hypothesis, for Russian scientists have recently photographed these nadis as well as the flow of prana.

Let us take the analogy of a radio. A radio is made up of different parts which perform specific functions. The human body is comprised of different organs which also carry out certain duties. In both cases, of the human body and the radio, the totality or grouping of these different parts constitutes the whole. Now consider a person who has never seen a radio before. If he was told before turning it on that the radio picks up programs from a transmitting station one hundred miles away and emits exactly the same sound he would probably laugh with disbelief. "How is this possible?" he would think. "Ifthere is no visible connection such as a wire between the transmitting station and the radio, how is it possible for the radio to reproduce programs?" But we all know through science and by actually turning on a radio that in fact no visible connection is necessary, the connection is made in a non-visible form through the agency of electromagnetic waves. The body is like a radio, it receives energy or prana from the surroundings. When the body is healthy and the nadis allow free flow of prana it is like a well-tuned radio; it picks up with perfect clarity the energies around us. An unhealthy body is like an old, dilapidated radio; it does not tune in as well as it should to the surrounding energies. This is the aim of pranayama: to tune the body and mind to a high state of sensitivity, so that one picks up these cosmic energies and so that consciousness can shine through our mind and body in its pristine glory.

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