Human Spiritual Structure: Prana
Notes in progress © 1998-2002 Alan McAllister  

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At birth the first breath triggers a major change in the circulatory system, in which the blood begins to circulate through the infants lungs, rather than through the umbilical cord. This transition naturally takes 20-30 minutes, as signaled by the cessation of pulsation in the umbilical cord. However, in many "modern" hospitals, the umbilical cord is cut right after the birth, and the infant is forced to make this change instantly, or suffocate.

Whether this transition is peaceful or not, it becomes intimately linked with our experience and understanding of being alive. The fear of suffocation remains one of the strongest triggers of our survival instincts. The lasting affect on our breathing due to a rapid transition is one of the prime focal traumas for rebrithing.

Breathing is the one bodily function that is controlled both voluntarily and involuntarily. We may consciously breath, or let it go on automatic. This also reflects its position linking the body and various levels of mind. There is a strong correlation of the breath with various emotional states, most of which disrupt it in one way or another. Conscious control of the breath can, conversely, affect the emotional state. It is the parallel nature of imbalances, blockages, and other distortions of the mind (emotions), the breath, and the body that is the basis for the many body and breath clearing techniques.

A regular, smooth, gentle breathing, will calm the mind, reduce distracting thoughts, and allow for greater concentration. Full breathing uses the muscles of the abdomen, diaphragm, and chest in sequence to inhale air, then relaxing the air is naturally expelled from the lungs, from top to bottom again. The most efficient and relaxed breathing makes maximum use of the diaphragm and helps to connect the energies of the three lower chakras (below the diaphragm) with the higher centers (above the diaphragm). With diaphragmatic breathing the chest and shoulders remain relaxed. Only when under full exertion, as in heavy exercise or a life threatening situation do the chest and shoulders also contribute, expanding the rib cage for maximum intake of air. If the chest is used for regular breathing it tends to activate emotions of stress and fear. In blocked people who are avoiding emotions and energies of the lower chakras, the breathing is shallow and done with the chest, while the diaphragm and abdominal muscles are kept rigid [Y&P]. The unlocking of the diaphragm and the freeing of the breath is the central tool of re-birthing.

The breath naturally alternates between the right and left nostrils with each remaining dominant for roughly two to three hours at a time. When the breath is through the right nostril the aparavrtti of the ajina chakraside is dominant and the mind is in a cruder state, focused on mundane functions and pleasures. When the breath is through the left nostril the paravrtti is dominant and the mind is in a concentrated state suitable for reflection, asanas, and meditation. The natural alternation is necessary for proper health.

One use of pranayama is to balance the breath, opening both nostrils at once. This is the best state for introspection and mediation, and is said to shift the prana from the Ida or Pingala into the central Susumna nadi, bringing about a more peaceful and clearer state results. It is not recommended to attempt any type of external action in this state.


Breathing is more than a physiological method of supplying the body with oxygen. It is also a method for bringing more subtle energy into the body. This has been called variously, prana, chi (ki), orenda (Amerindian) or life force. This subtle energy supplies the more subtle layers of the being, just as the oxygen supplies the physical body. It comes into the body with air, and also with food.

The prana controls the five fundamental factors which comprise the body. It is in turn controlled by the mind, through the chakras. The prana is drawn in with the breath, and if the body and mind are calm it can be felt radiating through the body along the subtle channels or nadis. It is primarily distributed to that side of the body on which the breath is drawn (see above). The yogic studies of prana form a vast science called Svar svarodayam including the way in which flow of prana to different parts of the body influences consciousness in different ways.

Control of prana in the body is enhanced by practice of pranayama and Bandhas. The former are breathing exercises to bring prana into the body, enhance its flow and to concentrate it in certain centers. The later are holding techniques have both physical and energetic effects. They also stimulate the proper flow of prana and help to concentrate it in specific chakras. In all these exercises incautious, or uniformed, practice can result in various detrimental effects on the body and mind.[TC]

The Vayus

The ten vital airs which flow through the body are called the vayus, collectively the prenendriya, or pranah. There are five internal and five external vayus. The five internal vayus result from the separation of the incoming prana into five parts.

The Internal Vayus
udanathroat (head and limbs TC) controls vocal cords and voice [CAS]. The senses and brain [TC].
pranabetween navel/diaphragm and throat heart, lungs, respiration [CAS]. Speech [TC].
samananavel area balances and adjusts prana and apana, also controls digestion and the generation of heat [CAS]. Assimilation [TC].
apanabetween navel and anus excretion: urine and stool [CAS]. Large intestine, kidneys, bladder, genitals and anus [TC].
vyanawhole body circulation of blood, nervous functioning [CAS], provides coordination and integration [Y&P], but also division and diffusion [ITS]?

The external vayus are scattered throughout the body.

The External Vayus
naga expanding body: jumping, throwing, stretching [CAS]. salivation and hiccuping [TC].
kurma contract in body, as when cold [CAS]. Blinking [TC].
krkara spasmodic movements, yawning, hiccoughing, sneezing, reactions to pain [CAS]. Hunger [TC].
devadatta hunger and thirst [CAS]. Yawning, sleeping [TC].
dhanainjaya sleep and drowsiness [CAS].

Note that the functions listed under krkara are all ones that release stored energy.

Are the first four internal vayus controlled by the second through fifth chakras, or by the associated kosas? Probably yes.

The prenendriya pulsate in rhythm with the breath, expanding when the breath is physically moving and contracting when the breath is paused. During these pauses there is clear contact of tanmatras with the citta, but also a more general pausing of the unit mind. The ideation taken during these pauses can either help to lead one toward the supreme or towards crudity. This is the power and the danger of pranayama. [CAS]

In yoga there is some emphasis on the proper channeling of ones energy, not to waste or dissipate it. Two examples or the conservation of speech (which is a general result of the yamas and niyamas) and the moderation of sexual activity. The more subtle practices of sadhana increase mental concentration and reduce desire. The external practice of service requires a more physical energy and often perseverance. The other side of this is that the body must be tuned and adapted to handle greater flows of energy. This is a collective aim of the different yogic practices, and may be guided directly by the rising kundalini. [CAS]

Motoyama suggests that the Triple Heater of chinese medicine correlates to the internal vayus, specifically to prana, samana, and aprana vayus. [TC]

The Vayus in Death

When the vayus (pranah) become disturbed, the parallelism between the body and the mind is lost and death occurs. In old age, disease, or bodily injury, the vibrations of the body are changed, prana and aprana become weakened straining samana. As samana weakens, it joins with prana and aprana and together they attack udana. Udana is merged and then finally vyana. The merged vayus run through the body striking delicate regions, looking for a way out. Eventually, the internal and all the external vayus (except dhanainjaya) leave the body. Dhanainjaya is the vayu of sleep, and remains in the body until it is burnt, or decays. [CAS]

Leadbeater's View of Prana

Leadbeater believed that vitality comes from the sun, is absorbed by the spleen chakra, where it is divided into 7 streams, violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, dark red, and rose. These then flow to give energy to the various organs. He associates these with the traditional vayus as follows: Prana (anahata) - yellow, Apana (muladhara) - red-orange, Samana (manipura) - green, Udana (vishuddha) - violet-blue, Vyana (splenic) - rose. Motoyama's research finds psychics having an abnormally yin spleen meridian, in which it is absorbing too much energy.

The blue-violet ray goes to the vishuddha chakra and splits, light blue to the throat, dark blue and violet to the brain, the later going to the top energy centers. The green ray goes to the solar plexus and abdomen, and into the kidneys, liver, intestines, and digestive system. The yellow ray goes to the head, and then the brain, mainly to the central portion of the sahasrara chakra. The rose ray spreads throughout the nervous system. It can radiate energy to others. The red-orange ray (with dark purple) goes to the base of the spine, and into the urogenital organs. It stimulates bodily desires and helps maintain heat in the body. It can be rerouted, however, into the brain where the three color split. The orange becomes a golden yellow and enhances the intellect; the dark-red becomes crimson and produces an altruistic state; and the dark purple becomes pale violet and enhances spirituality. [TC]

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Page Created, March, 1998.
Last updated December 1, 1998. AHM.
© Alan McAllister

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