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Prana-Maya-Kosha...Energy Sheath

Prana in Sanskrit means vital energy, Maya means composed of, Kosha means sheath. So Pranamaya Kosha is the sheath of vital energy within the human being. According to Yogashastras, we have three bodies. 

These three bodies are -the physical body, astral or subtle body & the casual or super-subtle body. Physical body or the visible layer is made up of skin, tissues, bones etc. and it is the last layer of a human being. This body is called the Annamaya Kosha which depends on the Pranamaya Kosha. 

Our physical system survives not only on food, water or for that matter even oxygen; it survives on the one energy that runs the entire universe called Prana. Prana is the link between the physical and the astral bodies. As long as this vital principal exists in the organisms, life continues. When the slender thread-like Prana is cut off, the astral body separates from the physical body and death takes place. 

Then the Prana that was working in the physical body is withdrawn into the astral body. In addition to Annamaya Kosha, there are three more Koshas; these are Manomaya kosha, Vijnanamaya kosha and Anandamaya kosha. Our body derives Prana from these Koshas.



SUPERMACY OF PRANA

Prana is the universal principal of energy or a vital force. Prana is all-pervading. It may be either in a static or dynamic state. It is found in all forms, from the lowest to the highest, from the ant to the elephant, from the unicellular amoeba to a man, from the elementary form of plant life to the developed form of animal life. It is Prana that shines in your eyes. It is through the power of Prana that the ear hears, the eye sees, the skin feels, the tongue tastes, the nose smells, the brain and the intellect perform their respective functions. You can live without food and drink for days together but you cannot live without air even for a few minutes. There is an old Vedic story which tells us about the importance of Prana.

STORY

The five main faculties of our nature - the mind, breath (prana), speech, ear and eye - were arguing with each other as to which one of them was the best and most important. To resolve this dispute they decided that each would leave the body and see whose absence was most missed. First speech left the body but the body continued though mute. Next the eye left but the body continued though blind. Next the ear left but the body continued though deaf. Mind left but the body continued though unconscious. Finally the Prana began to leave and the body began to die and all the other faculties began to lose their energy. So they all rushed to Prana and requested it to stay, lauding its supremacy. Clearly Prana won the argument. Prana gives energy to all our faculties, without which they cannot function. Without honoring Prana first there is nothing else we can do.

ANNAMAYA KOSHA AND PRANAMAYA KOSHA

Pranamaya Kosha controls the physical aspects of the day to day functioning of the Annamaya Kosha. Annamaya Kosha (matter) and Pranamaya Kosha (energy) are essential for the function of the physical body. As matter and energy are inseparable, these are two states of the same thing. Without matter there could be no substrate to form the body’s cells and without Prana, every cell would stop functioning and enter into the process of decomposition. Pranamaya Kosha maintains cellular life and also provides for cell-to-cell organization and cooperation which is essential to the integrity of Annamaya Kosha. Imbalances in Prana disrupt cellular function and lead to diseased states of the physical body. It means that disease first affected the Pranamaya Kosha and from there extended to the Annamaya Kosha.

PRANA AND THREE NADIS

• Prana flows through a network of energy channels or Nadis, which have no corresponding physical structure. There are many thousands of Nadis. However, Yoga focuses only on three: Ida, Pingala and Sushumna.

• Of the three principal Nadis, Sushumna is the passage only for the most refined and balanced Prana. This Nadi runs through the axis of the spine. At the level of the larynx it divides into anterior and a posterior portion, both of which terminate in the Brahmarandra (cavity of Brahma) which corresponds to the ventricular cavity in the physical body.

• Ida and Pingala Nadis weave around the central axis of Sushumna crossing at six points of the main spinal axis; each of these points forming vortices of Prana which form the psychic structures known as Chakras. The junctions where the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis meet along the spinal column are called Chakras.

• Ida Nadi represents the qualities associated with the Moon: mental activity, retrospection, passivity, femininity, introversion, right side of the brain and the left side of the body.

• Pingala Nadi represents the qualities associated with the Sun: physical activity, masculinity, extroversion, left side of the brain and the right side of the body.

• When the solar and lunar forces of Ida and Pingala are brought into balance, it is then that Kundalini Shakti is awakened and rises up along Sushumna Nadi moving from Chakra to Chakra. Thus, Sushumna is considered to be of primary importance for Yogic development and awakening spiritual energy.

CHAKRAS AND KOSHAS

Chakras are important points of linkage between the Koshas. For example, a physical condition which negatively affects the quality of a Chakra will reduce the movement of energy at that Pranic point and consequently affect the person’s level of physical, mental, intuitive and spiritual activity. Chakras are also important because each represents a different level of the individual’s evolution, with the older and more basic levels being at the bottom and more advanced and refined qualities being towards the top. Mooladhara, Swadhistana, Manipura, Anahata and Vishuddhi chakras are body-based since they are associated functionally with Annamaya Kosha. They are considered to contain lower states of awareness and energy than the sixth Chakra, Ajna, which is effectively beyond the physical body and is associated between Pranamaya, Manomaya and Vijnanamaya Koshas.

SEVEN CHAKRAS

1. At the lowest level, Mooladhara Chakra represents the basic animal needs of security and procreation and so here is housed the Prana that is necessary to promote the survival of the individual and its species.

2. Swadhisthana Chakra is associated with the subconscious personality and the drive for pleasure and desire.

3. Power, self-worth and drive are the qualities of Manipura Chakra.

4. With Anahata Chakra, one sees a dramatic shift from ego-centred Prana and behaviour to the more altruistic and evolved qualities of compassion and love.

5. The evolvement of communication and languages is represented in Vishuddhi, as is the ability to transcend fear, a psycho-physiological state that drives Prana back to the lower three Chakras.

6. Ajna is associated with the intellect, intuition and psychic processes

7. Sahasrara, which is not strictly a Chakra but represents the culmination of the evolution of the all the six Chakras.

Should the Prana of Kundalini Shakti reach Sahasrara, the highest fruit of Yoga will be experienced. This would represent the union of the Koshas since every dimensions of the individual would experience enlightenment and bliss.

FIVE FORMS OF PRANAS AND THEIR FUNCTIONS

Though the Prana is one, it assumes five forms according to the different functions it performs.
These five Vayus are associated with the five, body-based Chakras but are still considered to be qualitatively inseparable from Mahaprana and are only distinguishable by their function.

Prana (life breath or vital energy)
Essential life-support processes like breathing, blood circulation and swallowing are controlled by the Vayu called Prana, which is placed between the diaphragm and the throat. It encompasses the whole of the chest region and has an upward motion of energy. The seat of Prana is the heart

Apana (nerve‐current governing excretory function)
Below the navel to the perineal region, there is a downward force of energy which is attributed to Apana Vayu. Elimination of faeces, urine and gas, the release of sperm, the menstrual cycle and delivery of the foetus are all governed by Apana. The seat of Apana is the anus.

Samana (nerve-current governing one’s digestion)
Between Prana and Apana, in the area between the diaphragm and the navel, there is a balancing force called Samana Vayu. This force, which has a side to side motion, is associated with the functions of digestion and assimilation of nutrients. The seat of Samana is the region of the navel.

Udana (nerve-current governing the swallowing function)
Moving as a downward spiral of energy through the limbs and an upward spiral of energy through the head is Udana Vayu. This Prana provides the basis for movement and action as well as sensory input. It is also associated with sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) divisions of the autonomic nervous system. The seat of Udana is the throat.

Vyana (nerve-current governing the circulatory function)
Vyana Vayu is the fifth Prana and it permeates the whole of the body acting as a reservoir of energy when other Pranas are depleted and also functions to coordinate the five Vayus along with the activities taking place within the body. Vyana is all-pervading and moves all over the body.

FIVE SUB-PRANAS AND THEIR FUNCTIONS

The five sub‐Pranas are Naga, Kurma, Karikara, Devadatta and Dhananjaya. Naga performs hiccup and eructation. Kurma performs the function of opening the eyes. Karikara induces hunger and thirst. Devadatta controls yawning. Dhananjaya causes decomposition of the body after death. That man is never reborn when at the time of his death his breath goes out of the head after piercing the Brahmarandhra (the opening at the crown of the head or the head- ‐fontanelle).

CONCLUSION

Pranamaya Kosha centrally plays a key role in the integration of body, mind and spirit. We should always make sincere efforts to increase Prana Shakti. It can be increased through the practice of proper exercise (asanas), proper breathing (pranayama), proper relaxation (Yoga-nidra), proper thinking and meditation (dhyana) and proper diet. Regular alternate nostril breathing is the most important method for keeping our Pranas or energies in balance.

Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna
Aum Shanti