The Science of Pranayama


The word ‘prana’ has a deeper meaning in Sanskrit; it means the source of life, the life force or the energy which is the basis for existence. It does not simply mean air. ‘Prana’ is a kind of vibration which goes inside along with the breath. This vibration stays inside and continues to add more vibrations or frequency to the life energy. Even when one feels that the breathing has almost stopped during deep meditation, prana continues to go in and come out. Prana, the life force is independent of breathing. During meditation, air going in and coming out may reduce but the prana going in and settling increases and this is the main reason why meditation rejuvenates a person.

The practice of breathing without thoughts being awakened is called the science of pranayama. Now one can understand why the definition of pranayama as control of breathing might be a misnomer here, because prana and breathing are not equivalent words. The sacred scripture Patanjali Yoga Sutras clearly gives the definition of pranayama as cessation of breathing, where cessation means stopping the very act of breathing which one experiences every day, every moment, which awakens thoughts along with the air movement.

“Tasmin sati shvasa prashvsayoh gati vichchhedah pranayama”

The science of absorbing the prana or life energy directly without any unnecessary load on one’s system, and in the highest frequency without awakening any thoughts, is what Patanjali calls as ‘Pranayama’.

Along with the air movement if thoughts are also awakened, a person is not inhaling pure prana, the life energy. When there are more thoughts, the breath will carry lesser life energy inside, and vice-versa. But unfortunately most of the time one takes in too much of air without any prana flow inside, instead of the ideal situation of taking in only life energy and no air. Hence there is a need to learn the science of breathing without giving rise to thoughts. If one’s mind is interfering with their breathing, it will always be unfulfilled. If one feels that they have everything in the outer world but still there is no fulfillment, it simply means their breathing is not fulfilled. The first thing such a person needs to fulfill in their life is breathing. When one is able to fulfill their breathing, everything will be fulfilled for them in spite of complexities in the outer world. When this is not the case, only deep emptiness prevails. Human body is like a desert filled with sand. Any air movement which happens in the body is similar to the air movement in the desert, where the dust is lifted and the whole air becomes dusty, full of sand. Ordinary body is filled with so much bio-memory that breathing by its very nature awakens too many thoughts and makes a person restless. Hence if one wants to achieve breathing without any thoughts, they should take up the sadhana (intense commitment to practice) of integrating themselves and unclutching. The complete balancing of prana can happen in a person while unclutching.

Breath is the bridge which connects a person with the cosmos. It goes through Shiva consciousness every moment. Every single breath goes in and touches the inner consciousness. Just before it turns to come out, there is always a gap where one does not breathe, where breath is not happening. If one can relax in this gap and be aware of that space, a sudden explosion of consciousness can happen in the person. If a person is comfortable in this neutral zone, they will rejuvenate again and again and will be flooded with energy. To be comfortable in this space, all one needs to do is overcome the fear of losing one’s identity, which does not exist in this neutral zone. Incoming breath is life and outgoing breath is death. On every inhale the person will be filled with energy and on every exhale with intelligence, leading to a continuous cosmic game of Shiva and Shakti dancing in one’s inner space. One becomes active and alive by the energy and intelligence, which will become the source for their life. Such a state is what is called God-consciousness.

When constantly thinking with integrity, all the air taken inside will be converted as energy or prana. All the air which goes inside, if it becomes energy by the bio-memory and the muscle memory, then no other source of energy from outside will be required. Breathing will be very deep and the person will have a strong experience of fulfillment.

Adapted from Nithyananda’s collected Discourse on the subject of “Pranayama”