Home' Australian Yoga Life : sample issue Contents Prana Rhasya
Your pranayama questions answered by Sindar Kaur.
A. Perhaps the world renowned yoga
master, BKS Iyengar summed up the
answer when he said "It is as difficult to
explain prana as it is to explain God."
Iyengar states that "Prana is the energy
permeating the universe at all levels. It is
the physical, mental, intellectual, sexual,
spiritual and cosmic energy. All
vibrating energies are prana. All
physical energies, such as heat, light,
gravity, magnetism and electricity, are
I also like the word definition given by
Swami Rama, founder of the Himalayan
Institute who states that the Sanskrit
root word 'pra' means 'first' and 'na'
means 'the smallest unit of energy'.
Hence, prana itself means the first
breath or the most basic unit of energy.
Yoga teaches that everything is prana
and prana is in everything. It is the all
pervading universal life force that
governs creation, animates all life and is
A. No, technically, they are not the same.
Hasty translation has probably led to
pranayama techniques being
understood as breath control. Breath
control is termed as svasa-ayama while
prana-ayama is the concentration on the
control of the prana. Just being aware of
our breath does not necessarily mean
we are controlling the prana. Control of
prana is achieved through pranayama
techniques by consciously regulating
and manipulating the phases of
inhalation, exhalation, retention and
suspension, in relation to each other.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org Sindar has been training yoga teachers undertaking diploma qualifications for
the last 10 years. She conducts, in Australia and overseas, specialised courses in pranayama, meditation and yoga therapies
for professional development of yoga teachers. She also directs a healing practice based in Sydney and can be contacted on
0418 272 569 or email@example.com
Q. I do jala neti daily, initially with
much benefit but now it makes my
nostrils burn. I have tried using less
salt, but still experience the burning
sensations. What should I do?
A. The type of salt used can be causing
the burning sensation. Cooking or table
salt is not recommended as it has gone
through a bleaching process that may
irritate the nasal mucosa. Celtic sea salt
or Himalayan pink salt is gentler and
more beneficial on the nasal passages.
Also, try lubricating your nasal passages
after jala neti. You can use pure ghee or
sesame oil. If the burning sensation
continues, then use mustard oil instead.
The pungent quality of mustard oil will
stimulate the secretion of fluids, which will
revitalise the nasal mucosa. The burning
sensations may also indicate dryness
and that your body requires more fluid.
Perhaps drink a glass of water shortly
before your yoga practice and drink
enough fluids throughout the day to keep
your body well hydrated.
Q. Should I continue to practise
pranayama if suffering from a cold
A. If the symptoms of flu include fever,
headache or infection, then it's best to
discontinue practice as pranayama
practices can increase heat and
aggravate the condition. Also discontinue
the practice if symptoms of cold include
blocked nostrils and hardened ears, as
applying too much strain and effort in
doing the practice is counterproductive.
Over and above this, allow the body's
wisdom to prevail. So, if feeling tired or
weak, rest up until you regain your natural
energy and stamina. Recommence
practice when symptoms are almost
gone or when fully recovered.
Q. Are pranayama techniques synonymous with breathing exercises or
Breathing is directly connected to the
brain and central nervous system.
Hence, the way we breathe affects our
entire system. Erratic breathing creates
erratic nerve impulses and disturbed
responses. When breath is regulated,
these impulses are stopped in different
parts of the body and brain waves
become steady. This curbs mental agi-
tation and increases absorption of prana.
Q. I've heard the word prana explained in many different ways, but still find it
difficult to understand this yoga concept.
the blue print for all perceivable
phenomena. In relation to our existence,
it is the life principle observed through
the presence of our breath and the
more subtle presence of vitality running
throughout our physiology. This affects
our physical, emotional, mental and
spiritual states. When prana is abundant
and free flowing in the body, we
experience health, liveliness,
enthusiasm, drive, confidence and a
positive state of mind. Conversely, when
prana is diminished, we experience
poor health; we feel drained and our
minds are characterised by irritability,
negative thinking and lack of motivation.
In scientific terms, modern chemistry is
able to explain the physical composition
of air as being that of oxygen, hydrogen,
nitrogen and carbon dioxide, but have
not as yet been able to explain prana as
an observable or quantifiable substance
that also exists in air.
australian yoga life • december-february 2010 53
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