The pranic force that manifests in the form of breath is the very power of life itself. It causes us to live and gives us the possibility of evolving. Therefore, the breath-prana is the fundamental power within the yogi. Through it he can become free.
Prana goes upward and downward and causes our consciousness to go upward and downward with it. Therefore the yogi must ensure that the upward flowing prana is usually dominant within him. This is done by constant japa and meditation.
Although prana is a kind of all-purpose word for breath and the life-force moving within the body, it is also a technical term meaning the upward-flowing life force in the body. In correct meditation, this becomes dominant and the prana begins to flow up into the Sahasrara through the subtle passages or nadis in the various bodies of the yogi, not just in the sushumna nadi. As a result the centers of higher perception in the Sahasrara are stimulated and activated and the inner, spiritual senses awaken. The full opening of the Sahasrara is the means to enlightenment and liberation, therefore the prana accomplishes the goal of human life. The Gayatri–both the Vedic mantra and the ajapa gayatri, Soham–are intended to polarize the prana to flow upward into the Sahasrara, as well. (Again, see Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self.) Joy or bliss experienced in meditation is an indication that the prana is flowing upward into the Sahasrara, therefore it is called yogananda: yogic bliss.
The sages of India realized that augmentation and direction of the prana was necessary for fulfilling the purpose of life: evolution. The upward flow of prana must be constant, though it may vary in intensity. The yogi must control the quality of his prana, mostly through diet, since prana is derived from food. Then he maintains the upward flow of prana through the perpetual practice of japa and meditation. When this is done strictly according to the principles of yoga, the yogi’s unfoldment takes place without hindrance or delay.
The sahasrara is the “paradise” from which all human beings have fallen, and we must return there if we are to be liberated. Unfortunately, the subtle prana has become negatively polarized so it continually flows downward, making us body-conscious and almost completely under the control of material forces. This condition is spiritual death, spiritual enslavement. Unless the pranas are repolarized to flow upward perpetually, there is just no hope, no matter how religious or fervent we may be. Only an eventual falling back into the darkness can be our fate. That is why it is so necessary to become a yogi.
The prana was originally concentrated in our head, and it must be returned there to regain our original state of spirit-awareness. Those who accomplish this return are truly human; the rest are mere soulless bodies, as the first great Christian theologian, Origen, was wont to say.
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