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Modern science believes oxygen is life and an indispensable energy for life. Yogis have proved that it is not the breath but the prana which is responsible for life in the body.

In an experiment at the Louisiana University, USA, Swami Nadbrahmanada was seated inside a glass enclosure with a set of tabla (documented by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati in his book, Prana, Pranayama, Prana Vidya). His body was smeared with wax to prevent any air flowing in through any part of the body. Along with him, a candle was lit inside the glass enclosure. After some time the candle got extinguished when the oxygen ran out, but he continued to play non-stop tabla for 45 minutes. How did this happen? It can happen only if there is something other than oxygen that is necessary for survival. That something is prana.

Prana is 'the force' in the universe; there is nothing devoid of prana in the entire Creation. Everything is prana, the only thing which distinguishes one from the other is the unique frequency of prana vibrating in them. Prana is also the life force in a living body. Breath, food, water etc. are all sources of prana. Says Sanatan Kriya, one can survive without breath but not prana, even for a second. The complete philosophy of Yoga is based on prana, and pranayama is one of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.

Pranayama, unlike popular misconception, is not breathing abnormally, it is the mastery of prana. Pranayama, as described by Rishi Patanjali is the natural cessation of breath (kumbhak). That is how yogis sitting in samadhi in the Himalayas survive in hostile environments for long periods of time without food, water, light, or even breath. They appear to be lying in a state of hibernation but it is a completely alert state, fully conscious with their awareness at its peak.

Pranayama can therefore, not be practised in alienation and has a much higher purpose than is being prescribed in mass orientations. With the practice of certain pranayamas, the yogic practitioner learns to derive prana from sources other than oxygen, food, water, etc., and is able to hold on to the prana for long periods without the body going into a state of trauma. Since the breath and other metabolic processes are stilled, the body ceases to age. The secret of forever youth of yogis.

Pranayama uses breath to influence the flow of the prana in the energy body through the nadis (energy channels).

A word of caution here, all pranayamas should only be done under the guidance of a Guru, as prana is the most potent energy, which needs to be channelised according to the individual's capacity. Wrong practice can damage the body beyond repair. Never forget each person is a unique frequency, his/her state of balance and requirements are also unique, therefore any yogic practice is done keeping the individual requirement in consideration.

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