How Pranayam purifies us

All yogic practices purify the pranas, but pranayama is considered the principal among these. In the Yoga Sutras (2:52) Maharshi Patanjali states, “Thence the covering of the light is destroyed”, with reference to the effects of pranayama. This covering is the residue of tamas and rajas, and through pranayama the sattwic nature of the chitta shines forth. Tamas and rajas exist in the form of blockages in the nadis. These blockages may be caused by disease, tension, accumulation of impurities, negative thoughts or samskaras, mental patterns lodged in the subcon-scious and unconscious. Just as the nadis are not physical but pranic entities, the blockages too are pranic and may be experienced, but not quantified.

The thoughts and vrittis, mental formations and modifications, exist in the mind and consciousness as energy waves. Therefore, they influence the energy patterns in the nadis directly and inherently. Depending on the nature of a thought or vritti, the respective nadis as well as the chakras, elements and doshas are affected, creating a spiralling effect throughout the energy network. If the thoughts are left unchecked, the energy system will be depleted over time. In this way the negative thought patterns and vrittis are reinforced and the mind is weakened. For this reason it is difficult to free oneself of obsessions and samskaras.

Indulging in an experience of arrogance, for example, will create a block in the manipura/anahata region and the network of nadis there. Every further wave of arrogance will fortify the block. A tendency to hold back will create a block in the anahata/vishuddhi region. These blockages in the nadis often manifest as disease in the annamaya kosha. On the other hand, even if a disease has been caused by purely physical circumstances, it will be transmitted to the pranic and psychic realm as well. The nadis in that region will become weak and the network of flows will tend to bypass that region, just as a river tends to bypass a rock. This region will be depleted of energy and will become weaker and weaker.

During pranayama, especially nadi shodhana, as one takes slow, deep breaths, the prana is forced to flow through the blocked areas, indeed, through the entire system of nadis. By this process, the energy circuits are restored and the weak areas gradually regain strength. Just as an emotion of arrogance creates a blockage in the manipura/anahata area, increasing the pranic flow through the nadis of this region clears up the blockage. Thus the Shiva Samhita states (3:49), “Through the regulation of breath the wise practitioner surely destroys all of his karmas, whether acquired in this life or in the past.” Manu Smriti also tells us, “Let the defects be burnt up by pranayama.”
Even if one were unaware of one’s specific blocks, the very nature of pranayama, when practised correctly, is such that the entire energy circuitry is influenced and cleared over a period of time. Purification is achieved at the pranic level and simultaneously at the physical and mental levels as well. This brings about many positive transformations. As the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (2:20) says, “With the nadis purified, the inner sound or nada awakens and one is free from disease.” At this point, one is ready to commence higher sadhanas.

By: Swami Niranjanananda: Taken  from the book Prana & Pranayama.


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