MODULE SIX : PRANAMAYA KOSHA (Part I)
The Vital Sheath of our Being
This month we’re exploring energy.
“She has really great energy. I feel so drawn to her.”
“I don’t know man, I just get a creepy vibe. Weird energy.”
“When I spend time with that person I feel so drained. They just suck my energy.”
“It was such a powerful experience. I felt surrounded by Divine Energy.”
What other examples could you add to this list? We use the word energy a lot in our language. But how often, if ever, do we try to define what we mean when we say it? How would you define (I mean precisely define) the word energy? Before beginning this module, take a moment and jot down your definition. It will be interesting to see if anything shifts for you as you study these teachings.
Over the past several months we have studied the concepts of purusha and prakriti. This month we’re adding another layer in the form of a creation story. According to Sankhya, the ancient philosophical system behind both yoga and ayurveda, the world as we know it exists because purusha (pure consciousness) and prakriti (primal nature) collided. In modern scientific terms we could call this moment the big bang (or the big OM!). From this collision came the cosmic mind (Mahat), then the individual ego (Ahamkara), then the impelling force of activity (the guna rajas). From rajas came both sattva (the guna of illumination) and tamas (the guna of inertia). From sattva came the mind, the cognitive sense organs (ears, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose), and the organs of action (vocal chords, hands, feet, uro-genitalia, and anus). From tamas came the subtle elements (sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell) and the gross elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth). In the moment purusha and prakriti collided, a great energy rolled forth creating everything in the known world.
One way of defining the word prana is “breathing forth.” The moment of the big bang can be thought of as a great breathing forth of creative energy (how cool is that?).
Prana denotes air, which of course, can’t be separated from the reality of movement. In the first creation story in the book of Genesis we see the reality of air at play:
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness God called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1.1-5)
The text continues to explain the creative force of God, bringing forth all the elements of the world. And in the 2nd creation story of Genesis we read:
…then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2.7)
Incredible! A wind from God creates the world. And the breath of God creates a living being.
I’m choosing to introduce this module with grand creation stories because I want to highlight the grand nature of Prana!
Prana is the force of life.
We know the ultimate goal of yoga is union with God. But there’s only one way to move toward this goal. We have to understand and master our powerful, grand pranic energy. The goal of hatha yoga practice is to do just that. Through the practices of yoga we purify and ready our vessel for union with Ultimate Reality.
OK, let me pause here, because that last paragraph was pretty heady. Let me assure you, the content of this module is firmly rooted on the ground. I offer you these big ideas as flavoring! I hope you’ll hold them in the background as you study Prana—the life force vibrating within you.
I have lots of artwork and reflection to support your efforts. Please print this packet before you begin.
An art piece of an Upanishadic story that tells of the senses fighting over who’s most important (hint, it’s Prana!)
An art piece that gives the Pranamaya Kosha teaching found in the Taittiriya Upanishad.
A journal page to help you work through the Pancha Vayus (5 winds). This accompanies the teaching on the Pranamaya Kosha below
A journal page to help you identify your breathing patterns and habits. Please use this a lot over the next month!!
A journal page to help you articulate a bhavana statement for your energy body.
A glossary page.
“Bringing Yoga to Life” by Donna Farhi chapter 9
And this excellent article on prana and the prana vayus by David Frawley (this link will take you to the Yoga International website).
If you would like to deepen your study of the chakras, I recommend two books:
From a traditional Indian perspective I recommend “Chakras: Energy Centers of Transformation” by Harish Johari.
From a western psychological perspective I recommend “Eastern Body Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self” by Anodea Judith.
If you would like to explore the usefulness of managing energy from an Ayurvedic perspective, I recommend:
“The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook: A Seasonal Guide to Eating and Living Well” by Kate O’Donnell.
“The Prime” by Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D.
Our opening mantras, including call and response with SahaNa.
About 15 minutes into the live teaching you’ll hear me reference the artwork I made to create the journal pages for your packet. A pencil drawing of a figure overlaid with three paintings on tracing paper of the the pancha vayus (5 winds), shushmna, pingala, and ida nadis (energy channels), and the chakra points.
Pancha Vayus (5 winds)
Shushumna, Ida, and Pingala Nadis (energy channels)
3 Systems Overlapping
TEACHINGS : WHAT IS ENERGY?
This teaching ends with a little guided meditation!
TEACHINGS : THE PRANAMAYA KOSHA
You might want to have the Pancha Vayu journal page from the packet ready before pressing play on this teaching.
MODULE 6 PRACTICE: Experiments in Subtle Anatomy
Please have your personal journal ready before you start this practice as I give you a few moments at the end to jot down ideas in response to some reflection questions.