We have learned so far that we have Four Bodies or Sheaths. The physical body, Pranic sheath, Mental sheath, and the Intellect. The Eternal Athman pervades all other sheaths as an unchanging Bliss. Theaverage man is not conscious of the Athman. Of these sheaths, the physical body is the only visible sheath. However, the maintenance of the other three sheaths Praana, Mind, and Intellect, are vital for our wellbeing.
We often fail to understand our own inherent value as human beings, the reason being our mis-identity that we are our physical body, and our inability to understand the functioning of Praana, Mind, and Intellect. Swami describes this lamentable wrong identification as “dehabranthi,” or extreme attachment to the physical body. We learned some facts about how we can maintain the physical body to some extent. Let us understand how we can manage the Pranic sheath or the Pranamaya Kosha in this lesson.
- Praanamaya kosha or the pranic sheath
Our prana is called the life energy, which leaves the physical body on our death. It fills the physical body and takes its shape. Those who treat this vital force as Divine, experience excellent health and longevity because this energy is the source of life.
Pranamaya sheath is called the vital principle, or the force that vitalizes and holds together the body and the mind. It pervades the body, mind, and intellect. Praana is physically manifested by the breathing process, which ceases on death. As long as this vital principle exists in us, life continues.
Our breathing is not confined to just intaking oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide, it is the vehicle of Prana, the vital energy. It permeates the physical body, moves through it, and is the source of physical life. Without prana the body would be lifeless. It governs the growth and functioning of our body. It is because of the prana that blood circulates, food is digested, impulses are carried from body to the brain and back.
Those who work on this energy have good health and longevity because physical life depends on this energy. If Pranamaya sheath is disturbed, then our physical body becomes sick. When praanic energy is blocked the result is disease that transmit from the praanic body to the physical body.
Praana also circulates between the physical body and different sheaths through ‘Nadis’ or energy channels. Praanic energy is related to the third sheath mind, or manomaya kosha. It helps to control our mind. When the Nadis get blocked due to our faulty life style, when the breath is shallow and its flow is not smooth, then praanamaya kosha gets disturbed and it causes the mind to become agitated. On the other hand, when praanic energy flows slowly and smoothly then the mind becomes calm and peaceful.
The easiest way to develop vital energy or the praanamaya kosha and the mind is through the practice of Yoga. The practice of praanayama develops vital energy and helps the praana reach every cell of the body.
Let us first understand in this lesson how our longevity depends on the speed of breathing. It is found that the man breaths 21,600 times a day. Faster during daytime and slow during rest and deep sleep. Thus, if you do not have enough deep sleep, then the number of respirations per day will increase. Ancient scriptures show that a human has a predestined number of respirations during his lifetime. Let us take an example. Suppose that a man is destined to breathe 500,000,000 times in his present life. With average breathing of 21600 times a day, he will live (500000000/ 21600) days which amounts to about 63.4 years. Suppose that his breathing average falls to 15000 cycles per day, then the formulae become (500000000/ 15000) which amounts to 91 years. Similarly, if he breathes faster to make the daily average 30000, then he lives only 46 years.
When we breathe fast, which happens when we are often angry, in fear, stressed, and full of anxiety, then our life span shortens. It is important to note that we also breathe faster during physical exercises and doing sports, but it is only a short spell and is beneficial to the mind and physical body.
We breathe slower when we relax and meditate, which increases the length of our life.
Tortoise breathes slower and it has a very long life of about 300 years. Rabbits and the deer in the jungles breathe faster mainly because of fear of predators, and they have a very short life.
By Professor (Retired) Sunanda Degamboda