Prana, The Breath of Life, The Light of Christ
It is said that our first breath sets the tone for our life. I came into the world fighting and angry at the authority that was pulling me from my mother’s womb. In my baby pictures, I still have the marks on the side of my head from the forceps. True to the saying, an emotional theme was set in my life for a few decades.
When I started my Kundalini Yoga and Meditation journey in earnest, I found myself at a rebirthing class, where I was told we were going to do a meditation to clear any pain or trauma from our own births and then we would each retake our first breath.
I dropped into a deep state of self-hypnosis and saw myself in the womb. I also saw through my mother’s eyes and all her love and hopes for me. I prepared for the birth as I chanted and meditated, and then came the breathing. We breathed for a long time, slowly and deeply across the tongue.
I was not sure which breath would be the first breath of my rebirth, but I could feel it approaching. I was in the birth canal. I could feel a pressure building. Inexplicably, I started laughing and crying. A blissful feeling was rising up my spine, and my legs went tingly. It was more amazing than any kind of bodily ecstasy I had ever felt. The bliss was almost too much to bear, but I allowed it to flow all through me as I wept joyful, laughing, ecstatic tears. I was told afterward that my experience was not uncommon for people who practiced Kundalini Yoga. I was hooked.
Though I was never really sure which breath was my new first breath, there was no question that I had been reborn, and it was an ecstatic rebirth. From that day on, my life began to transform. That simple breath full of joy and excitement set a new direction for my life. The biggest change that everyone soon noticed was in my voice and the power of my words.
Indeed, the breath and the Word are intimately related. In the heavenly realms, first came the Word, followed by its servant, the breath of life, prana. In the earthly realms, however, the breath comes first. Then, as everyone anxiously awaits, comes the first sound—or yell, in some cases––the sound that signifies we are alive and here to stay.
I am here to stay––however, only temporarily––as long as God gives me breath. It is said that the breath is the kiss of God. It is the spark that animates the body and the glue that holds spirit and body together. The account in the book of Abraham of the creation of man is interesting because we learn that even though both body and spirit were joined, they did not become alive until God breathed the breath of life into Adam: “[God] formed man from the dust of the ground, and took his spirit (that is, the man’s spirit), and put it into him; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” ( Abraham 5:7).
According to ancient masters, “Prana is a mystical force that is found in all living physical entities, but which is non-physical. It is in the air without being air. It is in water without being water. it is in food without being food.” The ancients said that wherever there is life in the universe, there is prana. Without prana, all would be dead, lifeless matter. The word prana is derived from the Sanskrit word signifying absolute energy, divine energy, or as I know it, the Light of Christ.
The scriptures say that the Light of Christ “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space” and is “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed.” Though prana fills the immensity of space and is in all things, humans have a special relationship with prana because of our intellectual capabilities, which empower us to receive and transfer prana. Consequently, we can choose to fill ourselves with more prana, and we can also “send” prana to others for healing purposes.
As I have stated elsewhere in this book, most people sleepwalk through life, giving away their agency to subconscious thought forms until they are powerless, emotional zombies.
Kundalini Yoga teaches that as prana enters the body, it awakens our divine energy. The purpose of Kundalini Yoga is to raise this energy back to God, where it can blend with Infinite energy and then circulate back through us, creating amazing outcomes: awakening, healing, rebirth, and other benefits shared by contributors to this book. In order to raise that energy, however, we need enough prana.
There are many ways of taking in prana to the body, but the number one way is through the air, through our breath. The close association between breath and spirituality is evident in many languages. In English, the word inspiration means “to breath in.” The Greek word for breath means “soul.” The Hebrew word for breath means “spirit of God.” Many yogis believe that the length of one’s life is not predetermined in years but in a prefixed number of breaths. Therefore, by lengthening the breath, we can lengthen our lives.
The prana we take in with our regular breathing can be a source of great energy, vitality, and nourishment to the body and spirit. Yet according to Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa and Cameron Stauth, one-third of people don’t breathe deep enough to sustain normal health.
The magic of the breath is that it is the only system in the body that can be controlled consciously or unconsciously. You can choose to breathe, or you can let the respiratory system breathe you. By choosing to consciously control what is normally an unconscious process, you can change unconscious patterns. As the scriptures teach us, living unconsciously is like sleepwalking. I believe it is safe to assume from all the uses of the word awaken in the scriptures that the ancients were concerned about this sleepwalking condition. One of their techniques for combating it was pranayam.
Pranayam is the use of breathing techniques to control the movement of prana. Kundalini Yoga includes a wide range of pranayam techniques to manage and affect different energy states of emotion, consciousness, and health. Even a slight change in this pran, or “seed energy,” can change your entire world. Mastering the breath is therefore fundamental to mastering life.
I love how answers to some of the deepest mysteries and most complex problems in life are often embedded in very simple things. If you want to change your mental or emotional state, change your breath. That’s what I taught Janice. Here is her story:
I noticed that I was always super grumpy and irritated when I got home from work. I realized it was from having a difficult time transitioning from work mode to homemaker/mother mode. In a meditation class, I learned that alternate nostril breath was really helpful in transitioning and changing states. So I started to use this tool to help me be happy with my family. After driving home from work, I take a minute to do my breathing routine. I also take a minute to visualize how I want to act when I am home with my children. I say a few affirmations like "I am joyfully choosing to serve my family," etc., and then go inside to greet my family. It is amazing what a difference this has made. I really am happy and joyful when I remember to take one minute to do this. It makes my home a much happier place.
Janice has also taught this deep mystery of life to her children:
When my children are arguing, fighting, talking back, or otherwise choosing bad behavior, I have them play the breath game. Each child gets to make up a new way to breathe as quickly as they can. If they protest, I make one up for them or just breathe consciously myself. They come up with some pretty silly breaths. It immediately creates a shift and change. All negativity vanishes in an instant, in just one breath. It is truly amazing how quickly and effectively that one simple change (the breath) can change everything else.
Janice’s children are blessed to have this opportunity to examine and break the habit of ignoring the breath. This simple breathing exercise, learned while they are young, will give them the power to creatively direct their lives, their relationships, and their potential.
The manual section of this book describes several pranayams that are fundamental to the practice of Kundalini Yoga. All of them are fairly simple, but not necessarily easy, depending on your currently established patterns. Learning to breath correctly is arguably one of the most important things for a student of Kundalini Yoga to master.
When Bonnie (see page xx) was beginning her Kundalini Yoga and Meditation journey, she learned that she was a paradoxical breather. In other words, she was breathing backward and pulling her navel in on the inhale. It took her many days of conscious practice to correct this pattern. One day I received a message from her that said, “I woke up feeling happy today, which hasn’t happened in a long time. I know it has something to do with breathing correctly.”
A few years ago, my friend Lani went through a horrible five-month battle with anxiety and depression. When she started getting sick, she told me that she couldn’t breathe. Breathing problems are common among those who suffer from anxiety. For Lani, the problem was partially tied to suppressed grief about losing a beloved grandmother. As she learned and practiced several breathing techniques, her constant gasping for air decreased and her anxiety and depression diminished. As she began to breathe correctly (in combination with other treatments), she was able to heal from the inside out and open her heart to feel and release the grief. She is much better now, but whenever she feels panic setting in, she stops whatever she is doing (or thinking) and begins conscious breathing techniques––breathing out the panic and restoring peace.
Breath = Spirit
- Prana comes in on the air but is not air.
- In LDS terminology, prana is the Light of Christ.
- We can obtain more prana, and we can direct it.
- As prana enters the body, it awakens the Kundalini energy––the divine, purifying, healing, enlightening energy.
- Though prana comes in with the air, it doesn’t necessarily go to the lungs. Prana circulates through the nadis and can be directed to different areas. For some people, when they have a lot of prana at the Third Eye Point and they meditate with closed eyes, they see purple.
- The spiritual importance of breathing is evident in the English language: Inspiration means “to breathe in”; the Greek word for breath (pneuma) also means “soul.” The Hebrew word for breath also means “spirit of God.”
- Life is a series of breaths. Some say life is a fixed number of breaths: you can lengthen your life by slowing down your breath.
- The Kundalini is raised to God, but the body can also store the Kundalini energy, thereby adding vitality.
- Prana is not physical and is not limited to space or touch. People who have mastered prana have a heightened ability to heal others with touch, as well as with the mental powers of intuition, precognition, and telepathy and distance healing.
- Insufficient prana results in malaise and a decrease in spiritual sensitivity.
- We must cultivate and command the breath before we can command words and emotions.
- Prana gives the Word power.
Physiology of Breath
- Every cell is dependent on oxygen.
- Without enough oxygen, cell function declines, causing pain and disease If brain cells do not receive enough oxygen, emotional distress results.
- Abundant oxygen results in high energy and a good mood.
- Breathing, which involves the diaphragm and the lungs, also increases blood circulation.
- One of most common problems resulting from shallow breathing is poor digestion. (The intestines have been likened to the second brain.)
- Regular conscious breathing tones the nervous system.
- Regular deep breathing directly cleanses the lungs of toxic debris.
- Breathing has a powerful effect on mood. The mind follows the breath, and the body follows the mind, so change your breathing to change your mood.
- Controlling the breath is an effective method of decreasing pain, anger, and fear.
- Conscious breathing shifts the body out of fight-or-flight mode, which can destroy the body over time.
- Conscious breathing can reprogram the autonomic nervous system, which is the body’s first defense against illness.
- One-third of people do not breathe well enough to sustain normal health.
 Dharma Singh Khalsa and Cameron Stauth, Meditation as Medicine: Activate the Power of Your Natural Healing Force (New York: Fireside, 2001), 55.
 The Light of Christ should not be confused with the Holy Ghost (the Holy Spirit). The Light of Christ influences people for good and prepares them to receive the Holy Ghost.
 Doctrine and Covenants 88:12–13; see also Doctrine and Covenants 88:6–11.
 In the scriptures, the Light of Christ is sometimes called the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, or the Light of Life. For the purpose of this book, I will use the terms prana and the Light of Christ.
 Khalsa and Stauth, Meditation as Medicine, 55.
 Some people distinguish between the subconscious and the unconscious minds; however, for simplicity, they are used interchangeably in this book.
 Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher: KRI International Teacher Training Manual, Level 1 (Santa Cruz, NM: Kundalini Research Institute, 2007), 90.
 Khalsa and Stouth, Meditation as Medicine, 55.
 Doctrine and Covenants 88:12–13.
 Khalsa and Stouth, Meditation as Medicine, 56.
 Ibid., 57.
 Ibid., 59.
 Ibid., 57.
 Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher, 90.
 Khalsa and Stouth, Meditation as Medicine, 60.
 Ibid., 60-61
 Ibid., 60
 Ibid., 60-62.
 Ibid.. 62.
 Ibid., 55.