Prana vidya is an advanced yogic practice distilled from the classical traditions and developed in the Satyananda Yoga system. It involves a deep exploration of prana, the life force, and develops the ability to channel this underlying principle of existence. Not only does the practice allow access to subtle levels of consciousness, but it is also an effective healing method.
This book is divided in two parts. The first part discusses the theory of prana vidya, from the yogic, cross-cultural, and scientific points of view. The second part includes the practices, beginning with preparatory and foundational techniques and gradually moving into advanced methods. The detailed practices systematically guide the practitioner towards a refined pranic awareness and control, eventually leading to mastery in directing the vital force of life.
Prana Vidya is the sequel to Prana and Pranayama, which provides for a basic understanding, awareness and control of prana, forming the ground upon which prana vidya can be practised.
Prana vidya, literally 'the science of the life force', has been a part of every spiritual tradition since time immemorial. The basic principle underlying every aspirant's effort is accessing the energy latent in the individual and in the cosmos. Terminologies have differed, methods have varied, but transformation has come about only when the vital force has been channelled, whether directly or indirectly. In the Indian tradition, the seers used a particular term to denote the knowledge of this process: prana vidya.
References to prana vidya can be found in the Upanishads, dating back to 500 BC, and in later works such as Yoga Vasishtha. The pertinent verses seem to indicate that the principle of prana vidya was widely employed by seekers since the vedic times. However, there is no specific guidance provided in the texts; it was always left to a master to interpret the notion according to his individual experience and pass the knowledge down to a deserving disciple. In addition, unlike pranayama which has a more or less standard methodology, the scope of prana vidya is much wider. Therefore, different masters used different paths by which an aspirant could unfold and direct the latent energy. The tantric tradition, for instance, evolved its own system of awakening energy using the scheme of chakras, energy plexuses, and nadis, energy channels.
In the 20th century, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, a siddha guru, perfected master, distilled the essence of several esoteric practices from the ancient texts and guided aspirants in their application. Through the depth of his own yogic understanding, he gave the practices a structured form which allowed one to systematically deepen the experience. These included yoga nidra, pranayama, ajapa japa, antar mouna, pawanmuktasana, shankhaprakshalana, as well as prana vidya.
Swami Satyananda's approach to prana vidya was based on tantra. He used the science of chakras, nadis and mantras to identify and influence the energy patterns in the body. This would, on one level, bring about greater vitality, healing, as well as shifts in mental patterns. Gradually, the aspirant would experience prana as pure light connecting him or her to the source of life and consciousness. In the final stage, the practice would become the pathway for merging with mahaprana, the cosmic energy.
The original teachings of prana vidya by Swami Satyananda were captured in the text Prana Vidya, published in 1976. Over fifteen years later, in 1994, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati published the text Prana Prana-yama Prana Vidya, which expanded the initial teachings. Over the years that followed, a new vision emerged and it was decided to present the teachings in two volumes: 1. Prana and Pranayama, and 2. Prana Vidya.
Prana and Pranayama was published in 2009 and offers essential understanding of the principles of prana, both yogic and scientific, and includes a stage-by-stage description of the practices of pranayama as taught in the Satyananda Yoga tradition by the Bihar School of Yoga. This text, Prana Vidya, constitutes the sequel and explores a wider dimension of prana.
The division of the volumes indicates that an aspirant must first acquire an understanding of prana and develop proficiency in pranayama (under the guidance of an experienced teacher) before moving on to the more advanced practice of prana vidya. Therefore, prior to attempting the practices outlined in this text, one should make a thorough reading of Prang and Pranayama, and try to perfect the practices given therein. Even so, whether one is ready to commence prana vidya sadhana can only be ascertained by a master.
The content of Prana Vidya is divided into two parts. Part One discusses the theory of prana vidya, exploring it as a meditation technique, a tool for acquiring the knowledge of prana, an art and science of healing, a skill to influence and control prana at will, and more. It also includes research conducted by leading scientists worldwide - supporting the notions of yogis and healers whose timeless wisdom has inspired people for centuries.
Part Two covers the practices. Chapters 7-10 detail various practices to prepare and maintain the body, mind and pranas for prana vidya. Chapters 11-16 outline the stages of prana vidya in a systematic way. Two of the final chapters include practices that relate to healing oneself and others through the conscious channelling of prana. The last chapter provides two class transcripts of advanced prana vidya with Swami Satyananda and Swami Niranjanananda, respectively.
The first stage of prana vidya commences with practices designed to awaken prana. The next stage involves practices that raise and store the awakened prana. The more advanced practices facilitate the expansion and distribution of prana internally, throughout the body, and externally, into the surrounding environment. Each progressive stage aims to develop and further refine pranic awareness, sensitivity and control. It is imperative that each stage is mastered before moving on to the next; this may take one month, one year or more. There should never be any rush to move on.
As the practices unfold, many psychic experiences manifest and guidance often becomes necessary. Thus, success in prana vidya requires regular practice and patience, and adherence to the master's instructions. If one stays firmly on the path, one will eventually experience dhyana, complete absorption, and samadhi, union with the self.
**Contents and Sample Pages**