For centuries wise-men and sages have admonished man to awaken and become truly self aware. Many techniques have been promoted to achieve this awakening. From simple self observation to self flagellation, from discipline of the mind with meditation to purification of the body with asana, there is hardly a technique that has been not been prescribed at one time or other.
All these so called ‘spiritual’ disciplines are simply tools to break down the walls imposed by the processes of the everyday mind, the language based part of the mind. These processes are based on separation and distinction, past, present and future, object and subject, you and I. This mental filter is essential for survival in society and for all technological and scientific thought. But it is also this precise process that has resulted in our alienation as a species. This is the original sin of the Old Testament, the awareness of subject and object, bringing with it consciousness of the self and the possibility of shame and unhappiness, allowing us to become divorced from our deepest instincts, causing the false separation of mind and body.
The goal of many spiritual practices is to break down this false distinction and achieve union (yoga). Union of mind and body can then evolve into ultimate union between individual consciousness and universal consciousness.
But if the mind and body are actually one then what is it that bridges their seemingly very different natures?
According to the yogic tradition the path between them is Prana, the universal energy of which all things are made. Linking mind and body is the pranic body, the energetic body, a subtle sheath of energy in constant flux. It is here that disease manifests even before affecting the physical body and it’s here that thought processes originate in the deep mind. Mental patterns affect the pranic body, which then affects the mind. Both of them are in turn affected by and affect the physical body.
Many spiritual disciplines and healing techniques can lead to awareness of the energy body, but one of the surest paths is through the breath. The breath is the principle vehicle for Prana, the main way that Prana is absorbed by the energy body. Control over the breath leads to control over the subtle flow of energy in the body.
Know thy breath, know thyself.