For some years now, I have been reading and learning from the writings of various Hindu yogis and Buddhist monks, including in particular the immense work of Paramahansa Yogananda, based on Vedanta and his own extraordinary life experiences with meditation and yoga, and have been especially fascinated by this notion of will and mindpower creating prana or life-force that he writes about in many different ways.
Prana, commonly understood to be “breath” in yoga, is actually energy, he says, it is the life-force or vital energy that informs our being–it is similar to the Chinese chi–and it can be continually replenished. How this is accomplished is partially through our daily natural intake of Cosmic Energy, which he says fills the universe, and enters our material bodies continuously–particularly out in Nature–by way of the brain, the medulla, the spine; and partially through our own willingness, will- or mindpower.
In other words, the will to create, the will to heal oneself, the will to speak out, the will to endure/transcend/surmount obstacles of any kind, external or internal in itself is powerful, for it is the first step in creating a surge of life-force and healing energies within. With your mind, you take the first step. With your intention and will, you set the stage for your own empowerment. What’s unleashed is a surge of supportive life-energy or vital life-force, which can pour through your veins and bring actual healing to the cells of your body, actual strength to your muscles, actual vibrance and radiance to your whole self.
“The basic source of bodily existence is prana (life energy)…The link between man’s material body and his immaterial mind is prana….Man’s willpower is the great generator of energy. Through will power and willingness one is able to draw quickly on the infinite store of inner strength.” (Understanding the Unreality of Matter, Man’s Eternal Quest (1982, Self-Realization Fellowship).)
“All around you are thieves of circumstances, trying to steal your vitality of will, but no-one can take away your will but yourself.” (Developing Dynamic Will, Man’s Eternal Quest (1982, Self-Realization Fellowship).)
“The life-force within our bodies is in fact the source of life. It is a conscious power: the creator of the organs and the supplier of their vitality as well…One should learn gradually to make greater use of the mind. By doing so, you will realize the mind is a superb instrument. Whatever you command, it will do…Through fasting, let your mind depend on its own power. When that power manifests, the life force in the body becomes increasingly reinforced with the eternal energy continually flowing into the brain and spine from the cosmic energy around the body, entering through the medulla.” (The Physical and Spiritual Rewards of Fasting, Man’s Eternal Quest (1982, Self-Realization Fellowship).)
You Can Use Your Own Prana to Heal Yourself
Elsewhere, he speaks about the ways in which, by dint of specific practice, you can effect specific bodily healing, for any part of your body, by directing life-force/prana to that part. The regular, meditative practices of yoga and pranayama, for instance, are designed to bring life-energy to specific parts of the body–as we know today also from tai-chi, qi-gong, and other healing systems of exercise. But a simple way of drawing prana down is discussed in his Yogoda Satsanga exercises, where he suggests that just tightening a muscle or body part especially causes energy-flow to that part.
Tightening, he suggests, is a method of imparting tension to a specific spot, and by tensing until you can feel the energy vibrating there, you are focusing prana in that area. The exercise below, taken from the book, Inner Peace, How to be Calmly Active and Actively Calm (1999, Self-Realization Fellowship), offers a means of whole-body relaxation by first tensing and then relaxing, using breath to modulate the flow of energy in your body.
“Tense with will: By command of will, direct the life energy (through the process of tension) to flood the body or any body part. Feel the energy vibrating there, energizing and revitalizing.
Relax and feel: Relax the tension and feel the soothing tingle of new life and vitality in the recharged area. Feel that you are not the body; you are that life which sustains the body. Feel the peace, the increased awareness that comes with the calmness produced by the practice of this technique.
a. Inhale, holding the breath.
b. Gently contract the entire body, all muscles at once.
c. Hold the contraction for a count of 1 to 20, with deep attention on the entire body.
d. Exhale, releasing the contraction.
Repeat 3 times, at any time you feel weak and nervous.”
Other such gems can be found sprinkled throughout his writings. The Self-Realization Fellowship, which he founded, has branches all over the US and internationally, publishes books and runs yoga and meditation workshops, among other activities.