The term Prana refers to the all-pervasive life force ("vital air") that sustains and enlivens all things in creation. Although Prana is all-pervasive, it is especially associated with the breath, as breath is associated with and indicates life. A fundamental part of yoga disciplines taught by all branches of yoga is the regulation of prana (pranayama), by means of regulating the breath. It is taught that mastery of prana is a key requisite toward self-realization through yogic Samadhi.
In the theology of the Vedas, one finds Prana (Mahaprana) personified as the first born or embryo of the Supreme Being, and referred to as Prajapati (Lord of creatures), Hiranyagarbha (Golden-Embryo) or Sutratman (String-Soul). He is the foremost among the Devas; He is the Sustainer and Support of all beings in the physical world. All beings in existence are strung onto the thread of Mahaprana. The Prana Sukta of Atharvaveda sings of this mighty Prana in the grandest of terms:
As all these creatures, O Prana, offer Thee tribute, so they shall offer tribute (in yonder world) to Him who hears Thee, o far-famed One![Atharvaveda Samhita XI.4.19-26]
He moves as an embryo within the Devas; having arrived and being in existence, He is born again. Having arisen He enters with His mights, the present and the future, as a father (goes to) his son.
When as a swan He rises from the water, he does not withdraw His one foot. If in truth He were to withdraw it, there would be neither today nor tomorrow, no night and no day, never would the dawn appear.
With either wheels, and one felloe He moves, containing a Thousand sounds (elements), upward in the east, downward in the west. With (His) half He produced the whole world: what is the visible sign of His (other) half?
He who rules over all this derived from every source, and over everything that moves; Reverence to Thee, O Prana, that wieldest a swift bow against others!
May Prana, who rules over this (all) derived from every source, and over everything that moves, (may He) unwearied, strong through the Brahmâ, adhere to me!
Erect He watches in those that sleep, nor does lie down across. No one had heard of His sleeping in those that sleep.
O Prana, be not turned away from me, Thou shalt not be other than myself! As the embryo of the Waters, Thee, O Prana, do bind to me, that I may live.
Prana is identified as the Sustainer of all beings, all life forms, and the Ruler of the physical world. Prana is the embryo (child) of the Waters (the Supreme Being). He, whom the Vedas personify and glorify as Mahaprana, is none other than Lord Ganesha, the first born Son of Shiva (Supreme Being). Ganesha is the Mahadeva who rules over the physical plane, all categories of beings (ganas), and is the foremost among Devas for this very reason.
While Prana is one unitary principle, in the living body Prana is divided into five forces (vital airs) known as prana, apana, vyana, samana and udana, according to their functions. These five pranas are responsible for vital functions such as inhalation, exhalation, hunger, thirst, circulation, distribution, transformation, digestion, absorption, elimination, expulsion, excretion, sleepiness, speech, motion, stillness, control of limbs, etc. The five vital airs work within the subtle body to enliven and maintain the physical body, which is the outer most shell of our being. The five faces of Lord Ganapati, in fact, are nothing but representations of these five pranas, over which He rules. Just as the five pranas are simply divisions of one unitary Prana, so the five faces are simply divided visions of one Being.
Homage to Him, the Mahaprana, whom we regard as our beloved Lord Ganesha, the first born and the first to be worshipped.
Aum Gam Ganapataye Namah.
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