The purpose of any sadhana or conscious spiritual practice is the awakening of cosmic consciousness. Kundalini is consciousness, sleeping like a coiled snake at the base of the spine, where the opening to sushumna nadi, the central energy channel, is located. When kundalini is awakened, she ascends up sushumna nadi through the levels of consciousness represented by the seven chakras, or energy centers. Kundalini’s ascension to cosmic consciousness represents our evolution from self-absorption toward realization of the higher Self. To encourage kundalini to awaken and begin this ascent, the yogi must be able to channel prana, the life force, upward.
Where there is life there is prana. In Sanskrit, pra means moving and na means always. Prana is like electricity, in that electricity exists in the natural world in wild and unpredictable forms. Lightening strikes here and there; you never know where it’s going to hit. But if you capture that same electricity inside a wire, its movements become predictable and controllable.
As long as we live we are prana conductors, but our wires may be bent, blocked or broken. The yoga practices are designed to help us unclog the channels so that prana can flow freely and we can learn to direct our life force toward enlightenment.
Pranayama is one practice for gaining control of prana through conscious breathing. Through the regular practice of pranayama, we learn how to tap into the quality-less form of prana beyond the three gunas. When we connect with that prana, it will carry us back to Satchitananda: Truth, Knowledge and Bliss.
Excerpt from Chapter 6, Jivamukti Yoga by Sharon Gannon & David Life