My guru, Sri Yukteswar, liked a chant that I have translated, two lines from which go, "Pranayama be thy religion. Pranayama will give thee salvation."
Pranayama means control of the energy in the body, and its direction upward through the spine to the brain and to the Christ center between the eyebrows. This alone is the pathway of awakening. It isn’t a matter of dogma or belief. It is simply the way we were all made by God.
The consciousness enters the body by way of the brain and the spine. When the sperm and ovum unite to create the physical body, they do so at what becomes the medulla oblongata, at the base of the brain.
From this medulla, the life force moves out into the brain, down the spine and into the nervous system, then on to the muscles, etc., creating the body.
The way out of the body, then, is to reverse this process. The difficulty in doing so lies in the fact that the life force is already conditioned by birth to continue its outward direction — through the senses and onward to the environment as it is perceived through the senses. Thus, we think to possess the world and to enjoy it through the body.
We can never experience anything outside ourselves, however, except vicariously, as the senses report their impressions to the brain. We may try to expand our understanding of the world by study, or our enjoyment of it through sense pleasures. The fact remains, we can never know anything except through the medium of the senses, so long as the life force remains trapped in the body.
There is a way out, however. It is for the life-force to merge with the cosmic energy; for the consciousness to merge in the infinite consciousness.
The way to accomplish this end is to withdraw the life force from the senses, and center it in the spine; to direct it upward through the spine to the brain, and thence out through the Christ center between the eyebrows.
The ego is centered in the medulla oblongata. This is the negative pole of self-consciousness. The positive pole is situated at the Christ center. Concentration at this center — in the spiritual eye, the seat of spiritual vision — projects the consciousness beyond the ego into Infinity.
The spine is the highway to the Infinite. Your own body is the temple of God. It is within your own self that God must be realized. Whatever places of pilgrimage you visit outwardly, and whatever outward rituals you perform, the ultimate ‘pilgrimage’ must be within. And the ultimate religious rite must be the offering of your life-force on the altar of inner God-communion.