The Journey of Prana
This post is about ‘What is Prana’ in Yogic jargon, how it works on various functional systems of your body, how it influences your mind, and how it fuels our system at the physical level, energy level, and mental level.
Prana is available everywhere, But most of the time we are not able to absorb that prana into our system in abundance… Yoga does that, once absorbed into the human body, it manifests as 5 different kinds to take care of various functions in our body-mind complex. Like how you have an organization running with different departments, Prana divides and functions as 5 different vayus called Pancha prana.
So when you have a specific problem, be it chest infection, indigestion, constipation… we know which Prana to work on… Every asana or pranayama practice in Yoga influences one or two pranas. So let us see all about it in detail
So this post, we will understand what are the five pranas and how they work towards the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of our system.
Why do we have to understand the pranas that work inside our body… We all studied the basics of Human anatomy in school, didn’t we? , If you are a yoga practitioner or planning to bring yoga into your life, then you need to understand the Yogic anatomy. Understanding five pranas are an important part of yogic anatomy. In Yoga, The anatomy and physiology go further beyond our physical body to several subtler bodies…Let us start with the basics…
What Is Prana?
- It is the vital force, the energy that runs in our body,
- The energy that moves in our system
- The force that keeps up the activities of the physical body
Without Prana, there wouldn’t be living in the body
Now coming to understand,…Is it the same as breath? Ancient text HYP States ‘ Death is nothing but prana leaving the body…, Practically when we see that when there is no breath, we call it death. But are these terms can be used interchangeably? No…Prana is a vital force that moves in our body using Breath as a vehicle. Like how we move around using a vehicle, it moves in our system using the breath. When the vehicle is in a good condition, then our prana can move around in our body more effectively and supply energy. So What we are trying here is to work on our breath to work on our prana.
Where do we receive prana?
Prana is obtained from the five elements of the Universe.
- Earth element – Through the food we take
- Water element – Through the liquids we drinks
- Air element – By oxygen intake through our breathing
- Fire Element – Through Sun energy
- Space Element – Through the thoughts and subtler energies
Basically what I am trying to tell is Prana is obtained from several sources. It is the efficiency of your system to create energy from any of the systems. Mostly we depend on Food and water element which periodically depletes. Yogis of olden age had the skill to produce energy in the body using other elements… That’s why we hear stories that yogis from the past go meditating for ages without food and water….
If we know how to tap prana from other elements, then we are not much dependent on food. Some of you would have noticed, if you are into intense pranayama practices, if you are practicing regularly twice or thrice a day, you don’t feel much hungry, Becoz body acquires the necessary prana from Air element… So u r not dependent on food that much… So if u r into a diet program, keep this point on your side.
Where is prana?
So now, we get the question, where is it? Does it have conduits to move around? Yes, it does, as per Yogic texts, these conduits are called Nadis which is located in our subtler body. There are 72000 nadis in our system which carries Prana to our entire system. As per Taitriya Upanishad, our Human constitution is made up of this gross physical body which is called Annamayam, and 4 other subtler bodies as you see in this image.
The outermost is the Annamayam , which is the gross physical body
Second layer is the Pranamayam, which is the energy body / Pranic body
Third layer is the Manonmayam, which is the mental body
Fourth layer is the Vijnanamayam , which is the intellectual body
Fifth layer is the Aanandha Mayam which is the bliss body.
This order of arrangement is not based on its actual placement whereas this order is based on gross to subtler. Forex, our energy body is subtler than the Physical body, Our mental body is subtler than the energy body, and so on…
The Connecting Link
It is a connecting link between body and mind. Ancient Tamil yogic text Thirumandiram has an interesting view on Prana. Thirumandiram verse 564 talks about Prana Jayam which means mastering Prana. It says that our soul is the one that controls the five senses of our mind. Here the author Thirumoolar refers to the mind as horses. But to control the mind, one should have mastered Prana which acts as a bridle on horses. Till then, we will be swayed by the mind which runs wherever it wants like a horse that is out of control.
As per yoga yajna vakya Samhita an ancient yogic text, our prana extends 12 inches away from our body. The goal is to contain the prana within 12 inches, once dissipates beyond a certain limit, then we feel low in energy. At times, when we are not able to think clearly, not able to make the right decision, our prana is not contained within. We can notice that prana is low, when a person is not feeling well physically or mentally.