Breathing is very important in yoga. That’s because breathing is one of the easiest ways to connect with Qi. Prana is an all-encompassing life energy that exists and constitutes everything. It exists in all visible and invisible, animate and inanimate things.
Many cultures around the world acknowledge the existence of this energy. For example, in China and Japan, it is called Qi and Ki respectively.
Knowing and activating the way prana flows through the body through yoga asana and pranayama (yogic breath control technique) is key to keeping your body in balance and staying healthy.
There are five different types of prana that move and function in specific ways. They’re part of your body’s delicate, vibrant anatomy, and you can learn how to manipulate them through regular practice of yoga, meditation, and pranayama.
what is prana
what is prana
The Sanskrit word prana literally means breath, or more precisely the breath of life. This is an important concept in the Chandogya Upanishad text from 3000 years ago. The understanding of Prana was further developed in later Upanishads and remains at the heart of the traditional practice of Hatha Yoga and Tantric Yoga.
BKS Iyengar describes Prana as the bioelectric energy produced by breathing through the opposing forces of fire and water.
He also further described Prana as a self-motivating force that helps neutralize the constant fluctuations of thought.
Prana is stored in the seven chambers of the energy body. Many people already know these chambers as the seven chakras along the spine.
When prana flows, your entire body and energy system is in balance. However, if there is blockage or even excess energy in certain chakras, it can lead to imbalances and even health, mental and emotional disturbances.
Prana through chakras and energetic body
Prana through chakras and energetic body
The physical body is easy to study and observe. It consists of our skeletal system, muscular system and everything we can see, feel, hear and touch with our senses.
But we also have a dynamic anatomy. This body is subtle and has been studied and documented for thousands of years. This is especially true in the East, where Indian and Chinese cultures view an energetic body as an important part of overall health and well-being in traditional healing systems.
Central to understanding how prana flows through your body is imagining rivers, or nadis, flowing through your body. Three particularly important meridians are located on the left and right sides of the spine.
The central channel of these rivers is the midrib. This flow starts at the base of your spine and moves up to the top of your head.
On the right side of Sushumna Nadi is Pingala Nadi. This has to do with more solar or masculine energy. It starts at the base of your spine and exists through your right nostril. Since it’s primarily located on the right side of your body, it’s associated with left-brain dominance (physiologically controlling the right side of your body). The left hemisphere is more inclined towards analytical, logical and strategic thinking.
Another major nadi to the left of the sushumna is Ida Nadi. This has to do with the moon and the feminine energy. Like pingala, ida nadi starts at the base of your spine and exits through your left nostril. It is associated with right-brain dominance, which favors unconventional thinking, creativity, and information gathering rather than sequential gathering.
Ida and pingala nadis intersect and form a double helix pattern similar to DNA. Wherever these two meridians meet at the midrib, an energy center or chakra is formed.
Like meridians, there are countless chakras in your body. But most focus on the seven main chakras.
- The root chakra – the root chakra – at the base of the spine
- Svadhisthana – the sacral chakra – located two inches below the navel
- Manipura – Solar Plexus Chakra – Placing this chakra on your solar plexus is more of a new age invention. In traditional subtle anatomy, the navel chakra is located two inches above the navel
- Anahatha – the heart chakra – located in your heart
- Vishuddha – Vishuddha – located in your throat
- Ajna Chakra – the third eye chakra – located between the eyebrows
- Crown Chakra – crown chakra – located about a foot above the top of the head
Prana already flows naturally through the nadis, activating each chakra. Through various breathing techniques called pranayama and asanas, you support the flow of energy and the quality of prana flowing through your system.
Connecting with prana through breath (Pranayama)
Five different prana or vayus pass through your body. These winds have different characteristics and will affect you in different ways. But by practicing yoga asana and pranayama, you can learn to access wind currents and help them move within your system for optimal health.
Of course, anatomically, breathing can only reach the lungs for oxygen exchange within the body. But prana is part of your subtle yet vibrant anatomy, so it can be manipulated through your attention and awareness.
1. Apana Vayu
Movement: Down and Out
Location: Lower abdomen – root and abdominal chakras
Everything that goes into your body has to come out again, whether it’s food, fluids, or breath. This is most evident on a physical level through the elimination of urine, feces and menstruation. Ease of elimination is the hallmark of a healthy Apana Vayu.
But this also works for removing unhealthy t