The ancient yoga science describes Prana as the subtle life force energy that permeates everyone of us and the entire universe, it sustains the body and creation. The Sanskrit word prana can be defined as the force in constant motion. Prana flows in everything that exists. Prana exists in sentient beings as the energy that drives every action, voluntary and involuntary, every thought, every level of the mind and body. In scientific terms prana can be defined as (2) a complex multidimensional energy; a combination of electrical, magnetic, electromagnetic, photonic, ocular, thermal and mental energies. Prana also exists in the insentient world, causing motion, growth and decay. Prana is, indeed, the basis of manifested creation. It is the force that emerged out of the ‘original willing’ of the primal consciousness to bring about creation.
In the Upanishads (a collection of hinduist texts) we find the following story. Once all the deities that reside in the body, air, fire, water, earth, ether, speech and mind, had an argument. Each claimed that it was superior to all others. Prana was listening to this debate, and ultimately said to them, “Do not delude yourself. It is I, having divided myself into five parts, who supports and sustains this body.” The deities did not believe him. Then prana began to withdraw from the body. Instantly, all the other deities found themselves withdrawing too. When prana again settled in the body, the deities found that they had assumed their respective places. Convinced of prana’s superiority, all now paid obeisance to Prana.
In the body, prana energy flows through the energy channels known as nadis and is stored and transformed in the body’s energy centres; the Chakras.
To maintain high levels of prana we need to live well.
Each food contains a certain level of vital energy. The ancient Bhagavat Ghita scripts provide a classification of food in three categories according to their quality of prana energy. According to a scientific study, processed foods are shown to have less vital energy than fruit and vegetables (1). Our intentions during food preparation can also boost the levels of prana.
Both the quality of air you inhale and how you breath can contribute to the levels of your prana energy.
The vitality we experience in nature is because the level of prana in the air is higher than in the city. Vital energy levels in polluted or recycled air are low. According to science (2) prana can be explained in terms of ions. When enough energy acts upon a gaseous molecule, the electron is ejected and can be attached to an adjacent molecule. When the displaced electron attaches itself to an adjacent molecule, it becomes a negative ion. The original molecule then becomes a positive ion. Positive and negative ions are the components of the air one breathes. When one inhales negative ions, they increase the level of prana in the body. The opposite happens when we inhale positive ions. On a mountain or by the beach, there are about 5,000 negative ions per square foot while in the city or in a stuffy room we may have less than 50 negative ions per square foot. It has been proven that being in a an environment with an abundance of negative ions improves mood and overall energy levels. Negative ions are not prana, but when one inhales them the level of prana in the body increases. This is because air is a vehicle for prana to enter the body. It has also been observed that the ability to assimilate negative ions goes up during yogic practices such as pranayama.
Pranayama are breathing exercises to control the prana through breathing (“ayama” means to regulate or lengthen). Practiced correctly and regularly these breathing techniques can unblock the nadis and chakras and can enhance the levels of prana in your body.
Meditation which can include the regulation of breathing, serves to create more prana in the mind. When the mind is brought to a silent and receptive condition new energy can come into being.
Yoga postures (Asanas)
When practising yoga, one opens the energy channels of the body as a consequence of maintaining the right posture and breathing. Essentially, asanas open the nadis and removes blockages thius allowing the flow of prana.
(1). Andre Simoneton, Radiation des Ailments, Ondes Humaines, et Santé: Etudes et hypothèses (Méthodes et Techniques), 1995.
(2) Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati. Prana & Pranayama. Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, 2009.