What Is Prana

What Is Prana

What Is Prana

Prāna is associated with the movement of breath, but Prāna is not the breath itself. That is why it is incorrect to think of Prānāyāma just as a breathing exercise.

When you breathe, you inhale and exhale. But what makes you breathe? Medical science tells us that the movement of the diaphragm muscle makes the lungs shrink or expand, resulting in exhalation and inhalation. However, the yogis believe that the energy that makes the involuntary movement of the diaphragm possible is Prāna. Therefore, it is Prāna that makes breathing even possible.

The whole universe is a manifestation of Prāna. It is a combination of Prāna and Akāsa. The total energy in the universe is called Prāna. Akāsa is one of the five primary elements (pañcabhūta) of which the universe is made. The Prāna is the energy behind all kinds of forces.

The Chitta, the mind-stuff, is responsible for drawing in the Prāna. It uses this Prāna to maintain bodily functions. Thoughts and will come into existence because of the presence of Prāna.

Controlling the flow of Prāna is Prānāyāma. Prāna is inhaled and exhaled along with the breath. We know that the breath moves only between the nose and the lungs. However, according to the Yogis, Prāna uses a network of 72,000 Nādis or channels for distribution. Out of all these Nādis, three main ones run along the spinal cord. These are Idā, Pingalā and Sushumnā.

According to the Yogis, Pingalā is on the right side, and Idā is on the left side of the spinal column. Sushumnā is in the center and is located inside the spinal column. All three come together at the base of the spine in the Mulādhāra Chakra. Except for the Yogis, every human uses just Idā and Pingalā as part of their daily life. The flow of Prāna through Idā and Pingalā is sufficient for even the most challenging physical or mental work. However, Sushumnā plays a vital role in the spiritual path used by the Yogis.

Mulādhāra Chakra is where the potential of Shakti, the divine feminine power, is present. By controlling the flow of Prāna through Idā and Pingalā, a Yogi manages to awaken Kundalini, the potential of Shakti. The awakening of Kundalini causes the Shakti to rise through the Sushumnā towards the top of the head. At the top of the head, Shakti merges with Shiva. In this way, the Yogis attain Self Realization.

Various forms of Prānāyāma are used to control the flow of Prāna through Idā and Pingalā. Only when the flows are matched, the Shakti rising through Sushumnā can be possible. As Shakti makes its way up through the various Chakras located on Sushumnā, a Yogi attains more and more mystic powers. However, attaining the mystic powers is not the goal for a Yogi. These powers can act as a distraction making Self Realization impossible. Therefore, Yogis normally ignore their mystic powers and do not exhibit them publicly.