Intro to Prana
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Prana is the active principle behind our vitality. We use prana to think, act, express, create, and live. It’s the force behind the functions of vata dosha on the mind and body. While vata is translated as air or wind, prana is the life force behind that. Prana is the subtle aspect of vata dosha, and thus it works in a subtler manner— on the mental and emotional body, respectively. Prana is responsible for the movement and organization of thought within the mind.
Prana is in all things, including the air we breathe. Yogis practice different forms of breath control, or pranayama, to strengthen and invigorate any and all organs, cells, and tissues within the body. It also awakens and strengthens the prana body (or pranamaya kosha), bridges the gap between body and mind, and expands our consciousness. Prana allows ones inner awareness to unfold and expand to new levels of being. In its highest and purest state, prana is absolute existence; pure being.
A person with balanced prana has a healthy, pure motivation for life. They ooze inspiration, joy, and enthusiasm, and appreciate the simple pleasures of just being alive. They’re vibrant, creative, and playful, and tend to wake up with genuine excitement for the day ahead. A person with strong prana has clear, coordinated thoughts, powerful ideas, and the ability to communicate and execute them with moderate ease. They’re intuitive, perceptive, and sensitive to the forces within them as well as the energies outside themselves. The breath is full and calm, and energy levels are healthy in a person with balanced prana.
Too much prana can manifest in a person as a lack of focus, oversensitivity sound, lights, and other sensory stimuli within the environment. If too much prana is coursing through the system, a person may feel anxious, ungrounded, fearful, and disillusioned. Their worries, fears, and paranoia can become obsessive and run their lives, distracting them from the present moment. Their thoughts may be frantic or disorganized.
Deficient prana manifests as dullness and apathy. The lack of enthusiasm for life can run deep, causing depression and loss of motivation to create or make moves forward in life. The senses lose their sharpness as well and the breath becomes weak when prana is deficient. Energy levels plummet when the body lacks prana.
We can increase our prana by practicing yoga asana and pranayama, and eating foods that are high in life force energy. These include fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. Drinking freshly made fruit and vegetable juice is a great option for increasing prana. Eliminate left overs, canned foods, and processed foods as much as you can from your diet to avoid dampening your prana.
A really simple pranayama practice to increase prana in a gentle way is ujjayi pranayama— this is the breathing with sound in through the nose and out through the nose that we do in our vinyasa yoga classes. You can breathe like this, slowly and deeply, and you’ll immediately feel the benefits in the mind-body.
Prana can also be increased by stimulants such as caffeine or cocaine, and we can experience an uptake in prana when we are overstimulated with media, screens, bright lights, and loud sounds— but these are not recommended ways of increasing prana! If prana is heightened, it’s important to remove excess stimuli such as these in order to ground back down into the present moment.
Prana, like vata dosha, is very sensitive. Protect your prana by keeping your environment clean, natural, calm, and quiet. Keep your senses balanced and happy with pleasant smells, sounds, and sights. Instead of scrolling through your phone or staring into computer or television screens at night time, for example, try to light more candles as the sun goes down and read a physical book before bed. Allow the mind and body to settle into and marinate in the simple joy of being totally present with life here and now.
That’s what I’ve got for today! Reach out with questions as always, and I’ll be back soon with some more Ayurveda goodies.