Q: What is prāṇa?
prāṇa is universal energy that breathes life into matter. It is the essence that sustains both living individuals and cosmic order. It is the power within everything, animate and inanimate. The word comes from Sanskrit, pra (forth) and an (to breath, move, live). It is the key to life, the life force in your breath.
“It’s not out there but in here… the kingdom of heaven lies within your own heart and soul. You can have direct contact with your inner guru who will bless you with the recognition of ecstasy and bliss within you. You can attain spiritual enlightenment by yourself, without looking to others for advice, for energy, or for anything.” – Susan Shumsky
The Five Prāṇa
Prāṇa in its capacity of life force in breath, takes five separate forms called, pancha prāṇa (5 vital life force energies; winds). Each is responsible for a unique kind of energy movement, body area, and physical activity. They work through the sympathetic nervous plexuses to receive or generate currents or impulses of vital energy. Vāyu are functions or motive power by which Prāṇa operates, and each of the five of the Prāṇa are governed by a vāyu.
Prāṇavāyu-(inward & upward)– It is the vital life force. Balanced prāṇa leads to a balanced and calm mind and emotions. This Vāyu governs the head, lungs and heart and is associated with the Anāhata heart chakra
Apānavāyu-(out and downward)- It is related to processes of elimination, reproduction and skeletal health (absorption of nutrients). Balanced apāna leads to a healthy digestive and reproductive system. Located at the anus Mūlādhāra root chakra. It governs the kidneys, bladder, gallbladder, genitals, colon and rectum.
Udānavāyu-(upward movement) It is related to the respiratory functions, speech and functioning of the brain. Balanced udāna leads to a healthy respiratory system, clarity of speech, healthy mind, good memory, and creativity all associated with the upper three chakra. Seated above the throat chakra above the larynx. It regulates falling asleep, bodily growth, ascending, rising upward, and it gives muscular strength to the extremities.
Samānavāyu-(movement is spiral) concentrated around the navel, like a churning motion, it is related to digestion on all levels. Balanced samāna leads to a healthy metabolism. Seated in the navel Maṇipūra solar plexus chakra, it maintains digestive fire and regulates the stomach, liver, pancreas, and intestines. It is the force in the mind that makes choices as we discern truth from falsehood, reality from illusion, and beneficial from detrimental.
Vyānavāyu-(Movement is outward, like the circulatory process) It is related to circulatory system, nervous system and cardiac system and Svādhiṣṭhāna Sacral chakra. Balanced vyāna leads to a healthy heart, circulation and balanced nerves. It governs the mental feelings of wholeness and integration, as well as the sense of body boundaries. It is associated with the water element and sacral chakra.
As we put these principals into practice through yoga movement, pranayama breath work, and meditation we unlock the wisdom within to become awakened and aware to our inherent buddha nature.