What is Prana and Pranayama?

Throughout your yoga journey it’s likely that you have discovered that for many, yoga is a very spiritual experience. Many yogis see yoga as much more than just a physical exercise, it’s seen to promote the mind and spiritual well-being.It’s important to note that yoga doesn’t require you to emphasis the spiritual aspects of your practice. Many students and yogis simply see yoga as a physical exercise that promotes physical health, there is no shame in this position. However, it’s highly possible that most yogis are benefiting spiritually from their practice even if they’re unaware of it.Many criticize the West for the commercialization of yoga, but many also point out that one’s yoga practice is a very individual experience and will vary greatly from student to student. In the end, it’s probably safe to say that some yoga is better than no yoga.Along the way you may have heard words and phrases like “Prana”, “Chakras”, “Qi”, “Chi” and “Pranayama”. You may have asked yourself “What is Prana and what does it have to do with my yoga practice?”, or more importantly “Can Prana improve my practice and daily life?”.

In this article, we’ll look at the basics of Prana and how you can incorporate it into your yoga practice.


What Is Prana?

So, what is Prana? It would be easy to have a deep and perhaps confusing conversation about Prana. However, for this article we’ll stick to the basics!Simply put, Prana is the energy within and around our physical bodies.Throughout Hindu philosophy, Prana is a Sanskrit term which means “life force”. You may also hear the terms “Qi” and “Chi”, these are terms used by other Eastern philosophies and practices to describe this energy within our bodies. For example, the Chinese practice Tia Chi to promote and activate this energy.Many believe that Prana is carried and transmitted with breath, some may even describe it as being breath. This flow of Prana via our breath is directly connected to our spine. Practitioners believe that as we inhale, it flows up the spine and then flows down the spine on exhale. You may hear this energy pathway being referred to as “nadis”.

If you wish to explore Prana more thoroughly, you will discover that it can be divided into different categories. Sources may call them by different names or vary in the number of types. However, it is most common the see them listed as Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana, and Samana.

Naturally, this flow of pranic energy up and down the spine creates a direct relationship between Prana and the 7 Chakras located along the spine. These chakras are described as wheels of energy within the body. Many believe that the flow of life force energy can help keep these chakras balanced and that this balance is vital for good health and well-being.

Meditation and breathing exercises are commonly used to help promote this flow of energy in the body. These breathing techniques focus on the vital breath needed to carry energy. One of the most widely known breathing exercises is called Pranayama.


What Is Pranayama?

As mentioned, breath is considered vital to the flow of Prana. Pranayama is a Sanskrit term meaning “life force” and “expansion” and is also a name for a popular breathing exercise used by yogis to carry prana. Pranayama is also one of the eight limbs of yoga.This breathing technique is used to help move energy up and down the spine, therefore allowing the mind to focus on meditation and reject all external distractions. When this energy moves up the spine, it’s referred to as “Prana”, when it moves down the spine, it’s called “Apana”.Some believe that the primary goal of Pranayama is to allow prana energy to reach the 6th Chakra, this chakra is also known as “The Third Eye” and is thought to help us make decisions and improve intuition.

Ujjayi Breath or Victorious Breath is a more specific breathing exercise that can also promote the flow of life force. This exercise uses a slight constriction of the throat to hopefully create the sound of an ocean wave. Ujjayi seeks to extend and ease the breath. Mastering this breathing technique may require some practice, especially as it pertains to constricting the throat.

If you crave more information about Pranayama, try this article!


How Does Yoga Benefit Prana?

So, can yoga help you create a flow of Prana?The answer is yes.Although the use and control of breath is one of the most difficult skills for beginners to master, the use of breath is essential to anyone’s yoga practice. Many students struggle to tie breath to poses and the flow of transitions, but as yogis begin to control their breath it can lead to a better flow of energy or Prana. As a matter of fact, specific breathing techniques aren’t needed to improve the flow of Prana, just about any yoga practice will do, if the yogi is controlling their breath properly.Of course, yogis can elect to use techniques like Pranayama or meditations to solely focus on breath. Most students would likely find adding breathing exercises and meditations to their practice would not only improve Prana flow but also reduce busy minds and stress.

Naturally, there are many specific yoga poses that are known to benefit Prana and the Chakra centers along the spine. Look below for examples of yoga postures that could potentially balance your Chakras.


Poses To Benefit Chakras & Prana:

As mentioned earlier, the Chakras and Prana are closely tied together. The chakras are located up and down the spine, so as Prana energy or life force moves up and down the spine, it is believed by many that the flow of this energy can help balance the chakra centers.Here are some examples of poses that can help aid in balancing the chakras and promote the flow of Prana when paired with breath.

Sacral Chakra or 2nd Chakra:

This is a popular chakra that deals with our creative side, pleasure seeking and sexual desires. Poses such as Lizard PoseMermaid PosePuppy Pose and Cat/Cow Pose can promote the balance of this chakra’s spinning energy.

Solar Plexus Chakra or 3rd Chakra:

This chakra concerns control, self-confidence and self-worth. Core strengthening poses like Crow PosePlank Pose, and Boat Pose can keep this chakra balanced. Twisting postures are also beneficial.

Throat Chakra or 5th Chakra:

This chakra is tied to our verbal expression and ability to speak truthfully. Poses that reduce neck and shoulder tension are beneficial for this chakra. Poses would include Standing Forward Bend PoseFish PoseCamel Pose and Cow Pose.

Crown Chakra or 7th Chakra:

This chakra is all about our faith, and spiritual connections to the universe. Restful postures such as meditations and restorative poses are most beneficial to promoting the well-being of this chakra’s energy.


Of course, you will have to decide for yourself how much belief or faith you wish to place in Prana, Chakras, Pranayama and other yogic principles. However, it certainly can’t hurt to give them some attention and then wait for the results!