In Sanskrit “Prana” means “Vital Life.” Sanskrit words have many layers of meaning, and prana also means “breath.” In Vedic philosophy, prana is an energy comparable to the Chinese term “Qi.” In Ayurveda and Yoga, it is taught that prana flows through a network of subtle channels in the mind and body called nadis.
Prana in its most subtle form is in the breath, but prana is also found in blood and other body fluids. Ayurveda classifies prana into five subcategories known as Prana Vayus:
- Prana: responsible for the breath and the beating of the heart.
- Apana: responsible for the elimination of waste from the body.
- Udana: responsible for vocal sounds, and the conscious energy required to produce the sounds and their intent.
- Samana: responsible for digesting food, metabolizing cells, and regulating body heat.
- Vyana: responsible for the voluntary muscular system.
Pranayama is the practice of breath control. Breathing exercises help to move energy through the body mindfully for various purposes.