Prana, also known as life force, is the basic component of the subtle body, energy field and the entire chakra system. It is also known as the aura and is superficially perceived by many people. In the Chinese culture, prana is often associated with “qi”. Prana gives life to matter. It is a form of energy that exists in air but is not oxygen or any other physical constituent in air; it is entirely non-physical and it is an existence of creation. If there is no prana, there would be no blood flow, our organs will not function, the five senses will not be present and no blood will flow throughout the body. For a life to conceived in a mother’s womb, both consciousness and prana must be present.
In yoga philosophy, a human existence (aka Self) consists of five sheaths. Chakras (energy centers), nadis (subtle energy channels) and pranic energy (Prana) are components that is present within the Pranayama kosha. This kosha is part our subtle energy system and cannot be perceived physically through senses. Although the components of the kosha exists, they are not discernable for scientific investigation. The main seven chakras are the sources of energy where the nadis are tunnels that transport pranic energy to the organs and extremities of the body. Scientifically there is still debate upon whether the nadis exactly coincides with the nervous system. The pranic energy, in association with the Chakras, take five separate forms where each prana is governed by a vayu (a motive power or by which prana operates). The five forms of pranas(vayus), together with a schematic diagram, are elaborated below:
Apana is a downward and out motion. It is seated is the root chakra and part of the sacral chakra which governs the organs such as kidneys, bladder, genitals, colon and rectum. The vayu is responsible for elimination, excretion or expelling substances such as air, bowels, urine, gas, semen as well as letting go of mental blockages associated with fear and anger. It regulates the sense of smell. It is associated with the earth element.
Samana is a horizontal motion, seated in the solar plexus chakra. The stomach, liver pancreas and intestines’ functions are governed by this prana. The vayu separates nutrients from toxins and carries the coarser digested byproducts to apana for excretion. It also allows the control of balance, hold and contract. Samana is the force that purifies the mind in discerning truth and live in reality. It regulates the sense of sight and is associated with the element of fire.
Prana is an inward motion, seated in the heart chakra. It governs organs which are present from the base of the throat to the navel region. The vayu is responsible for respiration, swallowing, heartbeat and body temperature. The force allows one to develop a pure and non-judgmental vibration that makes life joyful and worth living. It is associated with the air element and sense of touch.
Udana is a outward radial motion that seats in the throat chakra. It regulates sleep and body growth. The vayu controls all involuntary functions in the head which includes functions of the eyes, ears and nose as well as maintaining body heat. This force allows one to develop the ability to communicate well and express feelings well. It is associated with the element of ether and hearing.
Vyana is an outward moving motion. It is an energy that permeates through and integrates the entire body which is associated with sacral, solar plexus, heart and throat and third eye chakras. Vyana vayu controls the circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems, directs voluntary and involuntary movements, coordination of skeletal tissues and keeps the body balanced. Blood flow, lymph detoxification and sweating are the responsibilities of the vayu. This force governs the mental feeling of wholeness and sense of body boundaries.
In conclusion, the fives pranas (vayus) are essential natural forces that provides the energy vibrations to operate the different systems and organs of our body. To enhance the vayus within a specific chakra or body system, one can practice pranayama (yogic breathing), engaging the relevant bandhas, practicing the relevant asanas and meditation. As mentioned, the pranas(vayus) cannot be perceived physical, it can only be felt through the mind. Hence, developing a sense of awareness to the body is a necessary step to understand the vayus well.
Jolene L. (Sept YTTC 2017)