Home > Glossary > Prana

What is Prana?

Prana (, pra; the Sanskrit word for breath, “life force,” or “vital principle”) pervades reality on all levels, including inanimate objects, according to yoga, Indian medicine, and Indian martial arts. Pra is sometimes described in Hindu literature as emanating from the Sun and connecting the elements. In Hindu texts, five types of pra are described, collectively known as the five vyus (“winds”). Pra vyu is described as the basic vyu from which all other vyus arise in Ayurveda, tantra, and Tibetan medicine. Prana is classified into ten major functions: Prana, Apana, Udana, Vyana, and Samana are the five Pranas, and Naga, Kurma, Devadatta, Krikala, and Dhananjaya are the five Upa-Pranas. Pranayama, one of yoga’s eight limbs, is intended to expand prana.


Prana refers to a force that permeates reality through all its dimensions consisting of inanimate objects. In Indian medicine, Indian martial arts, and Yoga, Prana is the Sanskrit term for breath, vital principle, or life force. According to Hindu literature, Prana is generally said to have originated from the Sun.

The Sun’s energy is meant to collect five types of Prana, collectively named the five vayus (winds) in ancient Hindu literature. In all of Ayurveda, Tantra, and Tibetan Medicine, Prana Vayu has been described as the basic foundational structure from which all other vayus originate.

The idea of Prana is categorized into ten primary kinds. Firstly, The five Pranas are Udana, Vyana, Prana, Apana, and Samana, and secondly, the five Upa-Pranas are Devadatta, Krikala, Naga, Kurma, and Dhananjaya. Pranayama, also known as one of the eight limbs of yoga, is an act intended for the expansion of Prana.

According to V.S. Apte, an Indian lexicographer and a professor of Sanskrit, there are fourteen listing meanings associated with the Sanskrit word Prana. These different meanings consist — of the breath of life, principle of life (usually plural in this context, there are five such vital breaths of air assumed usually, but three, six, seven, nine, and even ten are also talked about), breath and respiration, vital air, the spirit or soul, and the energy or vigor.

The abstract concept of ‘vital air,’ which is also one of these concepts, is used by Bhattacharya. This concept deals with Pranayama, which symbolizes the manipulation of the breath. According to Thomas McEvilley’s (an American art critic, poet, novelist, and scholar) translation, Prana can be defined as the ‘spirit energy.’

The breath is comprehended as the most necessary material form. It is said to be present in the blood and concentrated in men’s semen and women’s vaginal fluid.


The earliest evidence of the ancient concept of Prana was elaborated in several Hindu texts, such as the Upanishads and Vedas. Chronologically, one of the earliest references to Prana was in the 3,000-year-old Chandogya Upanishad. However, many other Upanishads have been associated with the usage of the concept, including the Mundaka, Katha, and Prashna Upanishads. This concept is further elaborated in detailed literature studies, such as hatha yoga, Ayurveda, and tantra.

According to Bhagavad Gita, yoga can be described as the exercise of self-control and sacrificing actions, sense, and Prana in the fire of knowledge. The goal of yoga is the final conquest of the senses, the Prana, and the mind. Once a person reaches this final goal, they will unlock an essential step on the yogin’s path to samadhi. For instance, Malinivijayottaratantra steers the seeker “who has conquered posture, the mind, Prana, the senses, sleep, anger, fear, and anxiety” to practice yoga in a beautiful undisturbed cave for the best results.

Praṇa, when concerned with the human body, is conventionally divided into parts. While there has been no consensus on the source, names, or the number of these divisions, the most usual ones come from the Mahabharata, Ayurvedic and Yogic sources and the Upanishads. They include five classifications that are vyana (circulation of energy), udana (energy of the head and throat), Prana (inward moving energy), apana (outward moving energy), and samana (digestion and assimilation).

According to the Atharva Veda, Prana can be described as ‘When Prana had watered them, the plants spake in concert: ‘thou hast, forsooth, prolonged our life, thou hast made us all fragrant.’ Similar concepts such as this have existed in various cultures, which include the Latin anima (‘breath,’ ‘vital force,’ ‘animating principle’), the Chinese qi, the Islamic and Sufic ruh, the Greek pneuma, the Polynesian mana, the Amerindian orenda, the German od, and the Hebrew ruah.


One way of distinguishing Prana is by the categories of vayus. Vayu denotes ‘wind’ or ‘air’ in Sanskrit and is used in several contexts under Hindu philosophy. Prana is known as the foundational vayu from which other vayus originate. It is also one of the five major vayus of Prana, apāna, uḍāna, samāna, and vyāna. It is a common name given to all breaths. The Nisvasattvasamhita Nayasutra elaborates on the five minor winds, naming three as dhanamjaya, naga, and kurma and other two are named in Skandapurana and Sivapurana Vayaviyasamhita as devadatta and krtaka.


According to Indian philosophy, Prana can be described as an entity that flows in nadis (channels). The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad postulates that there are 72,000 nadis in the human body that run from the heart. On the other hand, Katha Upanishad stipulates that there are only 101 channels that radiate from the heart.

Notably, the Vinashikhatantra explains the most commonly used model, which elaborates on the three most essential nadis - Ida on the left, the Pingala on the right, and the Sushumnain in the center. These nadis connect the base chakra of the body to the crown chakra, which enables Prana to flow throughout the body. In a condition when the mind is stressed or agitated, our body experiences fluctuations in the flow of Prana in the nadis.


Pranayama is a commonly used technique that facilitates accumulation, expansion and the working of Prana. As one of yoga’s eight limbs, this practice is mainly associated with specific breath control techniques. A scheduled practice of Pranayama comprehended the dynamics and the laws of Prana. Many of these practices cleanse the nadis, which allows for a more agile and strengthened movement of Prana. Additionally, other techniques are also utilized to arrest one’s breath for Samadhi or even bring awareness to the practitioner’s subtle or physical body.

In therapeutic yoga and Ayurveda, Pranayama can also affect one’s mood or aid in digestion. A.G. Mohan, an Indian yoga teacher, stated that one of the essential physical goals of this exercise is to revitalize an individual or help them recover from an illness. It is also used to maintain one’s physical and mental health, where the mental goal is “to remove mental disturbances and make the mind focused for meditation.”

Theos Bernand, a scholar-practitioner of yoga, postulates that the ultimate aim of Pranayama is the suspension of breathing, which causes the mind to swoon. The founder of Yoga philosophy, Swami Yogananda, describes that according to Patanjali, “The real meaning of Pranayama is the gradual stopping of breathing, the discontinuance of inhalation and exhalation.”


Lailah Angel

Jequn Angel

Adathan and yadathan Angel
Simat hayyi Angel
Munkar Angel