The word prana means “breath” in Sanskrit. Prana is the vital air or breath of the human body in Hinduism. It is also the vital, life-sustaining force of both the individual body and the universe. Its was first written about in the Upanishads. It permeates reality on all levels including inanimate objects. It has many levels of meaning, from the physical breath to the energy of consciousness itself. And it is not only the basic life-force, it is the original creative power. Further it is the master form of all energy working at every level of our being.
One way of categorizing prana is by means of vayus. It means “wind” or “air” in Sanskrit, and the term is used in a variety of contexts in Hindu philosophy. Prana is considered the basic vayu from which the other vayus arise, as well as one of the five major vayus:
- Prana: The exhaled breath (pra – “outward”, “forth”) which lives in the lungs.
- Apana: Down and outward energy, most notably the elimanatory systems. It resides in the hips and gut.
- Udana: Rising energy, resident in the throat, but also responsible for lifting Kundalini. Sound production through the vocal apparatus, as in speaking, singing, laughing and crying.
- Samana: The heat of digestion, which resides in the belly between prana above and udana below.
- Vyana: The energy of circulation that resides throughout the body.
Pranayama is a common term for various techniques for accumulating, expanding and working with prana. It is a practice of specific and often intricate breath control techniques. The dynamics and laws of Prana were understood through systematic practice of Pranayama to gain mastery over it.
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