It’s “Chi” or “Ki”. Pra: before Ana: breath. Prana is made from the sun (fire), the moon (nectar) and the ether that creates movement between the sun and the moon. It is what gives us life. Prana can become imbalanced in our bodies if we make wrong lifestyle or food choices, or if we allow ourselves to get caught up in the illusion of negative emotions or thoughts. A radiantly healthy person will have lots of prana.
“Prana is an auto-energizing force which creates a magnetic field in the form of the Universe and plays with it, both to maintain, and to destroy for further creation. It permeates each individual as well as the Universe at all levels. It acts as physical energy, mental energy, where the mind gathers information; and as intellectual energy, where information is examined and filtered. Prana also acts as sexual energy, spiritual energy and cosmic energy. All that vibrates in this Universe is prana: heat, light, gravity, magnetism, vigor, power, vitality, electricity, life and spirit are all forms of prana. It is the cosmic personality, potent in all beings and non-beings. It is the prime mover of all activity. It is the wealth of life."
This self-energizing force is the principle of life and consciousness. It is the creation of all beings in the Universe. All beings are born through it and live by it. When they die, their individual breath dissolves into the cosmic breath. Prana is not only the hub of the wheel of life, but also of yoga. Everything is established in it. It permeates life, creating the sun, the moon, the clouds, the wind, the rain, the earth and all forms of matter. It is both being (sat) and non-being (asat). Each and every thing, or being, including man, takes shelter under it. Prana is the fundamental energy and the source of all knowledge.”
How can we increase prana in our lives?
• Breath-work, ie., pranayama (alternative nostril breathing).
• Eat unprocessed, fresh foods like organic veggies and fruits. Storing food in the freezer destroys prana.
• Eat food made with the heart and home-made.
• Sing, smiling and laughing.
• Light exercise and yoga.
Pranayama: Breath in the form of alternate nostril breathing, also called circular breath.
Instructions on Pranayama
By Sri Swami Sivananda
1. Early morning, answer the calls of nature and sit for the Yogic practices. Practise Pranayama in a dry, welt-ventilated room. Pranayama requires deep concentration and attention. Do not keep anyone by your side.
2. Before you sit for Pranayama practice, thoroughly clean the nostrils. When you finish the practice, take a cup of milk or light tiffin after 10 minutes.
3. Strictly avoid too much talking, eating, sleeping, mixing with friends and exertion. Take a little ghee with rice when you take your meals. This will lubricate the bowels and allow Vayu to move downwards freely.
4. Some people twist the muscles of the face when they do Kumbhaka. It should be avoided. It is also a symptom to indicate that they are going beyond their capacity. This must be strictly avoided. Such people cannot have a regulated Rechaka and Puraka.
5. Pranayama can also be performed as soon as you get up from bed and just before Japa and meditation. It will make your body light and you will enjoy the meditation. You must have a routine according to your convenience and time.
6. Do not shake the body unnecessarily. By shaking the body often the mind also is disturbed. Do not scratch the body every now and then. The Asana should be steady and as firm as a rock when you do Pranayama, Japa and meditation.
7. In all the exercises, repeat Rama, Siva, Gayatri, or any other Mantra, mere number or any other time-unit according to your inclination. Gayatri or OM is the best for Pranayama. In the beginning you must observe some time-unit for Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka. The time-unit and the proper ratio comes by itself when you do the Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka as long as you can do them comfortably. When you have advanced in the practice, you need not count or keep any unit. You will be naturally established in the normal ratio through force of habit.
8. For some days in the beginning you must count the number and see how you progress. In the advanced stages, you need not distract the mind in counting. The lungs will tell you when you have finished the required number.
9. Do not perform the Pranayama till you are fatigued. There must be always joy and exhilaration of spirit during and after the practice. You should come out of the practice fully invigorated and refreshed. Do not bind yourself by too many rules (Niyamas).
10. Do not take bath immediately after Pranayama is over. Take rest for half an hour. If you get perspiration during the practice, do not wipe it with a towel
. Rub it with your hand. Do not expose the body to the chill draughts of air when you perspire.
11. Always inhale and exhale very slowly. Do not make any sound. In Pranayamas like Bhastrika and Kapalabhati, you can produce a mild or the lowest possible sound.
12. You should not expect the benefits after doing it for 2 or 3 minutes only for a day or two. At least you must have 15 minutes daily practice in the beginning regularly for days together. There will be no use if you jump from one exercise to another every day.
13. Patanjali does not lay much stress on the practice of different kinds of Pranayama. He mentions: Exhale slowly, then inhale and retain the breath. You will get a steady and calm mind. It was only the
Hatha Yogins who developed Pranayama as a science and who have mentioned various exercises to suit different persons.
14. A neophyte should do Puraka and Rechaka only without any Kumbhaka for some days. Take a long time to do Rechaka. The proportion for Puraka and Rechaka is 1:2.
15. Pranayama in its popular and preparatory form may be practised by everyone in any posture whatsoever, sitting or walking; and yet it is sure to show its benefits. For those who practise it in accordance with the prescribed methods, fructification will be rapid.
16. Gradually increase the period of Kumbhaka. Retain for 4 seconds in the first week, for 8 seconds in the second week and for 12 seconds in the third week and so on till you are able to retain the breath to your full capacity.
17. You must so nicely adjust the Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka that you should not experience the feeling of suffocation or discomfort at any stage of Pranayama. You should never feel the necessity of catching hold of a few normal breaths between any two successive rounds. The duration of Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka must be properly adjusted. Exercise due care and attention. Matters will turn out to be successful and easy.
18. You must not unnecessarily prolong the period of exhalation. If you prolong the time of Rechaka, the following inhalation will be done in a hurried manner and the rhythm will be disturbed. You must so carefully regulate the Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka that you must be able to do with absolute comfort and care, not only of one Pranayama but also the full course or required rounds of Pranayama. I have to repeat this often. Experience and practice will make one perfect. Be steady. Another important factor is that you must have efficient control over the lungs at the end of Kumbhaka to enable you to do the Rechaka smoothly and in proportion with the Puraka.