Prana in Sanskrit comes from the terms “pra” meaning “forward” and “na” meaning “certainty.” By definition, prana is life force that brings ‘forward certainty’ to life.
The Yoga Sutra says lifespan is dependent on the number of breaths one takes. Once the allocation is over, life comes to an end. Prana flows through breaths, which is why Yoga encourages ‘simple, disciplined, rhythmic prana exchange to connect ones Individual Consciousness to Universal Consciousness’.
Does that mean the air we breathe is prana? In simple terms, no. Prana is the energy by which one can breathe and without breath, there is no life. Ayurveda advises that one has to protect prana as it ultimately leads to longevity and quality of life.
When prana is not replenished adequately, the aging process accelerates. Thus, age management is essentially prana management. This is why Ayurveda scholars dedicated text to ‘rasayanas.’ Rasayana is a Sanskrit word that translates to “path of essence” and is often defined as the science of promoting longevity.
What are the signs and symptoms of low prana?
- Weak sensual perception (smell, touch, hearing, taste, vision) through sense organs (nose, skin, ears, tongue and eyes)
- Poor information processing through mind, self, Id, and intellect
- Weak karma (actions)
- No or low purpose actions
- Unbalanced pace of performing actions (either too slow or too rapid)
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of creativity
- Reactive behavior
- Little to no sense of contentedness
- Weak sense of security
- Lack of clarity in decision making
- Low sleep quality & insomnia
- Unbalanced hunger
What depletes prana?
- All Karmic activities performed in life require and consume prana.
- Any activity that causes shallow breathing through the chest versus deep, diaphragmatic breathing will deplete Prana. Note: Unfortunately, most of us have not been taught how to breathe correctly. Although we actually begin with abdominal breathing as children, we digress without proper instruction and self-awareness.
- Any activity that increases the number of breaths per 60 seconds. Ayurveda & yoga science recommend having no more than 5-6 breaths per minute. Note: Many yogic breathing exercises have fast-paced breathing, such as Kapalbhati and Bhastrika; however, if one observes them closely, there is no typical breathing at all as one is breathing only in the nose and trachea. This is known as “physiological dead space’ since prana is trapped and kneaded into the pranic body.
Because activities in modern life have become more fast-paced, demanding and variable in nature, preserving prana has become more challenging. One has to be vigilant in taking proper measures to manage and replenish prana.
Reviewed by Dr. Jayant Lokhande, MD (Botanical Drugs), MBA (Biotechnology)