Ayurveda for modern living

What is prana?

We instinctively know about prana – the high energy levels we get from eating healthy food and deep breathing. If we look after ourselves, our energy and sense of well-being is high. When we are sick, we feel low in vitality.

We know when we are near someone with low prana, because they seem to drain us of our energy too. People generally like gathering around people with high prana levels. We also feel good when we are in places of high prana, such as in forests and by water. Some places have such high prana that they become healing centres. Animals also have high prana, as do things in nature such as trees, water and even rocks.

But what is prana exactly? Is it just oxygen? or nutrients? or negative ions?

This is where ayurvedic knowledge gets a bit esoteric, and more like advanced physics, than naturopathy. Prana is none of these measurable things (although it is carried by these things). Prana is the universal energy field, or vital life force, behind everything in our world.

In Sanskrit, ‘pra’ means ‘to exist before’, and ‘ana’ means ‘an atom’ – therefore prana is ‘that which exists before an atom’ (Question: how did the ancients know about atoms before microscopes were even invented?). Prana is more the vibration or oscillation that occurs between atoms – this creates vitality, life, if you will. ‘Om’ is the sound of this vibration. It is what is meant in the Bible by ‘In the beginning, there was the word’. ‘The word’ is the initial vibration causing life in the universe.

Our bodies are not just physical, material flesh and bones, but are  also a series of coverings, ranging from the material to subtle. Our pranic body is a subtle body that can’t be detected by our limited scientific instruments, but can be seen and felt using certain techniques. This energy field was discovered by ancient yogis in India. Our pranic body, apparently, is in the shape of our bodies but extends some centimeters beyond our skin. It is related to the auras that psychics can supposedly see around people.

The concept of prana is in many other cultures. It is the Chinese ‘chi’ or ‘qi’, the Japanese ‘ki’, the Maori ‘mana’, the Greek ‘pneuma’, and the Christian ‘holy spirit’. Prana is mentioned in the Christian Bible when God breathed life into man. It is also mentioned in the Vedas, which say that ‘God is breath’.

It is what alternative therapies such as acupuncture, reiki, energy healing, yoga and pranayama are supposed to work on healing – our pranic system.

Yogis learn to control the prana in their bodies through pranayama. They can learn to manipulate energy in such ways as to do miraculous things like conjure objects out of nothing or start fires with their minds or see the future. These abilities are known as the siddhis. Pranayama can be dangerous to do, if the body and mind aren’t healthy and properly prepared for the high levels of prana.

Prana flows through thousands of channels, or nadis, around our bodies. These nadis culminate in various centres called chakras. If these channels or chakras are blocked, we get sick or feel a low sense of well-being. Kundalini yoga works on unblocking these channels.

Prana is supposed to be the link between the gross matter of our bodies, and our thoughts and feelings. Both mind and body are intimately linked by prana – this link is something that Western science hasn’t been able to explain yet.

I once had an energy worker ‘work’ on my chakras, and I must say, it was the most bizarre experience of my life. He told me things about myself (and the other people with me) that he could never have known. He told me my stomach was bloated and my digestive system blocked, and that I was leaking energy out of one of my energy centres (that I desperately needed to close up). It’s funny, many years later, a psychic yoga teacher told me the same thing.

The energy worker also said that my ‘third eye’ was opened, which explains how I sometimes just ‘know’ things and I can’t explain why (I was able to tell my partner things about his dead father that he had never told me before). He also ‘entered’ my chakra system from the top of my head. The bizarre thing is that I could actually feel him (his pranic body?) enter and descend. He said I must be very sensitive to be able to feel it happening. This experience convinced me that there is more to us than just visible material matter.

I have no idea if this is true or not, but one website even suggests that you can actually see prana in the air:


So how can we increase the prana in our bodies so that we feel more vital and energised?

– eat sattvic vegetarian food that is fresh and organic (food prana)

– make sure you chew food mindfully, in the right quantities, at the right time

– drink pure spring water (difficult in our present world!)

– keep your doshas in balance

– do yoga, tai chi, qigong etc (these exercises keep prana channels clear)

– be in sunlight (but not for too long!)

– walk barefoot on earth (we can get ground prana this way)

– be around people with high levels of prana

– live in places with high prana (generally, any place where spiritually-focused people tend to congregate)

– spend time in nature, especially near water or big trees (is this why pagan cultures worshipped in groves of trees?)

– be conscious of breathing in prana as you draw in deep slow breaths

– practice guided pranayama with an experienced teacher.

If we work on increasing our prana, our health and well-being will be optimal.


Comments on: "What is prana?" (4)

  1. And avoid excess sex! (or any other sexual activity)

  2. who was the enrgy worker? Can you share his details?

    • He was in New Zealand. I have forgotten his name. He was working at a market in Wellington that is no longer there. All I remember is he was a middle-aged Maori guy. I’m sure there are other energy workers out there in the world. Just ask around, and keep your eyes open for them. People will generally recommend an energy worker if they have done good energy work for them.

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