Prana and Nadis
Prana and Pranayama
Prana is often misunderstood as breath. However, Prana
refers to the vital force that keeps our mind body equipment going. Breath is
just the gross representation of Prana. Ancient Yogic texts
classify Prana into ten types. Five of them are
more important than others and are called as main Pranas. The remaining five are
called as sub-Pranas. The five main Pranas are explained below.
Prana means "forward or inward moving air" and governs reception of all types
from the eating of food, drinking of water, and inhalation of air, to the
reception of sensory impressions and mental experiences. It resides in the
region from throat to diaphragm. It provides the basic energy that drives us in
Apana means "air that moves away" and moves downward and outward governing
all forms of elimination and reproduction. It governs the elimination of the
stool and the urine, the expelling of semen, menstrual fluid and the fetus. It
resides in the region from navel to anus. It is also the basis of our immune
Udana means "circular moving air" and governs growth of the body, the ability
to stand, speech, effort, enthusiasm and will. It resides in hands, legs, joints
Samana refers to "balancing air" and moves from the periphery to the center.
It aids in digestion on all levels. It balances Prana and Apana. It resides in
organs such as stomach, liver, pancreas, spleen and small intestine.
Vyana means "all pervasive air" and moves from the center to the periphery.
It governs circulation on all levels. It moves the food, water and oxygen
throughout the body. In doing so it assists all the other Pranas in their work.
It acts as a reservoir of Prana and is supplied wherever there is deficiency of
The five sub Pranas are explained below:
- Naga: Naga is responsible for actions such as blurb and
- Koorma: Because of Koorma we can blink.
- Krikara: Krikara generates hunger and thirst.
- Devdatta: Devdatta is responsible for yawning.
- Dhananjaya: Dhananjaya is spread throughout our body.
Even after death it remains in the body and triggers the process of
Ancient Yogis observed that when Prana is controlled so is the mind and hence
Pranayama is an important technique in Kriya Yoga. The real essence of
Pranayama lies in the regulation and control of these ten Pranas. Mere breathing
in some specific way is not Pranayama. These Pranas are not only important for
spiritual progress but they are equally important for proper functioning of the
mind body equipment. Yoga believes that diseases are caused due to deficiency
and weakening of one or more of these Pranas. Therefore strengthening and
nourishing them is essential even for a happy and healthy life.
Often the word prana is used to represent all the ten types of pranas.
While studying Kriya Yoga you will often come across the term – Nadi.
Nadi refers to a channel through which Prana flows. Nadis are not to
be confused with blood veins or arteries. As per Yoga there are 72,000 nadis
in human body. Of these 72,000 nadis, ten
are more important than the others. These ten nadis and their flows are
- Ida: Ida flows from the Kanda to the left nostril
- Pingala: Pingala flows from the Kanda to the right nostril
- Sushumna: Sushumna flows through the spinal column. All the chakras are
located on the path of this nadi.
- Gandhari: Gandhari goes from the Kanda to the left eye
- Hastijivha: Hastijivha goes from the Kanda to the right eye
- Pusha: Pusha starts from the Kanda and ends in the right ear
- Yashaswini: Yashaswini starts from the Kanda and ends in the left ear
- Alumbusa: Alumbusa goes from the Kanda to the mouth
- Kuhu: Kuhu flows from the Kanda to genitals
- Shankhini: Shankhini flows from the Kanda to the anal region
Again out of these ten nadis three are most important. They are –
Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. All the other nadis depend on these three
nadis for their
functioning. Ida controls emotional behavior where as Pingala controls
analytical behavior of human brain. The third supreme nadi – Sushumna – governs the
spiritual progress. It is this nadi through which Kundalini ascends to
its destination in the head region when awakened.
The Nadishodhana Kriya plays an important role in strengthening the
prana and purifying all the nadis.