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When I was younger, I would often ask Yoga teachers, “What is prana?” I always got the same pat answer, “Oh, it’s life force.” Those of you who know me can imagine the next question, “Yeah, but what is it?” Then the lights would go dim and I would be met with a blank expression.
According to Vedic seers, there are three cosmic forces which make up the multiverse, one of which is prana. Prana is the subtlest form of energy from which all other energies are derived. In Paramahansa Yogananda’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, he wrote that prana is a cross between thought and energy; prana is intelligent energy. Modern theoretical physicists know that there is something smaller than the atom but as of yet, have been unable to quantify it. So they are referring to it as The God Particle. That doesn’t seem to be too far off to me.
The word prana is derived from two Sanskrit words Pra which is usually defined as constant and Na which can mean motion. This definition denotes a sense of us having our life and being in a vast ocean of energetic movement. But there is another definition that I prefer more and that is, Pra meaning before and Na meaning breath. This can also be interpreted as primal breath. This gives us an understanding that preceding all life is prana. It is as if God exhales and life proceeds outward in a single first burst of expression. Prana is the energy of that first expression of life and spirit.
Prana can be described further by its qualities. The first quality is that prana has an innate intelligence and when allowed, this intelligence is always moving in a return direction to its source. As prana returns to the source there is an expansion of consciousness and we yogis can participate with and encourage this flow towards source and expansion of consciousness.
The next describable quality of prana is that it is quantumly entangled. What one particle of prana knows, all particles of prana know. What one particle of prana experiences, all particles of prana are aware of that experience. What this tells us as yogis is that prana does not recognize duplicity. In other words, we can’t claim to practice yoga then go out into the world and be schmucks all day and expect results to be forth coming. Satya (authenticity) is required for us to evolve spiritually.
The soul takes prana into the body through the medulla oblongata known esoterically as “the mouth of God” where it flows first to the seventh chakra at the top of the head, then is distributed down throughout the body via the lower chakras. (By the way, chakras don’t spin! They hum, they vibrate, they expand and contract, but they don’t spin. That is a new age myth.) If you want to see how chakras look, go to youtube and look up “sun sounds” and watch the sun as it vibrates, hums and seems to breath in and out.
The soul uses prana to animate, enliven, and transmit cellular intelligence to name just a few. Prana is so important to life that in Ayurveda we say that death does not occur when the soul leaves the body but that death occurs when the soul leaves the body and takes the prana with it.