Is prana a FOOD and OXYGEN?

Can anyone explain about prana. All my life i was thought that prana is something different from oxygen and food. I’m teaching yoga classes now, and reading a lot of different literature. Some books refer to food and oxygen as a prana. I have never seen such as description in sutras or pradipika. I can understand the concept that 2000 years ago people were not familiar with oxygen, so they might called it prana. Beu they were familiar with food :slight_smile: and probably would call it food-prana in the Sanskrit texts.Make sense thought that we get energy from food and oxygen…
I’m confused.
Please say your opinion about it.

You might say that food and oxygen are manifestations of prana. A more encompassing explanation would go as follows:

In yoga philosophy, the whole universe consists of consciousness and energy. Prana is the cosmic energy and includes every form of energy known to you. It cannot be objectified. You can only know prana by its effects. A metaphor: you cannot see the wind, but you can see the moving branches of a tree.

It is prana that gives rise to the world appearance. In sentient beings, prana govers all the life processes, for which reason prana is often translated as “life force”. It is closely linked to the breath, since you might die if you stop breathing. It is prana that makes you breathe, sense, think, digest, excrete, etc.

In human beings, prana is most easily sensed in breathing. But prana is more subtle than the breath or the oxygen contained in the air. Yogis do pranayama (“extension of the life force”) to master this subtle energy. You can also increase prana with sleep and meditation, breath, water, and food. Prana is the subtle energy beneath inhalation that lives in the chest. Apana is the subtle energy beneath exhalation that lives in the abdomen. If you would merge prana and apana, you would awaken kundalini shakti, the strongest manifestation of prana in the human bodymind.

You don’t need to use the word prana in your yoga classes. Teach only what lives within you and what you feel comfortable with. In fact, I hardly ever use the word prana in my own classes, where I teach asana and simple pranayama. However, I’m sure that my students would not return every week if the class did not increase their prana!

Prana is neither oxygen nor food but is IN both oxygen and food. Prana is a life force that is in all things, to one degree or another.

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Just think of it as a very subtle energy connecting all things between this dimension and the next.


You all may find this blog interesting, it deals with prana and more

The complete word is “Pranayama”. It means “restraint of the prana or breath”

Prāna: life force, or vital energy
āyāma: to suspend or restrain

Pranayama: control of the life force

I like to think of prana in the line of gravity. Although we can’t see gravity, we know it is there, an invisible force whose effects we can see/experience daily. Same with prana, it is an all pervasive energy, which we cannot see, but we can experience the effects of it.

According to Patanjali founder of yoga science there are five types of Prana:
Prana Vayu
Apana Vayu
Samana Vayu
Udhana Vayu
Vayana Vayu

Prana controls the breathing process taking place inside the chest. In the form of oxygen Prana takes its energy.

Apana Vayu controls the excretory organs and the reproductive organs.

Samana Vayu helps in the process of digestion and controls hunger.

Udhana Vayu controls the vocal chords, this helps in breathing air and eating food.

Also, the advancement in Pranayama is slow because first the breaths have to be balanced and then the mind.

I say prana is oxygen/food, and that’s all.
I know this is not orthodox Yogic thought and they will say I have misunderstood but I beg to differ.

Just think back to a time before it was understood that corporeal life was sustained by chemical processes at the cellular level and that these processes were dependent on oxygen/food and that the body could not produce this oxygen/food in sufficient quantities and therefore it had to be constantly brought in to the body.

What did they see then? They saw that people who did not breath/eat, died! That made the connection. They saw that life left the body when a person was unable to breath. They saw the “life force” go out of the body. Naturally they assumed that there was some form of “energy” or “life force” in the world that sustained life and that breathing was the means by which this life force entered the body. This was why breathing was vital.

They didn’t know about chemistry, they didn’t know WHY air and food were so vital so they invented the idea of prana.

Like oxygen prana is finite and must be constantly renewed, like oxygen it is essential for life and like oxygen life will cease in its’ absence. And if there were some non-physical “energy” or “life force” out there (outside of us) why would it need a physical medium such as air, to carry it. Why couldn’t it just pass through our skin, why wouldn’t it just flow through us like radio waves?!

I have been doing yoga for a long time and I understand the benefits of breathing deeply on a physical and psychological level. The oxygen nourishes the body while the depth of the breathing is an affirmation of the willingness to live, which strengthens the mind. I see no need to believe in “prana”.

It is disingenuous of anyone (yogis and followers alike) in this day and age for anyone to insist that there is something intangible in the air we breath or food we eat that sustains life, other than chemicals.

Yoga asanas do not need to be backed by mystical energies to give them validity.The benefits of yoga are not magical, they are based on sound knowledge (yoga successfully vitalises the body and does not injure you because it was perfected by trial and error over such a long time).

Hello diapolical,

You are entitled to your view, and there is indeed much to be said for a materialistic interpretation of breathing and nutrition.

However, as you progress in your yoga practices, you may one day awaken energy currents in your body for which western science has no explanation, let alone a way of measurement. That will be the day that you will find the concept of prana useful.

And, progressing even further, you may contact spirit or purusha or whatever you may wish to call it. Then you may find that masterialistic science and philosophy leave much to be desired and the language of Patanjali most helpful. Do we live in a material world? Or is there just energy and consciousness?

As for my own personal spiritual life… I don’t need concepts!

extra post - technical hiccup

Of course not. But once you return to the relative world, how will you talk about your experience? Words are not reality, but they may convey it.

Well, the discussion touches interesting questions. I can tell that I agree with diapolical, that most of thing we can explain from scientific point of view. I’m a great proponent of brining science and yoga together, since back those days yoga was almost a science about body and psychic. Just have a look at chakras, nadis, etc, it is anatomy of vessels and glands. So far I have seen and experienced a lot of magical things, and they all have explanation from scientific point of view… .BUT sometimes it is easier to believe in prana, because, some scientific concepts are not that easy to grasp for people with poor education.

In my opinion, we should not “believe” in anything on the spiritual path. And here I use belief in the context of “blind faith”. Prana is just a word, a word like samadhi, purusha, chakra etc. The important thing is to do our practices and to live life fully. If prana then turns out to be a useful word, fine. Then one can use the word prana without resorting to faith, because the concept has passed the critical test of experience.

Prior to that, prana is just an idea from ancient India that describes energy in the body, mind and universe. Prana is important in traditional hatha yoga (= kundalini yoga), a system geared at enlightenment in and through the body. Prana is less important in the other branches of yoga.

Thousands of years have passed since the idea of prana surfaced. Modern science has come up with incredibly accurate theories about energy in the universe and in the biochemistry of the human body. In describing the physical word, modern science is far superior to the ancients.

However, in its quest for objectivity, science has not (yet) come to terms with our inner subjective experiences on the spiritual path. That is where yoga philosophy - which is condensed experience - can be useful. We can use it freely, whenever we find it useful, never resorting to “blind faith”.

To gain greater understanding of the concept and qualities of [I]prana[/I], it is best studied along side the concepts of[I] tejas[/I] and [I]ojas[/I], it’s ayurvedic counterparts. For greater context and deeper understanding of the full potentiality of health and wellness, the three concepts studied together will offer a global view that is in accord with Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga.

One book that I can recommend for the study of the three concepts of [I]prana, tejas[/I] and [I]ojas[/I] is Dr. David Frawley’s, [I]Yoga & Ayurveda: Self-Healing and Self Realization[/I]. CityMonk, you are curious and obviously dedicated in your studies of Yoga – I think you may enjoy this book for very much. It speaks to the many and varied questions that you have posted here on the forum.

Yours in Yoga,

Thanks Nicole, for the book, I’ll check it out.

My friend who is a psychologist was with me at the Sivananda ashram in Kerala. We attended a lecture on Ayurveda. She was very open minded and listened attentively believing she could augment her orthodox western training with this ancient healing art. In the Q&A at the end she asked if Ayurveda had any treatments for mental illness. “Oh yes” the lecturer replied “Ayurveda has several different ways for treating epilepsy!”. She was not amused.

Great blog! Thanks so much for sharing.