Prana is a Sanskrit word that translates as “vital life force.” What do we mean by Vital life force? Understanding what prana is and how it works is like being given a key that can unlock new improved levels of health and wellbeing—on the inside and out.

Living everyday as we do we are constantly aware of the physical 5 senses that enable us to survive and thrive; the air we breathe and the water we drink that brings life and energy to all things on this planet. The touch of our hair, our skin, the rough bark of a tree.The sound of birds singing, the sun rising on a beautiful new day.

What many in the western world have lost connection with is difficult to explain yet something we have all experienced at least once in our lifetime. This non physical,less tangible, less “put your finger on it” but nonetheless real energy that exists and links all of us. lt is what links us all and sustains life everywhere.

Prana can also be known by other names – qi, chi, and ki; for example, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Reiki, are all eastern practices that work with this life force just as yoga works with prana.

Understanding Energy and the Pranic Body

In our physical body, blood flows through our veins, capillaries and arteries. In our energy body, prana flows through energy pathways called NADIS

When we breathe we take in prana. When we expand the breath and breathe in more deeply we improve the quality of it and in turn our connection to that unseeing intangible energy. Deepening our connection both internally and externally.

Another way to connect our physical selves with our non physical self is through connecting with our chakras. Although most people have heard of the seven main chakras, there are actually 114 in the body. The human body is a complex energy form; in addition to the 114 chakras, it also has 72,000 “nadis,” or energy channels, along which vital energy, or “prana,” moves.

In yoga, we focus on the seven major chakras that exist along the line of the spine, each one connected to specific glands and organs of the physical body, as well as areas of our mind that influence our personality.

It is believed by many that health and wellbeing comes when there is a balanced energy flow through each of the seven major chakras.

On the flipside, when prana is prevented from flowing naturally, either becoming blocked or overactive at a certain point, it can create disharmony on both a physical and emotional level.

Help Prana Flow Freely

Yoga postures, particularly the traditional or classical asanas, activate specific chakras. For example, Bridge Pose and Shoulder Stand work the energy at the throat chakra, which can have a direct influence on how we communicate with others.

On a physical level, the throat chakra corresponds to the thyroid and parathyroid glands, and can therefore have a nourishing and balancing effect on our metabolism.

Ways to Expand Prana

As I’ve mentioned, yoga postures have a really positive affect on our energy, and Kirtan (chanting) is another powerful practice—particularly for the energy at the throat chakra.

Let’s not forget pranayama, the yoga breathing techniques which are specifically designed to expand prana. The word yama means to control, so when we expand and control the breath, we can consciously expand and distribute the vital life force within our system.

While you don’t actually need to fully comprehend this aspect of yoga to receive the benefits, practicing with energetic sensitivity can add a new dimension to your practice, and perhaps help you enjoy more balanced levels of health and wellbeing.