What Prana Is And How to Feel It

Prana as a universal energy exists not only within our subtle body channels, but all around. Explore how to sense and consciously direct prana in the body, breath and environment around you.
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog
what is prana
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog

In the heart of ancient wellness practices lies a concept so powerful yet so subtle that it forms the very essence of our being. Prana, often described as the life force or vital energy, courses through the universe and every living creature, connecting us to the broader cosmos with invisible threads. This concept, deeply rooted in yogic traditions, is not just about the air we breathe but encompasses the energy that animates life itself.

Understanding prana is akin to unlocking a hidden door within ourselves, revealing pathways to enhanced well-being, spiritual growth, and a profound connection to the world around us.

Key takeaways:

  • Prana is the life force that sustains all living beings, influencing our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
  • Understanding and working with prana can lead to improved well-being, deeper spiritual insights, and a harmonious balance in life.
  • Practices such as yoga, meditation, and pranayama are key to experiencing and enhancing the flow of prana.
  • Awareness and control of prana can empower individuals to lead healthier, more fulfilled lives.


Discover the foundations of yogic breathing and transform your practice with our beginner’s guide to how to breathe in yoga on Insight Timer.

What is prana?

At its core, prana is the universal life force that permeates everything in existence. In Sanskrit, “pra” means to fill, and “ana” signifies movement or force, together symbolizing the vital energy that fills and animates the universe. 

Prana is not merely the breath, though breathing is one of the most direct means of influencing its flow within us. It is the essence of vitality and the spark of life that fuels our existence.

Ancient texts and practices within Hinduism have long acknowledged the significance of prana, highlighting its role in the creation and sustenance of life. Though Hindu tradition isn’t the only well-known philosophy that recognizes life force — “Qi” (chi) in Traditional Chinese Medicine is a notable parallel. With some similarities even shared with the concept of Holy Spirit in Abrahamic monotheistic religions, like Christianity.

In yogic philosophy, prana is seen as the bridge between the physical and the non-physical, influencing our health, emotions, and spiritual state. Recognizing and harnessing this energy is key to achieving a state of balance and harmony within oneself and with the surrounding world.

The functions of prana

Prana’s role in our lives stretches far beyond just the act of breathing. It’s this incredible vital force that keeps our cells vibrant, our organs functioning, and our minds clear. Imagine prana as this unseen force moving through thousands of energy channels, or nadis, within us, maintaining our health and energizing our entire being.

Prana is an energy that pulses through the body along a network of subtle body channels. Similar to the central nervous system, the channels of the subtle body, or nadis , connect form and mind and act as a conduit for energy, prana .

Through this movement, prana regulates our physical body’s key systems. It ensures our heart beats, our food digests properly, and our body detoxifies, keeping us in top physical shape. 

But its influence doesn’t stop there. 

Prana also touches our mental and emotional worlds. It’s what can lift our spirits on a good day or help calm a racing mind, contributing to a balanced, stable emotional state. Spiritually, prana is a bridge to deeper realms. It supports our meditation practices, deepens our spiritual connections, and fosters a sense of oneness with the universe.

What does prana do? Manifestations of prana

Prana moves within us in different ways, creating a lively energy dance that’s key to our health and well-being. It splits into five types, each with a special job that helps us feel balanced and alive.

These prana types manage everything from our breathing and digestion to our ability to express ourselves and balance our inner energy. They’re like a team, working together to make sure we’re functioning at our best, physically and emotionally. By understanding these energies, we can use yogic practices and breathwork (pranayama) to keep them flowing smoothly.

Getting to know these prana types and how to balance them is a big step towards feeling more in tune with yourself. Insight Timer has energy-based meditations focusing on these five pranas. It’s a great starting point for anyone wanting to dive deeper into their energy and find a greater sense of peace and well-being.

The importance of prana in yoga

Yoga, in its essence, is the art and science of optimizing the flow of prana within the body.

Yogis and practitioners use some key methods to balance and enhance the distribution of prana, including:

  • various postures (asanas)
  • breath control techniques (pranayama)
  • meditation practices

This, in turn, leads to improved health, a calmer mind, and a deeper spiritual connection.

A practice of pranayama, or the control of breath, is particularly focused on regulating the flow of prana because breathing is the primary pranic activity in the body. Breath control and breathwork help people manage their energy levels, cope with stress, and achieve states of deep relaxation and heightened awareness. By learning to control the breath, you gain the ability to direct prana effectively, unlocking the potential for profound transformation on all levels of being.

The five pranas in yoga

In yoga, understanding the five pranas offers a glimpse into the subtle energies that animate our existence. Each prana, or aspect of life force, plays a distinct role in maintaining our physical and spiritual well-being, harmonizing the body’s systems and energies. This exploration reveals the depth of yogic wisdom, guiding us toward balance and vitality.

Prana Vayu

Prana Vayu dwells in the area of the heart and head, governing the intake of air and food, vital for our survival. It influences the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, ensuring that the body receives the oxygen and nutrients it needs. This vayu is also linked to our ability to absorb experiences and emotions, making it central to our interaction with the world. Traditionally, Hindus balance and cultivate prana vayu through the wellness practices of ayurveda.

Explore Ayurveda: The Science Of Self-Healing, a premium course with 5-star teacher, Rohil Jethmalani.

Apana Vayu

Apana Vayu is located in the lower abdomen and is primarily involved with elimination and the downward and outward flow of energy. It regulates the excretory and reproductive systems, playing a crucial role in detoxifying our body and mind. A balanced Apana Vayu is essential for maintaining physical health and emotional stability. Certain ayurvedic foods, spices, and practices that focus on the root and sacral chakras will help move and optimize apana vayu.

Curious about balancing and clearing chakras? Discover what works best for you with hundreds of tracks of free chakra music.

Samana Vayu 

Samana Vayu centers around the navel and is key to the process of digestion and assimilation. It balances metabolic activities and ensures that nutrients are properly distributed throughout the body. Naturally, due to it’s influence on digestion and metabolism, certain ayurvedic foods can support regulation of this prana. This vayu also harmonizes the inner energies of prana and Apana Vayu, contributing to internal equilibrium.

Udana Vayu

Udana Vayu is located in the throat, governing speech, growth, and self-expression. It supports the flow of energy upwards through the body, influencing our ability to communicate and express our thoughts and feelings. Udana Vayu is also associated with spiritual growth, guiding the ascent of energy towards higher consciousness.

Vyana Vayu

Vyana Vayu pervades the entire human body, coordinating and unifying all bodily functions. It ensures that energy is evenly distributed, supporting mobility and the body’s overall integration. Vyana Vayu acts as a network that connects the physical and energetic aspects of our being, facilitating overall balance and harmony.

By engaging with practices that enhance the flow and balance of these pranas, such as specific yoga asanas and pranayama techniques, we can improve our physical health, emotional well-being, and spiritual awareness.

Want to get started with prana-focused meditation? Check out this guided meditation by Insight Timer that dives into each of the five sub-branches of vital energy.

What are the prana pathways? The sun, moon & central channels

Yoga tradition introduces us to prana, the vital energy that powers every aspect of our being. As we mentioned before, this energy flows through pathways known as nadis. Like energy highways within us, nadis have three main channels that are especially important for our overall balance: Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna.

Ida: the moon channel

Ida is likened to the moon, offering a cooling and calming energy. It begins at the base of our spine and ends at the left nostril, deeply connected to our mental and emotional well-being. Ida governs our creative and reflective sides, helping us tap into our intuition and inner wisdom. A balanced Ida brings mental clarity and calmness, enhancing our ability to reflect and meditate.

Pingala: the sun channel

Pingala, in contrast, embodies the sun’s warming energy. Starting at the same point as Ida but ending at the right nostril, it influences our physical energy and action. Pingala drives our productivity, physical strength, and motivation to achieve our goals. When in harmony, Pingala invigorates us, fueling our ambitions with the right mix of energy and vitality.

Sushumna: the central channel

Sushumna is the central channel and the most crucial, running along our spinal column. It is the pathway through which our spiritual energy ascends, potentially leading to enlightenment when activated. Sushumna represents the balance and integration of our physical and mental energies, guiding us toward a state of inner peace and spiritual awakening. A clear central channel is key.

Designed to push and pull the inner winds — ha and tha — into the central channel, Hatha yoga focuses on physical manipulation of the body. This ultimate goal of moving these energies is why we call it ha-tha yoga. 

Balancing these energy channels is key to holistic health, blending physical strength with mental serenity and spiritual insight. Yoga practices, particularly Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga, are designed to purify and harmonize the nadis, energetic highways that propel the flow of prana. In fact, powerful shakti energy, which is needed to transform consciousness, is prana honed by kundalini practices. Through dedication, these yogic paths help unlock our full potential, allowing the free flow of prana and facilitating a transformative journey toward enlightenment.

Connect to the pingala, ida, and sushumna channels within your body with these guided meditations that you can also easily find and bookmark on the Insight Timer app:

  1. Pingala Mudra - Gesture Of The Solar Nadi: Balancing The Solar Channel Of Energy Joseph Le Page 6:54
  2. Ida Mudra: The Gesture Of The Lunar Nadi Joseph Le Page 7:58
  3. Shushumna Breath Jennifer Kavanagh 2:59
  4. Spinal Activation - Sushumna Nadi Miriam Katz 8:10

Enhance prana flow with meditation and pranayama

Meditation and pranayama, the art of breath control, lie at the heart of yoga, guiding us in our quest to understand and manage prana, our life force. Through these practices, we navigate and refine prana’s flow, which:

  • unlocks profound peace
  • focuses concentration
  • opens pathways to spiritual understanding

In meditation, we connect with prana’s subtle currents within us, fostering a state of calm and a deep feeling of unity with everything around us. Pranayama takes this a step further with specific breathing techniques that not only regulate this vital energy but also boost our overall health, invigorate our bodies, and clear our minds.


One of the eight limbs of yoga, pranayama, or breath control, uses breathing exercises to manipulate prana as an additional tool alongside asana, the physical poses, or meditation.

Ayurvedic pranayama techniques help to cure illness and keep us physically healthy. There are plenty of pranayama techniques to increase and calm our energy, warm our bodies and clear our minds. A 2012 study has shown that the popular ujjayi breathing technique turns off our physical response to stress.

Explore guided pranayama practices.

Through the combination of asana, meditation and pranayama, the latent Kundalini energy or prana at the base of the spine travels upwards through the central channel and out the crown chakra, bringing us to enlightenment. This also happens at the moment of conscious death, as prana is directed first to the heart chakra, and then expelled from the body through the crown of the head. You might want to read our beginner’s guide on how to breathe in yoga to balance body and mind.

Dive deep into the practice of pranayama and discover your ability to control prana through classic techniques that soothe and energize with the guided 10-day course “Pranayama For Restoring Vitality”. Listen to day one below:

  1. Downward Pranic Wind: Apana Vayu Larissa Hall Carlson 15:03

How to improve flow of prana?

Deepening your connection with prana isn’t just beneficial; it’s transformative, opening doors to better health and spiritual growth. 

This connection grows primarily through:

Together, these activities enhance our ability to sense and manage this vital energy.

Breathing exercises, or pranayama, like Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing), play a key role. They help balance and regulate prana, making us feel more centered and alive. Yoga poses (asanas) are equally important. They open up our body, align our chakras, and improve prana flow, boosting our energy and vitality. Then, there’s meditation which helps us focus on breath awareness or specific mantras, tune us into prana’s subtle presence, calm our mind, and deepen our connection to ourselves and the world around us.

Integrating these practices into daily life helps us find balance, inside and out, and truly connect with the life force that runs through us. Some benefits of healthy connection with prana are: 

  • enhanced physical well-being
  • mental clarity
  • greater emotional stability
  • A deeper sense of spiritual awareness

Want to explore how yoga can help you connect with prana and enhance well being? We’ll help you learn how to deepen your yoga practice with practical tips and insights.


Awareness of prana and the subtle body is a lifelong practice. In meditation, awareness of our thoughts gifts us the space to respond to them more wisely. Awareness of prana gifts us the same ability. Over time, with deeper awareness, we’re able to intentionally move that energy toward center, experience an undisturbable contentment, and achieve a deeper sense of harmony, vitality, and connection to the universe.

Read more: Explore the meaning and layers of drishti, the yogic gaze, and how it applies to live offside the yoga mat.

FAQ on prana

How can you define prana?

Prana is a Sanskrit term that translates to “life force” or “vital energy.” It refers to the universal energy that flows in and around our bodies, believed to be the breath and the sustaining force of life itself.

What does prana energy feel like?

Prana energy is often experienced as a sense of vitality, aliveness, or a flow of energy. Some describe it as a tingling sensation during meditation or yoga, while others feel more subtle shifts, like deep relaxation or a sense of balance and harmony.

What is the spiritual meaning of prana?

Spiritually, prana represents the connection between the material and the spiritual. It’s the energy that animates life and is a link to higher consciousness. Cultivating prana through practices like yoga and meditation can lead to greater spiritual awareness and enlightenment.

What are the 5 types of prana?

According to yogic philosophy, the five types of prana, known as the pancha pranas, are Prana (responsible for the respiratory system and the heart), Apana (elimination and reproductive system), Vyana (muscular and circulatory system), Udana (throat and speech), and Samana (digestive system and metabolism).

What type of energy is prana?

Prana is a subtle form of energy in the body, comparable to the concept of Qi in Chinese medicine. It is neither purely physical nor solely spiritual but is the essential life force that circulates through all forms of life.

How to practice prana?

A: Prana can be cultivated and channeled through various practices such as pranayama (breath control exercises), meditation, yoga, and through mindful awareness of the breath and body in daily activities.

Why is prana so important?

Prana is critical because it is the essence of life itself. It sustains the body and mind, supports the functioning of various systems in the body, and plays a vital role in maintaining mental and physical health.

What’s another word for prana?

Prana is often equated with “chi” or “qi” in Chinese philosophy, “ki” in Japanese culture, and “lung” in Tibetan. All these terms refer to the life force energy that circulates through the body.


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