Part III — Pranayama and yogic breathing

Question: What is prana?

Sri Chinmoy: Prana is a Sanskrit word which means breath, life-breath or life-energy. This life-energy is not something material or physical which can be seen by the scientists or doctors, but it is indispensable to life. The source of prana is the Supreme. prana is as important in our life as Atman, which is the soul or Self. Life is breath embodied and breath manifested.

There are five kinds of prana. The first is prana proper, the life energy inside us. Wherever there is life there is prana. The second is apana. This is the energy used specifically in excretion and generation. The third is samana. Samana is located around the navel and is used for digestion and assimilation. The fourth is called vyana. This is located in the lotus of our spiritual heart. There are one hundred and one subtle spiritual nerves around this lotus, and from each of these nerves there branch out one hundred and one other nerves. Each of these, in turn, has seventy-two thousand branches, and through all these nerves vyana moves. These numbers may sound fantastic, but many Seers and Yogis have actually counted them. At the age of twenty-two or twenty-three, I wanted to count these nerves, and I tried. I counted quite a few thousand, and then a luminous being stood in front of me and said, “Don’t waste your time. The Seers are right.”

The last form of prana is udana. Udana is located in the middle of the spine. This prana is most important. If this udana from the middle of the spine goes upward at the time of death, one will go to one of the higher worlds. If it goes downward, one will go to one of the lower worlds. Each place on the body represents a loka, a heavenly world. In India, at the time of death, the relatives and friends always try to observe the area from which the last life-breath of the deceased passes. If the last breath passes from anywhere below the navel, one has to go to lower worlds and suffer greatly. If it passes from somewhere above the navel, one will go to one of the higher worlds to enjoy the Delight of the Supreme.