Prana, sometimes translated as the lifeforce, is the subtle energetic force that is responsible for our respiration, oxygenation and circulation. In fact, Prana governs over all movement and sensory functions. Therefore healthy, vital Prana is needed for proper functioning of all channels (nadis), organs and systems in our body. Prana is the subtle essence of Vata dosha and thus is also comprised mainly of the elements, ether and air. Being the only subtle energetic force that involves movement, Prana also governs over its related counterparts, Ojas (vitality, immunity) and Tejas (transformational factor). Consequently, disturbed Prana can result is disturbed Ojas and Tejas as well.
Prana has various “homes” throughout the body, including the brain, the heart center and the blood. Therefore, when Prana is disturbed these areas are likely to be the first to get affected. Here are some common signs of low Prana in the system.
Common Signs of Low Prana
- Low energy, fatigue
- Weakness, depletion
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Shortness of breath
- Shallow breathing
- Poor circulation
- Coldness or numbness in the extremities
- Constriction in the body
- Incorrect or distorted perception
- Stuck feelings or emotions
Common Causes of Low Prana
- Mental or physical exhaustion
- Clogged channels due to constriction, toxins, or inflammation
- Stuck, unprocessed emotions
- Excessive, chronic caffeine use (initially will cause high Prana, but eventually leads to burnout)
- Poor sleep
- Poor diet
- Poor digestion
Vibrant, free-flowing Prana is needed for a healthy body and a high quality of life. The moment our channels become clogged or constricted (due to poor diet, poor elimination, allergens, stress, etc, etc…), the Prana and all of its various functions becomes stuck; this is one of the root causes of much disorder and disease. If you feel like your Prana may be lacking, or distorted in someway, here are some simple tips and techniques for promoting healthy Prana in the body and mind.
How to Increase Healthy Prana in the Body and Mind
1. Take in Fresh-Cooked Meals and Whole Foods
As we all have heard, we are what we eat. According to Ayurveda, Prana is stored in healthy, whole, fresh foods, and therefore taking in fresh-cooked meals made with whole foods each day will naturally increase our vital Prana. Alternatively, if we are instead eating mostly processed foods or living off of leftovers, this is thought of as “dead” food that will not only void you of healthy Prana (and nutrients), but processed foods are also known to reduce our digestive fire, clog our channels and create toxins in the system (which in turn will further deplete our Prana).
2. Get Proper Rest
Without proper sleep and relaxation, we will never function to our highest capacity. Sleep governs over both our physical and mental functions and creates homeostasis in the system. Proper sleep is not only about the amount of hours you are sleeping, but also involves the times (the best quality sleep occurs between 10pm-2am). Therefore a general recommendation will be to sleep from about 10pm to 6am daily. Make sure to avoid under-sleeping, but also oversleeping which also can carry its own detrimental affects. Keeping to a healthy, consistent sleep schedule is essential for healthy Prana and a high quality of life. ***Of course, avoiding overworking/over-stressing while making time for nourishing Self-care practices are also included in this recommendation!
3. Process through Thoughts, Feelings and Emotions
One cause of disturbed Prana is unprocessed thoughts and emotions, as well as misperception of our feelings. For healthy, vibrant, free-flowing Prana throughout the body, it is essential to use our Awareness each day to feel our feelings and process through them. Unprocessed emotions are said to be stored in our connective tissue which eventually crystalizes causing blockages and obstruction (a major cause of disturbed Prana). Some helpful ways to process through our feelings are journaling, meditation, talking to a mentor or therapist, talking to a loved one, drawing or other forms of art therapy, playing music, peaceful walks and dancing.
4. Take a Walk in Nature
With an abundance of trees, fresh oxygen and negative ions, how can your Prana not be happy. Whether high or low, taking a nature walk each week will have a positive effect on balancing our vital lifeforce. Remember fresh oxygen equals fresh Prana. If you are living in an area that nature is not so accessible, try waking up early (around 6am) and going for a walk first thing. The air is a bit calmer and crisper at this early hour and can be a great alternative option. For real results, make this a consistent and routine weekly or daily habit!
5. Take Ginger and Baking Soda Baths
Prana relating to circulation needs to be free from obstruction in order to be healthy and function properly. Unfortunately with the stress that we take in throughout each day, we typically are left in a state of constriction by the evening time. One nourishing Self-care practice that is essential for releasing constriction, increasing circulation and soothing the mind is taking a warm bath at night. Adding a bit of ginger and baking soda will further enhance these actions and leave you in a free-flowing Prana frenzy. Best of all, even though the Pranic force is increased, it is also calmed due to the soothing affect of the warm water and ginger, and therefore is balancing for high Prana as well.
6. Avoid Areas with High Levels of Dust, Mold and Pollution
You do not have to be a rocket scientist (or an Ayurvedic scholar) to realize that any foreign pollutant such as dust, mold and chemicals that is taking over your air quality, will have a direct negative effect on your Prana. These allergens and pollutants lead to congestion, inflammation and obstruction and greatly diminish our O2 levels, and therefore our Pranic force as well. Although we cannot always control our environment, it will be essential to set the intention to change this factor if this is a big issue in our daily life. This may involve moving or switching jobs, which will not happen overnight; but establishing an intention and a game plan will greatly improve your quality of life for the present and future!
7. Exercise Regularly
Although many people associate exercise with weight loss, it has so many more vital health benefits for both our bodies and our mind. Exercise is a powerful way to boost Prana, as it promotes oxygen, circulation, digestion and detoxification (all needed for healthy Prana). Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress and balance the mind, further helping to balance the essential Prana. Of course by exercise, I am not talking about extreme cardio, running marathons, or going to the gym for 2 hours each day. The best exercise can simply be taking a brisk, 30 minute daily walk. Other nourishing (rather than depleting) exercises include swimming, biking or the elliptical; all of which are gentle and non-weight bearing. Ideally every individual should get a range of 20-30 minutes of intentional movement in each day for a healthy body, mind and Pranic force.
8. Practice Yoga Regularly
Although this recommendation is not always for everyone, Yoga is a powerful way to remove obstruction from the body, promoting free-flowing juicy Pranic energy throughout. Once again this should not be overly aggressive practices such as “power” Yoga, “hot room” Yoga or anything of the like; rather a gentle Yoga, restorative Yoga or a mild-intensity practice may be all that is needed. A practice should leave you with sustained energy and a balanced mind, rather than a quick rush that soon leads to exhaustion. If you would like to invite Yoga into your life to balance your Pranic needs, I would suggest either setting up a gentle home practice each morning upon awakening; or for beginners, taking an appropriate Yoga class 1-3 times each week. Some great postures that are extra amazing for Prana enhancement are sarvangasana, “leg up the wall”, spinal twists, chest openers, hip openers and surya namaskar (for high Prana, chandra namaskar is more appropriate).
9. Perform Pranayama Daily
Although it may be all too obvious, what better way to increase the Pranic force than some Pranayama. Once again, intense practices are not needed nor recommended; rather even intentional deep belly breathing can be of huge benefit. My greatest recommendations on a general level would be to either start the day with 10 deep belly breathes while sitting in a comfortable seat, or for more advanced practitioners; Nadi Shodhana can also be done, 5-10 rounds each morning. Pranayama is essential for increasing the O2 levels of the body, increasing circulation, removing obstruction and reducing stress and tension; all of which in turn will help you on your way toward healthy Prana!
10. Practice Meditation Daily
Meditation can be very useful in terms of processing through our thoughts and emotions, and increasing our Awareness levels; both of which are essential in obtaining happy, healthy Prana. Long extended practices are not needed to make positive changes. Creating a 5-15 minute meditation practice each morning or before bed is really all you need. It is typically useful to make a set time and be as consistent as possible with this practice, even if for only for a few minutes of “checking in” time each day.
11. Apply Nasya Oil
Nasya is the administration of herbal oils into the nose. The nostrils are said to be the gateway to the Mind and Consciousness. Since one of the major seats of Prana is in the brain, this also will have a direct effect on our Pranic lifeforce as well. If the Prana is low, the best types of Nasya will be of the rejuvenating nature such as Bala, Vacha, Brahmi or Ashwagandha. These all work to rejuvenate the energy and also have a specific affinity to the nervous system and mind.
12. Take Prana-Increasing Herbs
Many herbs can be appropriate to increase the levels of Prana in the body; however, since we all have our unique causes of disturbed Prana, than each individual’s herbal needs will differ. You may need to increase circulation and clear obstruction in which herbs such as ginger, guggulu and cinnamon may be useful. You may need to increase overall energy and therefore more nourishing, rejuvenative herbs such as bala, ashwagandha and shatavari may be of more benefit. Others may have low lung energy causing low levels of O2 in the body. In this case more lung-enhancing herbs will be needed such as vasa, osha root, elecampane or licorice. Whatever the case, a custom blended herbal formula can be extremely useful in complimenting these other recommendations.