Everyday ways to increase Prana



There are many established ways to support ourselves by ensuring we are receiving prana, the positive life energy and decreasing the energy of apana, negative life energy or decay through establishing a practical daily regime known as a dinacharya ('dina' meaning 'daily' and charya 'routine'), so whilst we are all uniquely individual there are some straightforward ways in which we can all benefit.



Note that we should develop our dinacharya, or daily regime, little by little to ensure we remain satmyic or comfortable, as doing too much too soon can certainly overwhelm us!!



Before we look at some simple practices to include in our dinacharya let us first examine some of the theory surrounding the ways in which prana is absorbed into the body. If you feel you need a little more information regarding prana, the vayus and the koshas then please check out the article on subtle anatomy and physiology and read this article in conjunction with the information presented there.



The absorption of prana


Prana is absorbed in the short term through our breath, primarily through the lungs. It is absorbed long term through food, primarily at the site of the colon. More specifically:



Prana is taken in through the nostrils and nasal cavity and from here it is immediately absorbed into the brain, senses and nervous system.



Subtle prana directly enters the brain energizing the brain and senses, and indeed the whole nervous system. If there is congestion this optimal transference of prana cannot occur and our thinking and senses will become dull. As the seat of Prana Vayu is the primary prana it will necessarily adversely affect vyana vayu meaning the limbs and organs of action will become impaired and the energies circulating substances through the body will slow. Udana Vayu will not function correctly and so our inner creativity, expression and aspiration will diminish. Also as this region links us to the vital pranic sheath, pranamayakosha when there is an impairment of Prana in this region, the connection between the physical body, annamayakosha, and its vitalizing pranic envelope, pranamayakosha, is diminished; consequently we become low in energy and immunity and more susceptible to disease.


On a gross level if we have to breathe through the mouth then the warming, humidifying, filtering action of the nasal cavity is lost and it will become more difficult to extract prana and we become open to the movement of pathogens into the bronchial tubes and lungs. The lungs will have to work harder and we are susceptible to allergies, colds, sinusitis, headaches and more serious respiratory disorders.



So the key to the energy of prana and the health of the body begins with the nostrils. We can maintain our connection with the pranic sheath that rules over the physical through the primary practices of Nasya, nasal treatments and by performing pranayama such as nadi sodhana.


Prana is taken in through the lungs to be transported by the pumping action of the heart, to the whole body in the vehicles of the blood and plasma.



Here on a subtle level through prana vayu prana is taken in, is absorbed by samana vayu and becomes vyana vayu, the diffusive, circulatory energy as it is absorbed into the blood. This allows us to function on a motor level, allowing us to act. Note all three portion of the lungs, the upper, middle and lower are important for extracting prana and if one should fail to be used our vitality becomes impaired. If the lowest portion is not exhaled it becomes a breeding ground for toxins and apana, the negative life force, indeed fungi or bacteria may begin to grow if the area is damp. Alternatively if the breath is too shallow, toxic air accumulates.



To aid this process we can learn to breathe correctly through the complete yogic breath and perform this five to ten times at least twice per day.



Prana is absorbed through the skin. This is a slower process serving to balance prana in the body.


We receive prana through the skin, this is illustrated by the fact that if for some strange reason we were to completely cover the surface of the skin with paint we will eventually die! Whilst respiration through the skin is not as immediate as with the nostrils or as evident as through the lungs it is still significant. We need a clean skin where pores are unblocked and so the occasional use of brushing mitts is very helpful. The skin cannot properly absorb prana if it is too dry so a daily self massage is very useful.



Prana is absorbed at major sites along the gastro-intestinal tract, in particular from food in the large intestine as the final product of digestion.



In the mouth and palate prana is absorbed form our food and drink, some of it directly into the brain and senses where it immediately energises them, for this reason we need to sip room temperature water with the meal to keep the taste buds clear to absorb prana and we also need to 


Within the stomach the earth and water elements along with the prana within them are absorbed, if they are not absorbed we end up with an excess of mucous forming. If this accumulation of mucous occurs then the gastric juices will not be optimal, being too low or variable, then toxins or ama, undigested food, results and this will start to inhabit the damp, dark places of the GI tract giving rise to feeling of heaviness, lethargy, nausea, excess wind, etc The build up of ama prevents absorption of Prana and eventually gives rise to disease.



Within the small intestines the fire elements are absorbed along with their Prana and finally in the large intestine, the colon, air and ether elements are absorbed along with the main portion of Prana from our food. Prana is absorbed through the wall of the colon from where it is taken to the deeper tissues of the body, such as bone, marrow, nerve and reproductive tissues. If our food is lacking in Prana or there is indigestion then these deeper tissues are not nourished and if toxic gases are formed then these are absorbed instead and enter into the deep tissues creating disease, particularly of the bone and nervous system. The Prana absorbed from the colon is the most concentrated form of Prana forming our energy reserve and endurance.



We need to ensure good digestion and take foods full of prana in order to keep the body and the subtle energies working at an optimal level, Ayurveda provides us with general guidelines for eating to help us.



Role of the mind & emotions


Just as the pranic sheath envelopes the physical body, the mental sheath, manomayakosha, envelops the pranic and therefore the physical body, in this way what we think and feel has a direct effect upon energy levels and the body. The mental sheath connects to the physical body mainly through the brain and senses and in particular through the nervous system and its seven plexes, which correspond to the more subtle chakras of the pranic sheath.



The mental body, the body of the outer mind, functions largely according to sensations, emotion and information type thoughts, with emotion being the most important of these for our health. If our emotions are disturbed this immediately affects prana which in turn affects the physical body. Spending time creating space inwardly, until it becomes our way of being, will pay us great dividends being one the primary ways of creating good health and a good level of Prana.



The role of water in the absorption of prana


All of the tissues in the body that can transport or absorb prana are necessarily lubricated, we only need to think of the mucous linings of the entire gastro-intestinal tract or the liquid nature of the blood and plasma to see how the body takes this into consideration. If there is too little moisture or too much then prana cannot be transported or absorbed effectively. Rather as electricity is transmitted well through the medium of water, water acts as a vehicle of prana, in a way we are energized by Prana-filled water!!



It is interesting to note that through the practice of pranayama we create energised water within us and can often experience an increase of saliva within the mouth however this is saliva of a sweeter taste being a product of the production of new plasma of a higher order. Through this we can build up plasma of a higher level of pranic energy. This new plasma feeds the deeper tissues of the body creating a more vital energetic physical body. To help this process it is helpful to place the tongue upon the roof of the mouth during pranayama.



The deeper aspects of prana


Prana is more than the breath or any physical force. Breathing does not give life rather it is a function of life. As we breathe we inhale air or oxygen, which is inherently lifeless, what actually extracts life energy from the air is the primary life-force or primary prana within us. Through the breath it is able to project its life energy into the physical body. As an analogy the primary prana is like a fire, the air we breathe is its fuel and the light and warmth produced is our physical life.


Remember the primary life force or Prana has dimensions of immortality above any manifest existence, it does not depend upon its physical fuel for its existence but only for its manifestation.



Primary Practices to Include on a Daily Basis


The practices of Ayurveda and Yoga provide us with various means of enhancing the flow of prana throughout the body.



Cleansing the Tongue


Each morning we can scrape the tongue with a copper or steel scraper. This will remove toxins, stimulate the entire gastro-intestinal tract to help regulate digestion and help to regulate the Vayus. We must remember however to do this before we take our morning drink so any toxins upon our tongue are not flushed back down into our system! If wanted we can also massage the gums with coconut or sesame oil, which has a lubricating, soothing, strengthening effect upon the gums, this becomes more important as we grow older or we have receding gums.



Care of the skin


It is helpful to have a regular brushing of the skin using a silk glove or a more abrasive material; this is especially true if you are of a kapha nature where it can be a daily practice. This ensures the skin remains clean and the pores open.



A daily self massage before a hot shower or bath is ideal for vata and pitta types or when you perceive the skin to be dry. Here we use sesame oil for vata or coconut oil for pitta and massage up from the feet, up from the hands and down to the navel where we perform a clock wise motion; along long muscles we can use long strokes and at each joint we can use circular strokes. We can avoid buttocks where oil cannot be absorbed. Just leave the oil on for around 20 minutes if possible, then take a hot shower or bath where the oil will be driven deeper into the tissues, providing a lubricating, nutritive, soothing effect.



Care of the nostrils

Jala neti

When experiencing nasal or more generalized head congestion we can use a neti pot to perform jala neti each morning and evening. To do this place around half a pint of lukewarm water plus an eighth to half a teaspoon of salt (non-iodized) into a neti pot. Then allow half of the liquid to flow through each nostril. Gently blow any excess water out at the end then perform childs pose, anchor pose, down dog and standing spread leg with arms overhead to release the final residues of water.



Sniffing of herbs

If we have kapha as a dominant energy we can sniff a pinch of ginger to clear the nostrils. Do not use this if you have a dry nasal cavity or a tendency to nose bleeds.



Application of oil to the nostrils

Use the little fingers to massage oil into the nostrils. Remember it requires water to absorb prana and if the nasal passages are too dry we cannot absorb prana properly. This must always be done after jala neti where the scraping action of the salt water can leave the nostrils too dry. The application of oil also serves to protect the mucous membranes and catch pathogens, plus our energies are balanced by the massaging action. This balancing effect upon the nervous system occurs because the left nostril relates to the parasympathetic nervous system, ida pingala, and the right to its opposite the sympathetic nervous system or pingala nadi, with each nostril containing many nerve endings to these systems and so in a very real fashion we can directly balance them in this way! A good quality organic sesame oil is ideal for this purpose or we can use medicated oils such as Brahmi oil which have a special action, Brahmi Oil calms the mind and aids concentration, ideal for meditation!



Care of the senses


Application of oil to the ears

Do not forget the ears are connected to the nasal cavity via the Eustachian tubes and so use the index or middle fingers to apply oil in a gentle circular action. We can extend the massage to include the outer ear since here many nerve endings will again be soothed.



Application of oil to the crown marma point

Massage a little oil into the crown marma point, the adipatti marma. We can find this point by placing hands horizontally, measuring three hand widths from the eyebrows to the crown. This regulates the most important energy point, balancing Prana Vayu, the controlling vayu.


Care of the lungs


Complete Yogic breath

Ideally perform the complete three part breath at least twice per day, morning and evening, to keep the lungs mobile and the respiratory muscles toned. Focus upon the exhalation being complete and this will necessarily increase the depth of the inhalation. This daily practice will help us breathe properly, reduce the build of toxins and aid the release of emotional states, which may be creating our dysfunctional breathing.



Once you are familiar with this breath we can bring in more consciousness as well as vitality if we consciously breathe and aspire to link with the Divine. To help us to link with the inner life force we can focus upon the third eye, ajna chakra; imagine you are breathing through the third eye, as you inhale the inner life force moves up the spine and as you breathe out it moves down the spine. Note as you inhale outside air is drawn in which causes Prana to be pushed up the spine and as you exhale the pressure is released causing Prana to move down the spine.


Other daily practices


Yoga Asana

Yoga asana are the most beneficial form of exercise and creating a daily practice helps to keep the body flexible and strong. They help keep the body mobile by lubricating and mobilizing all of the structures of the body, they release mental toxins within the tissues and on a subtle level maintain the proper functioning of the vayus which are responsible for the functioning of the physical body. A short regular morning practice of perhaps 10 to 15 minutes is preferable to nothing; it is better to practice regularly for a short period than occasionally for a longer period!



Find a way to bring a quality of awareness or consciousness to your practice so it does not become a mechanical workout. Very simply you can link your mind to the breath, ujjayi breath is excellent for this purpose, or perhaps focus upon keeping the inner body space open as you move.



Nadi Sodhana

Alternate nostril breathing is perhaps the most important of all pranayama since as previously stated the nasal cavity is the direct opening to the brain, senses and nervous system; indeed the nostrils contain nerve endings to each branch of the autonomic nervous system, the left to the parasympathetic and the right to the sympathetic branch, we can therefore energize, purify and balance the two through this breath. It is interesting to note that we can affect the nervous system more than 30 times as effectively as in any other way!! This can be performed after the practice of asana.



Aroma Therapy

If we wish to aid the functioning of the nostrils and through them the brain and senses aromatherapy can do this. For instance spicy fragrances such as eucalyptus can open the sinuses and stimulate prana, flower fragrances such as rose calm emotions and enhance creativity. Traditionally aroma therapy is simply the use of essentials oils, incense and herbs externally within the room, not the direct application upon the body.


So in conclusion whilst this list of practices is not exhaustive hopefully you can see how if we can incorporate some of these into our daily routine then we will be helping our mind, body and senses to be energized and balanced. In particular they will help to balance the doshas, in particular vata dosha which has a special affinity to the mind and senses and to prana itself. As such these practices are great preventative measures to maintain health and will always help us to return to balance as they all help the natural intelligence of the body to flourish.