International Journal of Yoga - Philosophy, Psychology and Parapsychology

: 2021  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1--2

Prana: The functional basis of life

HR Nagendra 
 Chancellor, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, 19, Eknath Bhavan, Gavipuram Circle, K.G. Nagar, Bengaluru - 560 019, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. H R Nagendra
Chancellor, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, 19, Eknath Bhavan, Gavipuram Circle, K.G. Nagar, Bengaluru - 560 019, Karnataka

How to cite this article:
Nagendra H R. Prana: The functional basis of life.Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2021;9:1-2

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Nagendra H R. Prana: The functional basis of life. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Jun 4 ];9:1-2
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In search of reality, over the last centuries, scientists starting from Newton and Descartes have systematically unraveled the mysteries of this creation. We are now in a fortunate position to understand almost everything about the physical world. Both the structure and laws of creation have been discovered. Energy as the basic fabric of the whole world and classical and quantum mechanics as the laws of the gross and subtle dimensions of the world, have been well accepted. Science is now progressing toward fathoming the laws related to biological systems. It took four centuries to understand the gross universe, and we do not know how long it would take to understand the whole creation, perhaps several more centuries.

India had its history of such search for millions of years and can give directions to modern science. As per Upanishads, which form the texts of the ancient sciences, it is understood that there are two dimensions of creation – the everchanging manifest world called Jagat and the unchanging original entity called the Brahman. Jagat is merely a manifestation of the ultimate reality called as Brahman. When Jagat manifests from its source, the source remains untouched. Both the Jagat and the Brahman are considered to be infinite.


pürëamadaù pürëamidaṁ pürëätpürëamudacyate |

pürëasya pürëamädäya pürëamevävaçiñyate || (éçopaniñat)

In this process of evolution from the unmanifest Brahman to the manifest Jagat, Prana forms the basic fabric, and it supports the whole spectrum of creation.


präëasyedaṁ vaçe sarvaṁ tridive yat pratiñöhitam |

mäteva puträn rakñasva çréçca prajïäṁ ca vidhehi na iti || (praçnopaniñat 2.13)

Prana in its causal state is considered to be associated with anandamaya kosha, and from that state, grossification takes place to emerge as vijnanamaya, manomaya, pranamaya, and annamaya kosha, with prana as its underlying fabric. Prana, therefore, is like the underlying electricity which lightens all the light with different shapes and colors. During this process of evolution, prana from its subtler causal state of infinite power, freedom, knowledge, and bliss limits to grosser fields of Jagat. The basic cause of activity is the prarabdha karma, impression which we potentially carry from previous births. At a given time, in order for us to experience a particular type of prarabdha karma, let us say a disturbance, all the koshas will reconfigure in order to support that imbalance and this process is supported by the Prana. For example, in order to help manifest an imbalance at vijnanamaya kosha, the Prana will support the manifestation of a disturbing thought; similarly at the manomaya kosha, the prana will reciprocate this pattern by supporting the manifestation of disturbing emotions; and further down will support pranic imbalance at pranamaya kosha, and physical ailments and other disturbing physical symptoms at the annamaya kosha. All these expressions are supported by the prana. We can say that the innate intelligence endowed to prana imparts the needed “functional intelligence” corresponding to the various koshas. In a similar analogy, the electromagnetic spectrum, which has infrared, radio waves, and other fields on the lower frequency side of the spectrum; and ultraviolet, X-rays, cosmic rays, and matter, on the higher frequency side of the spectrum, depict the evolution from subtle to gross. Energy is directly proportional to frequency, and as the frequency increases, more waves are packed in a small space, giving rise to matterness. This journey from subtle to gross is always associated with reduction in degrees of freedom. Matter is said to have less inherent freedom compared to energy fields. Similarly, we can extrapolate comparison to pranic evolution, from gross mineral world, to vegetable kingdom, to animal kingdom, to human beings to superhuman beings, characterized by higher degrees of freedom in the expression of prana.[1]

One of the characteristic features of growth is gaining mastery over prana. But how do we attain mastery? All the physiological functions in the human body like breathing, thinking, etc., are controlled by the five pranas in the pranamaya kosha. The first step toward mastery in Yoga is to move from gross perceptions in the form of awareness of the physical bodily functions to subtle dimensions of the pranic body. An aid in this process of transformation is the awareness embedded with attention. Awareness is a sense of meta-observation, and attention is a sense of focused presence. This state of mind can help to increase the sensitivity of our sense organs. In Pranic Energization Technique (PET),[2] one of the techniques to bring balance and harmony in the pranic field, the practice starts with a sense of touch, systematically feeling the vyaana and go to experience other aspects of prana in the subtle body. Throughout the practice, awareness and attention are very essential as they help in conscious redistribution of prana in the system and attain balance and harmony. It has been shown that in an experiment, adopting prana mudra and merely focusing the attention has led to change in bioenergy measured using electrophotonic imaging technique.[3] The imbalances in pranamaya kosha, at all the five aspects of prana (prana, apana, vyana, udana, and samana), and at other koshas are first recognized and corrected using the available freedom exercised while channelizing prana in the practice of PET. Among many applications of PET, the use of PET to deal with faster healing of fractured bones highlights its efficacy.[4]

In a previous editorial article titled, “Exploration of Prana: The future of yoga research,”[5] it was shown that attempts to unravel the structure and laws of prana are going on. A question whether epigenetic concepts can throw light to the understanding of prana is worth considering. It is well known that genetic changes can influence protein synthesis, and thereby many vital physiological functions. Epigenetic changes influence expression of genes either by their upregulation or downregulation, which can tangibly express as physiological and behavioral changes. External factors of lifestyle like diet and exercise are shown to influence epigenetic changes.[6] Mindful practices like Vipassana, Yoga, Tai Chi, and Quadrato Motor Training have been reported to positively impact well-being.[7] In fact, they can be considered as emotional and attentional regulatory practices, which, by inducing a state of greater inner silence, allow the development of increased self-awareness. Inner silence can therefore be considered a powerful tool to counteract the negative effects of overabundant environmental disturbances; thanks to its power to relieve stress-related symptoms. As many of these positive outcomes rely on physiological and biochemical activities, there has been more research work carried out to understand the molecular and epigenetic mechanisms influenced by different mindful practices.

A key factor in these mindful practices is conscious awareness which enables the prana to be consciously redistribute and harmonize the system. Hence, we can assume that mastering pranic balance may help regulate epigenetic changes and thereby bringing homeostasis in the system. Thus, the study of prana and its influence on various biological systems is a potent area of research, and we can reap significant benefits for clinical practices.


1Nagendra HR. Pranayama: The Art and Science. 2nd ed. Bengaluru: Swami Vivekananda Yoga Prakashana; 1999.
2Nagendra HR. Pranic Energization Technique-Practice. Bengaluru: Swami Vivekananda Yoga Prakashana; 2014.
3Kumar KS, Srinivasan TM, Ilavarasu J, Mondal B, Nagendra HR. Classification of electrophotonic images of yogic practice of mudra through neural networks. Int J Yoga 2018;11:152-6.
4Oswal P, Nagarathna R, Ebnezar J, Nagendra HR. The effect of add-on yogic prana energization technique (YPET) on healing of fresh fractures: A randomized control study. J Altern Complement Med 2011;17:253-8.
5Nagendra HR. Exploration of prana : The future of yoga research. Int J Yoga Philos Psychol Parapsychol 2019;7:27.
6Kanherkar RR, Bhatia-Dey N, Csoka AB. Epigenetics across the human lifespan. Front Cell Dev Biol 2014;2:49.
7Venditti S, Verdone L, Reale A, Vetriani V, Caserta M, Zampieri M. Molecules of silence: Effects of meditation on gene expression and epigenetics. Front Psychol 2020;11:1767.