The second Kosha or layer identified by the yogis in yogic physiology is the Pranamaya Kosha . Prana is the vital force permeating the body and every layer of matter. It is related to energy. In fact Prana is associated with all the koshas and it is vital for life. It animates the body. However there is energy specific to Pranamaya kosha .
It occupies only about 2 per cent of our awareness and takes up the same space as the physical body. According to the ancient yogis prana flows through energy channels in the body referred to as Nadis which correspond to the physical nerves. There are said to be 72000 nadis with three prominent ones — Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. Both Ida and Pingala wrap around the main energy channel Sushumna like the double helix…where the networks converge at 7 points are the chakras ( or wheels of energy ).
In different parts of the body the yogis believe that prana serves different functions and they identified 5 pranas or pancha pranas as they are called:
- Vyana – flows through the whole body and is always present, it is said to be the last to leave when we die
- Udana – flows through the head, arms, legs and is associated with the mind and senses and movement..energy used in actions.
- Samara – is equalising and balancing the mid torso and has a side to side movement. It regulates the flow of prana and Apana.
- prana – is the upper torso navel to throat flowing up with inhalation and down with exhalation ( Think of the practice of the So Hum breath here) ..the lungs, heart
- Apana – flowing from navel to pelvic floor.. a downward movement associated with excretion and childbirth
Obviously breath has a very close association with Prana and the way to become aware of the actions of prana and to effect change is through breathing (Pranayama) practices By practising these techniques even something as simple as natural breath awareness you become aware of your own personal breathing patterns. You notice changes in breathing patterns associated with your state of mind. However things like meditation and asana also affect Pranamaya kosha so your yoga class may contain all of these elements. A balanced personal practice would include not just asana practice but also time for pranayama practice and some meditation. Remember this does not have to be a long time but it is worth thinking about making your practice (or sadhana) well rounded.