Ayurveda and Breath

The Sanskrit word ‘prana’ is commonly interpreted as ‘breath’ or ‘vital air’ in English. In this article we will discuss the quality of ‘prana’ and explain why interpreting ‘prana’ as ‘breath’ is so superficial. Contents are from Mr. Rajiv Malhotra’s video series titled, Prana with his guest speaker Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji.


Prana is derived from the root ‘annh’ by attaching the prefix ‘pra’ before it. The verbal root ‘annh’ means to ‘breathe’ and ‘pra’ means something that comes before or precedes. So prana means that which comes before breathing or in other words that which gives rise to life. It is the fundamental life principle.

It’s also actually one of the evolutions in Sankhya principle. Prana acts as a channel or medium for the Atma to infuse its consciousness into the various elements of the Jiva complex like manas, buddhi, physical body, etc.

The Flow of Prana

Atma does not come in contact with anything material. Because Atma is beyond time and beyond matter and yet, Atma is influencing matter. For the reason that it projects its consciousness into it. The Prana first brings the consciousness into the Chitta and later, it appends its functions.

Prana is not just confined to the respiratory system of the body, but it is a force that vitalizes different sections of the body and all activities within the body – like blood circulation, cardiac activity, etc. So Prana is the creative force.


Physical Location- throat to head

Functions- Physical senses, mental strength, speech

Chakra- Vishuddhi


Physical Location- Diaphragm to throat (heart)

Functions- respirations, sensory perception

Chakra- Anhata


Physical Location- at the naval

Functions- digestion, metabolism, nourishment

Chakra- Manipura


Physical Location- pervades entire body (Aura) 

Functions- Circulations, nerves

Chakra- Svadhisthana


Physical Location- Pelvic floor to feet

Functions- elimination, birthing, menstruation

Chakra- Muladhara

Consciousness is bereft of awareness. Awareness functions with the help of buddhi and mind.

When they translate Prana as Breath, Breath denotes air but Prana is the essential force that drives the breath.

Prana is the cause of all energy that we see in the micro-cosmos and the macro-cosmos.  It is present in the air as well as in the food. Two qualities: Chettana and Chitta constitute the – Prana. That’s why in the Ayurvedic world, when somebody dies they proclaim that the Prana has left. Therefore, for us to subsist, what we need is replenishment of  the Prana.

Fresh foods have more Prana. The process of subjecting fresh produce to fire (Agni) by cooking, reduces this life enhancing force. Thence ayurveda relies on fresh, nature inspired foods than man conspired cooking.

Also, if one is hungry, then, if one sits in an open space and performs Pranayama, one experiences the reduction in the intensity of the hunger. Hunger intrinsically means that one needs Prana. 

Additionally, mantras function as Prana batteries. The adept sadhakas were able to derive energy and vitality from the Prana obtained by chanting a mantra in precise repetitions. Ayurveda, states with clarity, the state of being diseased, is the imbalance owing to vitiated Vata, Pitta & Kapha. 

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Prana ≠ Breath | Sanskrit Non-Translatables

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