Sanskrit for “breath,” prana refers to the universal energy that flows through the body’s web of non-physical channels known as nadis, the three most famous being the Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. Different breathing patterns known as pranayamas can increase and direct this energy, leading to the simplification that prana and air are the same or that prana is in the air. In the traditional system, there are five different forms of prana:
Prana: Moves inward. Governs all types of consumption: eating, drinking, breathing, sensory impressions.
Apana: Moves away: Governs excretion or all sorts, as well as reproduction.
Udana: Moves upward. Governs growth and development, as well as enthusiasm, speech, and the ability to stand.
Samana: Balances from the edge to the center through churning and discerning. It is the “digestion” energy that aids the lungs in “digesting” air, the gastrointestinal system in digesting food, and the mind in “digesting” sensory input and ideas.
Vyana: Moves outward from the center to the edge. Governs circulation of blood and the oxygen, hydration, and nutrition found in the blood. Aids in the “circulation” of ideas.