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Manorama: So What Actually Is Prana?

Prana means breath, life force, energy, and soul. But to truly understand prana requires that we make some clear distinctions.

Prana: Sanskrit & Its Yogic Origins 

The word prana derives from:

Sanskrit PrefixSanskrit Root
Pra√an

Pra as a prefix to verbs means: forward, onward

Pra as a prefix to nouns: intensifies the root, or can mean that that root holds a place of source or origin and that the root meaning is in its most perfect state

The root √an means to breathe, to be alive, to live.

Thus the noun prana means that state of perfect aliveness.

To connect with prana, as yogis-in-training, is to connect with the original state of intelligent aliveness. An integrated understanding of prana will allow you to live in perfect harmony with all that is around you and to stay connected to the essential knowledge that lies deep within you.

What Constitutes the Pranic Realm?

As we see above, “to live” or living is the root of the word Prana, therefore living is the scope of the pranic realm. So, what lives? Humans, animals, plants, in other words, things that grow and eventually pass are called living. Gross objects also have a beginning, middle, and end, so they too exist in the field of prana. Similarly, our thoughts have a beginning, middle, and end, and therefore they play out in the realm of prana, as well.

What Key Distinction Do You Need to Understand?

The key to understanding prana is to grasp what living means on a yogic level.

In ordinary life, living is connected with what is born, grows, and eventually passes. But on a yogic level, living is understood differently, and here is where most people get confused. Living for the yogini is not inhaling and exhaling or animating through the body and mind. It is important to make the distinction between what is living in ordinary life, and what is living on a yogic level.

Definition of Living in Ordinary Life: That which incarnates, grows and eventually passes.

The Yogini’s Notion of Living: In Yoga, living means to hold steadily to what you truly are, which is being-ness itself. ~ Manorama** 

This month, spend some time considering the two ways I’ve defined living, the ordinary daily idea of living, and yogic notion of living. Even if you say to your self, ‘I don’t yet know what is meant by being-ness’, you can grow your practice by just connecting with these two distinctions. Your development in prana will depend on your clarity and your ability to distinguish the two.

**Excerpt taken from Manorama’s Modern Yogic Definitions