Panch Pran, vital energies and your Health

Ayurved is the intelligent energy of vitality. The concept of Panch-praan, the five types of vital energy, is one of the fundamental principles of Ayurved. The other being the Tri-dosh (Vaat, Kapha, Pitta) balance. The five important movements in the body are called the Panch-praan. These movements are called Praan, Apaan, Samaan, Vyaan and Udaan. These are intelligent energies of movement which run the body/mind. Here is how these work, logically.

Panch Pran, vital energies and your Health

Praan – You take in food, water, breathe-in, sensory inputs from your sense organs etc. Anything that you take in is with the intelligence of Praan. ‘Intake’ is Pran. It moves inwards and downwards from the top of the head till the navel. Praan protects the mind/body in all ways, it is a smooth flowing vayu, no turbulence. The deity ruling over Praan is called Vishishtha. Praan is linked to the Aakash tattva (ether).

If praan gets imbalanced, you will suffer from unexplained anxiety, worry, anger, shortness of breath, breathing related illnesses like asthama, heart and lung related problems, fears, a general dullness of the mind/body. You can try doing some of these things to help balance Praan vayu.

  • Mindful breathing exercises, pranayam
  • Retain the breath (kumbhak) for a few seconds mindfully after you inhale.
  • Visualise golden/silvery energy entering your body as you inhale
  • Take a vacation in high pran areas like hills, seashore, forests especially pine forests, wide open spaces with less human habitations, be with nature away from the pran depleted cities.
  • Keep an open mind and accept new impressions, learn new skills, read a new book!
  • Spiritual practice

Samaan – You then convert these things, you digest the food, you process the sensory inputs to gain information. These actions of ‘conversion’ are carried out by the intelligence called Samaan. This is concentrated around your navel area and moves in a continuous powerful turbulent spiral. Samaan brings things together, it is in a way, contraction, focus and interconnection. It creates new cells and tissues to replace the ones which have been damaged or dead. Its ruling intelligence/deity is called Jaya. Pruthvi tattva (solidity) is linked to Samaan.

If Samaan is out of balance, you will suffer from digestion related problems, metabolism will be affected, bloating, appetite related issues. Mind will be unable to think clearly, foggy mental processes, lack of concentration etc. To get it back into balance you can try,

  • Perform the Kumbhak after you exhale, i.e. maintain the lungs in their empty position for a few seconds before inhaling again.
  • Exercises which strengthen the abdominal muscles, simple exercises.
  • ‘Energy goes where the attention goes’, so focus on your navel and the abdomen, doing a self-massage on your stomach is also a good option.
  • Putting coconut oil in your navel, just a few drops as you go to bed at night.
  • Eat nutritious food, avoid junk food and practice fasting, maybe once a week/fortnight?
  • Spiritual practice, especially something as simple as Tratak which is simply focussing.
  • Breathing exercises, pranayam.

Vyaan – After this you absorb the nutrition, you understand the information, this ‘absorption’ is the work of the Vyaan vayu. This is mainly concentrated in the upper chest areas but moves throughout the body/mind for its ‘distributing’ function. It moves outwards from the chest area in pulsating movements. This is in a way ‘expansion’, moving outwards. Vyaan keeps the naadi system functional and governs the movement of vital energy in all these energy channels. The intelligence called Vishvayoni rules over Vyaan. Agni tattva (heat) is linked to Vyaan.

Imbalance of Vyaan will cause ‘blockages’, so medical conditions like, poor circulation, varicose veins, cardiac arrest, blocked arteries, water retention, blood pressure, nervous complaints, anaemia, etc. Some of the things you can do to balance the Vyaan vayu are

  • Doing Suryanamaskar is the best option, do one set a day to being with, increase one set every week if you can (maximum is 108 sets) or any of the more vigorous yogasan/yogic postures. This will help circulation of the blood, lymph and the vital energy in their respective channels in the body.
  • If your health does not permit you to do these yogasan do simple warm-up type of exercises at least.
  • Do things which give you joy, you ‘open up’ in your happiness.
  • Breathing exercises, pranayam.
  • Spiritual practice

Apaan – You then give out undigested food, urine, breathe-out, remove the things that you dont need. This ‘elimination’ is through the intelligent energy called Apaan. This energy moves downwards from your navel and out and is concentrated in your lower abdominal area. It is responsible for removal of toxins, cancerous cells, negative energies and influences on the body/mind and all possible wastes created in the body/mind. Its ruling intelligence/deity is called Vishvakarma. Apaan is linked to the Vayu tattva (movement).

If Apaan gets out of balance, the reproductive health, kidney and excretory system, intestinal health and functions of these lower pelvic area organs will be affected. Apaan is related to disease, ageing and its imbalance tends to lower the level of consciousness, it is a turbulent vayu. A simple example, too much Apaan will result in dysentry and too little Apaan will cause constipation!

  • Perform the Kumbhak after you exhale, i.e. maintain the lungs in their empty position for a few seconds before inhaling again.
  • Do pranayam, breathing exercises.
  • Eat nourishing and proper food, avoid junk and processed food.
  • Do the Moola bandha, i.e. the Kegel exercise, where you exercise the muscles of the lower pelvic region.
  • Mentally release whatever has been holding you back, mindsets, emotions, thoughts, anything, in a gentle way.
  • Do not over-indulge in sexual activity. Too frequent and it will cause imbalances as it tends to drain the vital energy downwards and outwards.
  • Spiritual practice

Panch Pran, vital energies and your Health

Udaan – And finally you grow both in mind and body as you assimilate the information and the nutrition. This is the function of the Udaan vayu, this moves upwards throughout your body/mind. It regulates growth in all possible ways. e.g your body should grow as much it is supposed not keep on growing1 This is the intelligence of Udaan.

If the other four vayus are functioning properly Udaan automatically works as it is supposed to. However if there are imbalances here they will result in retarded or too much growth, dull mind, lack of creativity, no focus, no desire, no goals in life etc. Pranayam and spiritual practice, Dhyan, Mantra, Yantra, Tantra, Jaap, Tratak or any of the simpler regular mindfulness exercises and the re-balancing techniques of the other Vayus will help in re-balancing Udaan. Its ruling intelligence/deity is called Aja. Udaan is linked to the Jal tattva (fluidity).

Now these 5 types of praan are derived from the Mukhya-praan/main vital energy of Om. The Hindu/Sanatan dharm deity named ‘Maruti’ is a representation of these Panch-pran. He is often depicted with one single peaceful face but then often with 5 faces, each of a different color. The central face is peaceful and the remaining 4 are terrible, with fierce expressions. The central face represents Praan, the peaceful smooth flowing Vayu and the other four Vayu are really very turbulent, fierce and can be quite scary to look at/experience individually.

If you really wish to ‘see’ these vayu within you, here is a rather simple way, on any Saturday evening, recite any Maruti stotra/mantra of your choice in any language you want. Face east or north and sit on your asan. If it a Sanskrit mantra it needs to be recited 108 times and if it a longer stotra you should recite it 27 times at least, to entrain the mind. As always focus in your third eye, You will see the Panch-Praan roaring through your mind/body in their full majesty.

These 5 pran are the important ones of these the Pran and the Apan are the most important. (There are five more, Naag, Kurma, Krikara, Devdutt and Dhananjai, these are subtle ones.)

In addition to this classification of the vital energies there is another classification of sub-energies/Marut/upa-vayu. These are 7 types of 7 vital sub-energies thus a total of 49 classes. These sub-energies are linked to the tiniest of movements of your body from sneezing, to blinking, yawning etc.

For a spiritual aspirant, the equilibrium between the Praan and Apaan is vital. Praan is the upward moving energy which increases consciousness and dissociates from the bindings of the mortal shell. Apaan is the downward moving energy which binds more strongly to the body/mind and lowers the consciousness. If there is a perfect balance of these two you will realize the Ultimate, experience Moksh. So all the spiritual exercises finally culminate in Dhyan where we mindfully use the power of Om (mukhya-praan, the Ultimate vital energy) to balance these two, Praan and Apaan, within our Brahmanadi, the thinnest and subtlest energy channel of our energy body.

 

Panch Pran, vital energies and your Health