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The 5 Major & Minor Pranas



The 5 Major & Minor Pranas

The Yoga texts state that all living entities are sustained by the Prana or life-giving force. The concept plays a central role in yoga their holistic view of life.

According to yoga, there are five primary forces, known as mukhya pancha prana. These are: prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana. Which operate in the physical body at all times. Prana shakti, the one sustaining force, assumes these five fields to enable the body to accomplish its various functions. Thus prana is experienced differently in different parts of the body simultaneously.

Along with the five major pranas, there are five minor or upa panch pranas, actually called upa pancha vayus. These are: naga, koorma, krikara, devadatta and dhananjaya. The pancha vayus are grosser and more limited manifestations of energy compared to the mukhya pancha pranas.

  • Prana: It is the centre of circulation of life energy. This force maintains the heart and lungs, and all the activities in the chest region such as breathing, swallowing and circulation of blood
  • Apana:  It sustains the functions of the kidneys, bladder, bowels, excretory and reproductive organs. It is responsible for the expulsion of gas, wind, faeces, urine, semen and ova. It nourishes the foetus and expels it from the uterus at the time of birth.
  • Samana: It activates and maintains the digestive organs and their secretions, and is responsible for metabolism. It is associated with the jatharagni or digestive fire.
  • Udana:  It responsible for all the sensory organs and the organs of action. Coordinates and controls the movements of the legs, arms and neck and directs the activities of the brain and sensory organs that are situated in the head region: eyes, vision; ears, hearing; tongue, taste; nose, smell; skin, tactile sensation. Organs of action controlled by udana are: hands, feet and speech.
  • Vyana: It helps all the other pranas when they require an extra boost. When one overexerts and feels extremely tired, a rush of energy comes, which enables one to continue. It also regulates and coordinates all the muscular movements, aids in sending impulses to different parts of the body, and causes the flow of perspiration and gooseflesh.

Yoga Shastra has described the Upa Pancha Prana vayu for various bodily functions of the body as follows:

  • Naga: This is the cause of belching and hiccups. When the air element is agitated, naga becomes active and tries to throw the agitated air out of the stomach, causing vibrations in udana, prana and samana. It remains inactive as long as the diet and digestion are healthy. In the state of meditation, it does not function.
  • Koorma: This is the cause of blinking the eyes and keeps healthy, moist and protected. It enables one to see all objects. The eyes shine due to the energy of koorma and one appears impressive. When it’s under control, the yogi can keep the eyes open for hours, performing trataka or gazing in a one point. Although koorma operates in a small area, it has a lot of force and during meditation it makes concentration firm and deep.
  • Krikara: This is the cause of causes yawning, hunger and thirst, and assists in respiration. Due to its relation with yawning, its origin is sloth and lethargy. When it’s controlled with practice, sloth and sleep are overcome, hunger and thirst are controlled, and sweet secretions begin to flow in the mouth. The control of krikara is especially helpful during fasting and samadhi.
  • Devadatta: This is the cause of sneezing and aids in respiration. It becomes activated by sharp or irritating smells and causes pain in the nostrils in more intense conditions. In its subtle state, it enables the practitioner to experience divine smells.
  • Dhananjaya: It pervades the whole body and is related to the organ of touch. It influences the work of the muscles, arteries and veins, and the skin. The swelling experienced during an injury is due to the motion of dhananjaya. During a tamasic state it reinforces sloth in the body. It is the last prana to leave the body after death and is responsible for decomposition of the body.

Pranayama: In order to balance the 5 main and sub prana, our mythological sages developed many methods of pranayama. Which practice we teach from time to time in online yoga classes or in our online pranayama teacher training course.