Prana Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 3

The Flow of Prana

30 min - Talk


Robert unpacks the intricacies of prana and discusses how how we can bring awareness to the prana that is enlivening us. He explores why it is essential to have a healthy flow of prana in the body and how we can circulate the prana in a positive way so that prana can do its job—keep us healthy, wise, and satisfied.
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Jul 14, 2016
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(waves crashing) Greetings. Robert Svoboda here, talking to you about your juju, by which I mean your Prana. Prana, a very popular word, becoming all the more popular as time goes by. It's become something of catch word in the yoga world. People brandish it, they bandy it about, how many people actually understand Prana, how many people actually, are in a position to sense the movement of the Prana in the body, circulate it, cultivate it, that number, I suspect, is far smaller than the number of people who are employing the term.

What we can say about Prana, is very simple. When your Prana is circulating well, you have the best possibility that you're going to ever have of being healthy. Physically healthy, Pranaically healthy, mentally healthy, spiritually healthy, and healthy not only in yourself, but in all the relationships you possess. With your spouse, with your children, with your parents, with your pet, all the relationships, and human beings are basically relationship machines. We're all about interacting with other things.

That's the way we start off our lives, and that's the way we continue living our lives. And probably the most important relationship that we have in our entire lives is the relationship that we have with our Prana. Because when the Prana is not circulating well, that's the time that obstruction will occur, and when obstructions occur inside you, when obstructions occur anywhere in your organism, that obstruction is going to promote ill health, whether it's ill health in your physical body, ill health in your mind, or ill health in your relationships. Probably a good place to begin, with our understanding of Prana, is to understand the word itself. Like many Sanskrit words, it can be understood in different ways.

But a useful way of understanding Prana is that it means, "the movement that is omnipresent." The air element, when we talk about iareta or jotesha or tantra, any of the classical Indian sciences. We're talking about the Samkhya philosophy, a particular way of looking at the world, a particular darshana. The word 'darshana' in Sanskrit means both, philosophy and vision. Seeing is believing but believing is also seeing. How you believe to world to be will substantially influence, if not direct how you actually see the world.

And how you see yourself. So, as a part of this philosophy, there are five elements that make up the manifested universe. They are the element of earth, which represents everything that is solid, under normal conditions. And earth is thing the that provides stability and support. The water element represents everything that is liquid.

And things that are liquid externally, we see the ocean for example, internally of course all of the fluids that circulate in our bodies. But also the sense of taste is regarded as a liquid, since it is tasting all of these liquids, that are moving around in our organisms. And emotions are all liquids as well. The fire element is in charge of transforming, things that are external into things that are internal, taking our food and converting it into ourselves. It also changes earth and water into air and space, and causes air and space to condense into earth and water.

Air represents everything that is less solid, less material than those things that are earthy and watery. Gas in the intestine, air in the lungs, these are all aspects of the air element. In addition, things that are more subtle like the movement of sensation and other impulses in the nervous system, these area all forms of the air element. The movement of thoughts in the mind, these are all forms of the air element. And the space is the field in which everything takes place.

So out of these five elements, the air element is the one thing that is in charge of moving everything else around. Particularly inside the microcosm that is the physical body. Air moves earthy and watery things around, wherever they need to go in the organism. It inspires the fire element to be able to digest at all the different levels, in all the different ways that the fire element has to digest. And the air element is in its most refined form, the Prana.

So really, Prana is that movement, because life is all about movement. It's that movement that causes things to cohere well together, to be well-integrated, to operate in their most efficient form. The thing that drives us a individuals, to interact with out environments. The same force that takes a zigote, and drives it to expand itself into trillions of cells, and to associate with trillions of bacteria, and interact with billions of other humans, and millions of other animals, and trillions of other plants, in a meaningful way during the period of time that we're alive. So Prana is the force that does all this.

And Prana, which the Chinese call Chi, and the JApanaese call Ki, and other cultures call other things. This Prana has been recognized by all these cultures that are serious students of how individuals should live. What does it mean to live? What is the right way to live so that you can get the most out of your life and you can promote good health, not only in yourself but in those around you. And promote a satisfaction in life as well.

Satisfaction is what we're looking for in life. That sense of being able to feel, that we have achieved, what we need to achieve at any one moment, that we're not hungry ghosts, that we're not moving from one experience to another without ever getting any sense that we're free of our appetites. The word "Santosha" is one of the Sanskrit words that means satisfaction. Those of you who are students of yoga may well recall that Santosha is one of the five Niyamas that Patanjali mentioned. And Santosha is very important in life in so many different ways.

For one thing, if you have a yoga practice, it's very important to experience Santosha around your yoga practice. Not to compare yourself with others, that person is doing 108 drop backs, why can't I do that? It's important to be satisfied with the progress that you make. It's important to be satisfied in general. Not to be craving all the time, and that is in fact the world in which you and I live.

The problem of the world in which you and I live, is that craving is everywhere. And when you have craving, that inflames your appetite. And when there is heat in the system, heat goes to create inflammation. There are three very important traditional Ayurvedic texts. And the one that is still used very commonly as a textbook, is the Ashtanga Hridayam.

And the first world of the first verse of the first book of Ashtanga Hridayam is Ragadi. Ragadi Rogan, all diseases beginning with "raga." Raga has many meanings. Is can mean the color red, it can mean inflammation, it can mean a rash on the system, it can mean rage, raga, rage come from the same root. It is a musical mode meant to activate the emotions in an individual. But the main thing when they talk about Ragadi Rogan, all diseases beginning with Raga, is that Raga represents passion.

Especially passion directed towards something, the craving for something. The desire to have something that takes you over, and pesters you night and day as you try to achienve whatever it is that you're trying to achieve. And that's regarded in Iareta as being the first and most important disease because it is the cause of so many other diseases. It's the cause of so many miseries that humans have, while they're attempting to obtain something that they feel that they are lacking. The more that we feel we are lacking things, the more likely it is that we're going be out pursuing them.

And the more we pursue them, the further we get away from our center. And the further we get form our center, the more than our Prana becomes eccentric off of center. Eccentric Prana in your organism is called by a different name. It's called Vata. Vata is a form of air that has jobs to do in the organism.

It moves things alone in your digestive tract, it moves impulses around in your nervous system, it moves thoughts and memories around in your head. But it is fundamentally a waste product, of this really desirable air, which is Prana. And when you have lots of Prana and a little bit of Vata, you are are going to feel, generally speaking, satisfied because your tissues will all feel like they're nourished, and that there is nothing that they are craving. And when you have lots of Vata, you're going to generally feel dissatisfied. Because the Vata will not nourish your tissues like Prana will.

And the tissues will all crave, they will crave the life force. And they will send tiny craving messages up to your brain, that will accumulate and become a giant tide of craving messages that will drive you out to look for something that will make you feel more vital, that will make you feel alive, which is what the job of Prana is. Since it is the life force. Santosha is regarded as a Niyama because when you have satisfaction, when you're satisfied with things as they are, even if they're not in perfect condition, even if they're not the best they could be, when you acknowledge that this is the way things are right now, this is reality, and that it is always appropriate to live with the reality. My mentor, (foreign language name) was fond of saying, it is always best to live with reality because you can be sure that if you do not, that someday reality will come to live with you.

And you can also be sure that reality will come to live with you, at the least convenient moment. At the moment when you were hoping, that you would get a free pass from the universe, that is the moment! People out there listening to me, and watching me on the video, that is the moment that reality is going to come live with you. So it is much better to simply acknowledge where you are at any one moment, and be comfortable with that. And that comfort, that sense of satisfaction, than Santosha, will automatically promote flow in your system, and that healthy flow, because the air element, because Prana must flow in order to be healthy, that healthy flow is the thing that is going to promote more healthy flow, promote health in general, and make you happy. We talk about Prana as if it's the life force.

It is the life force, we say that there is Prana in the body, there is Prana in the body, but it's more accurate to say that there is Prana in the Pranic body. An individual is made up actually of five different bodies, three of which are the bodies that we really need to pay attention to. And those are the physical body, the annamaya kosha. And that's the body that is nourished by and created by food. It's the body that is often made unwell by food.

It's the body that is and usually needs to be treated with and brought back to health by food. Physical food is one of the carriers of Prana. The other is the air that we breathe. We like very much to breathe well because if you're not getting an adequate amount of Prana from the air that you breathe, your digestive tract will have to work harder to extract the air from the food that you eat. And if your digestive tract is not working well, then your lungs will have to work harder to extract more Prana from the air that you breathe.

And if neither your lungs nor your digestive tract, particularly your large intestine, which is where the Prana is absorbed from the food. If neither the lungs nor the large intestine is working well, then both of them are going to send messages to one another to work harder and your organism potentially, will be seriously compromised as a result. So we're looking for good flow in the lungs. We're looking for good flow through the digestive tract. We're looking for good flow, in all of the circulatory system.

The blood vessels, the lymph vessels, the nervous systems. And when it comes to flow, Prana is in charge of flow. When there is more Prana than Vata in the body, the flow will generally be good. When there is more Vata than Prana in the body, it is very easy for Vata to get accumulated in one area, and to become insufficient in another area, because Vata is eccentric, it doesn't like to center itself. The Pranic body is the body that is, more subtle than the physical body, less subtle than the mental body.

Or the subtle body, whatever you want to call it. The Pranic body is composed of Prana. And it is made out of vessels that are made out of Prana, in which Prana circulates. Prana is a force that we can't see, but a force that moves things around in the organism. One analogy that I like to use, is a magnet and piece of paper with some iron filings on it.

If you move the magnet around under the paper, the iron filings move around atop the paper. The filings are being moved by the magnet, without actually being in physical contact with the magnet. Prana is a kind of a magnetic force, that moves everything around in your body, without actually being present in our world. It's inducing movement, it is providing us energy, even though it is at a more subtle level, than the level of the physical body. It is said that the Pranic part of the physical organism, we could call it the Prana Maya Kohsa, the Pranic body, is made up of 72,000 channels of Prana circulation.

In my opinion, this is a numerological number, because I have not met anyone nor do I expect to meet anyone who has ever counted those 72,000 Nadis. Sanskrit numbers are often numerological. And 1,000 back at the time, that these texts were being written, represented a lot, a large number. 72 represents the seven plus two equals nine, chief doors through which Prana can, move in to or move out from the body in large amounts. Those are the two ears, the two eyes, the two nostrils, the mouth, that's seven in the upper body.

The genital organ and the anus in the lower body, seven plus two. There is a tenth door up here in the head, but that door is only activated in those, in whom the Sushumna Nadi has been activated, and in whom Sushumna can open that tenth door. For most people, they work with those 72,000 Nadis, of which 16,000 are important. It has been said that Krishna, the hero of the (speaking foreign language) the great friend of Argena, the lover of all the Gopis in Vrindavan. That Krishna had 16,000 wives.

And whatever the actual historical Krishna was doing matrimonialy, what we can say is the Kirshna who represents, the supreme reality of awareness, who lives in the organism, that very Krishna has the 16,000 wives in the form of the 16,000 channels of circulation. And we can think again of that number as being numerological. That is the lower six chakras and the Sahasrara, number one which is not really a chakra at all, it's something that is beyond the chakra system. So those 16,000 Nadis represent all of the Nadis that go in to and out of the chakras that, they permeate the entire organism. Of those 16,000, 100 are important.

Of those 100, three are important. The Eda, or the Chundo Nadi, or the Yamuna Nadi that flows in association with the left nostril. And represents the activity of Prana as it cools down, calms down, and makes more quiet, the action of the body. The right nostril, which warms up, activates, and enthusifies the body. Is known as the Surya Nadi.

Surya means sun, chandra means moon. Or the Ganga Nadi, or the Pingala. These two Nadis are always shifting from one being active, to the other being active. Commonly, they are only both active just before daybreak and right around dusk. When Sushumna is caused to function.

At a time when both of them are balanced. Otherwise, there is always some period of time, when things are being warmed up, and that period of time if being balanced by a time when thing are being cooled down. There is expansion, which is followed by contraction. There is upward movement which is followed by downward movement. There is a continual cycle, between these two important Nadis in the organism.

These are Nadis that flow in association with the nostrils. It is not the same, they are not identical with one another, but these nostrils act as physical channels that are representing the flow of the Pranic channels, that we call Eda and Pingala. The third channel, the Sushumna, is associated with the central sulkas in the spinal cord. And it represents the Prana when it has moved from being focused chiefly on the physical organism, and when it is now ready to turn away, to some degree from the physical organism and be focused more on subtle, more subtle, more rarefied, and potentially more spiritual things. There's an entire branch of knowledge that is employed by some some in (speaking foreign language) that is called Svarodaya or Shiva Svarodaya.

And Svarodaya is all about the understanding of how the Prana moves in the Nadi. And the understanding of which Nadi should be working on which day, or at which time, which Nadi is most appropriate for the performing of which activities. And Svarodaya, like so many other things, is also used for divination. Divination being definable as the gain of knowledge by unconventional or not necessarily straightforward means. Normally we use our sense organs, we use or rational mind.

To some degree we may use advice from others, or analogies, or inference. There are many different methods we can use to obtain knowledge. But intuitive knowledge is the standard way that humans employed for many, many, many thousands of years before we became more astute in the kind of knowledge that we value nowadays. And it's that intuitive knowledge, the gut feeling, based in the physical body and the gut nervous system, which is really a separate nervous system, that is connected to the other nervous systems in the body by only very limited connections. It is that gut feeling that we have that is the real kind of knowledge.

Unfortunately, many of us cannot rely on that gut feeling anymore, because we have been so divorced from our physical organisms. Particularly we have become divorced from our guts. So when you have no relationship remaining with your gut, it's not surprising that you may not be able to access your intuition or you may not be able to have confidence in your intuition, when you can accept it. A very important reason for having the Prana circulate properly in your system, is to be able to reawaken this awareness of the gut. To able to see things from down here.

To be able to visualize reality, rather than try to become very heady about it. Because we live in a world in which people are extremely focused on the head. And this is a guaranteed way of becoming unwell. Astrologically we explained it as being at a situation in which Rahu has taken over the mind of many, many people. Rahu being a particular variety of demon, who was chopped in two by Vishnu, but only after drinking a little of the nectar of immortality.

Rahu and his bottom half, that is to say a cosmic snake that has no head, they are astronomically the points in the sky where eclipses take place. And what they do, because eclipses are shadows, they have a shadowy effect on the mind. Rahu in particular encourages you to see things in a shadowy way. And encourages you to see things that are not really there. And it's particularly the case that this is becoming characteristic for you and me because of this artificial astral world that we have created for ourselves called "The Internet." So now we are reflecting, we are self-reflecting, it's like where you have those two mirrors pointed at one another, everyone is taking a selfie himself or herself, all the self-along day.

And it's self-referent, it's all about oneself. And this is very much devoid of that natural reality, in which you are not so focused on yourself, that you were focused much more on the relationship that you have between yourself and all of the other things that make up your world. So, the further that we get into seeing things that are attracting us and creating cravings, and the more that we are driven by our cravings, and the more those cravings drag us out into internet world and to the false astral world, the more likely it is that we're going to become unwell. Because we'll be dragging lots of energy up into our heads. And because of the five important varieties of Prana, which are know as Prana Apanaas, Uman, Ugan, and Vyana.

The most important of these forms for physical health, is the one called Apana. Apana is the downward moving form of Prana. Apana is in charge of excreting things from the body. Urine, feces, flatus, menstrual blood, semen, and the fetus at the time of delivery. Apana has to move downward.

And it is absolutely certain that if you are encouraging lots of your energy, the majority of your energy to go into your head, and projecting that energy out, particularly into something that has no physical base, onto which you would be projecting it. Then you're going to be dragging Apana upwards instead of encouraging it to move downwards, especially if you are sitting in your chair all day, drinking highly caffeinated cola beverages, and playing advanced video games. It is very, very essential that Apana move downward well. And there are certainly yoga positions that encourage you to do that. The simplest of which probably is the squat, the way that humans have sat for many thousands of years.

But probably the most important way to make sure that Apana is moving helpfully downward, is to make sure that Apana is not going upward along with all of your other attention. Because wherever your attention goes, there's where your Prana will go. If your attention is in your head and in the virtual world, your Prana will go into your head and into the virtual world. And it will be dragged out of your body. Our senses are always dragging our Prana out of our body.

And the more that you encourage the action of that dragging out of the body onto something that is not centered in you, the more certain it is that there will be abundant Vata in your system instead of good quality Prana. The more certain it is that your Prana will not work properly, that Apana will be disturbed and that physical ill health will supervene. It would be challenging enough, if the only factors that were influencing how the Prana is digested and utilized in our system, if the only factors that influenced this, were factors that were under our control. The challenge is that there are many factors that are not under our control that are also influencing our ability to interact with Prana healthily. One is the seasons of the year, the seasons of the month, the seasons of the day.

And every time there is a juncture between a season, that's a time where there can be an improper change between one nostril and another, an improper shift in the activity of Prana in the system, an improper alignment between one part of the organism and another. And whenever that shift or that alignment is improper, that offers a likelihood that some kind of imbalance will be generated, imbalances equivalent to unhealth. Misuse of the sense organs is a very common cause for un-wellness. Because of the amount of Prana that the sense organs employ in order to provide us with the information that we need in order to go about our daily business, and simple alterations in the fabric of the environment around us. Things that are changing all the time, that we have to adapt to.

Every time there is a call for change, that is issued to us by the environment, every time the environments changes, we have to change as well. And if the Prana is already circulating well in the body, there is a much better chance that, that change that we need to make, is a change that we will make well. And that will not disturb the flow of our Prana. Any time that the flow of our Prana is already disturbed, the likelihood is that every new change, every new challenge that comes to us, every life crisis is going to make us even more unbalanced, even more unwell. The chief challenge in the world in which you and I are living, is to make sure that we learn how to bring awareness to our own selves, to the Prana that alive in us, and to make sure that we do everything that we can to circulate that Prana in a positive way, so that the Prana can do its job which is, to keep us healthy, and to keep us wise, and to keep us satisfied.

Thank you.


Aoife R
3 people like this.
Robert is the most informative and articulate Ayurvedic teacher in this country ( not to mention how funny he can be!)
Saw him for a weekend on 'Ayurveda and the mind' about ten years ago at Kripalu and have read most of his books since then. Seeing his name on "Yoga Anytime" made me want to explore this wonderful Yoga site. Please keep lecturing here Robert!! Such an honor to have you,,,always!
Kira Sloane
1 person likes this.
Dearest Aofie, isn't he magnificent? We are all so lucky to receive his teachings. - Kira
Aoife R
We sure are!! Will Robert be giving regular talks and if so how often? We are truly blessed to have him indeed. Thanks Kira! Hari Om. Aoife
Kira Sloane
Aoife, we are hoping to coordinate another filming in spring of next year. Meanwhile, are you aware of the online courses he has created with Claudia Welch? You can access those off his site. xokira
Locana S
Simply love these simple but profound explanations about Praan. Many Thanks Robert.
Jennine K
1 person likes this.
A real lift to my spirit....much needed post bed...trouble with breathing emotions communications. By the middle of listening I opened up, started taking deeper more meaningful breaths and I felt the positive change in my body and circulation and emotions. THANK YOU
Kira Sloane
Jennine Wonderful!
Camilla S
1 person likes this.
I loved Robert's offering.  So clear, so knowledgeable.   I loved it and got a kick out of him.

Kate M
Wow. In only 30 minutes - such a comprehensive and accessible description of Ayurveda. Brilliant!
Meaghan S
1 person likes this.
Coming back again and again to receive these teachings is such a blessing. At different phases of my life, I see how I can find new gems or rough stones to tend in my being. Much gratitude to the entire team for this work.   
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