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In Vedantic philosophy, prana is the life-sustaining force that flows through our bodies, similar to the energy of chi or Qi expressed in various Asian schools of thought. In Sanskrit prana means breath. It is our breath – each breath – that keeps us in constant dynamic exchange with the universe. This energetic life force that moves in us, out of us, within us, and through us. Where there is energy, there is prana, the universal life force that exists everywhere. Any form of energy is considered prana, including heat, light, electricity, and gravity. Prana is the prime mover of all activity; it is life and consciousness.
Pranayama is a practice that helps us regulate prana and influence our mental and physical states by achieving control of our breathing. There are a variety of pranayama or conscious breathing techniques to relax, balance or invigorate our bodymind, including Nadi Shodhana, Bellows Breath, and Ujjayi. According to yogic philosophy, the breath is merely a gateway to the world of prana and its manifestation in the body. The great yoga masters teach that as we become more attuned to the pranic energy within, we spontaneously move from a constricted state into higher states of awareness.