Prana is the vital life force or life breath and is the subtle essence of vata or air element. It is responsible for life in an individual. It is responsible for vitality and energy and the processes of respiration, circulation, digestion, excretion etc. Heart chakra is described as a divine lotus with 12 petals that have Sanskrit letters. Prana lives in the heart along with past desires and egoism.
The different modifications of this prana, results in ten principle types of pranas. These are:
Pran- located in the heart chakra and responsible for respiratory and circulatory functions.
Apan-located in the root chakra and is responsible for elimination
Saman-located in the solar plexus chakra and responsible for digestion
Udana-located in the throat chakra and is responsible for sound
Vyan-located in the sacral chakra and is responsible for movement and circulation throughout the body?
Naga-responsible for eructation/burping
Kurma- responsible for opening eyes
Krikara-responsible for hunger and thirst
Devadatta-responsible for yawning
Dhananjay- responsible for hiccoughs/hiccups
Of these the first 5 are important ones and of them the first two-pran and apan are the most important. The heart is the seat of pran, the anus is the seat of apan, the navel region is the seat of samana, the throat is the seat of udana and vyan moves throughout the body. The remainder vayus, are in charge of functions like eructation (naga), opening eyes (kurma), hunger and thirst (krikira), yawning (devadatta) and hiccups (dhananjaya).
We imbibe prana when we breathe. Hence, the reserves of prana can be increased by performing pranayam which leads to good health of mind and body.
Anulom Vilom increases the vital capacity of the lungs and helps purify the energy channels in the astral body. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika~ The body of a person whose energy channels or nadis are pure will be lean and glowing. Purification of nadis leads to good health.”
Bhastrika also known as bellows breath involves forceful inhalation followed by forceful exhalation. It is beneficial in cases of allergies, asthma. It makes the lungs strong. It should not be done during pregnancy and menstruation. For people with high pitta/internal heat, sheetali is a better option.
Bhramari helps strengthen prana and is good for thyroid, thymus and the parathyroid glands. Bhramari means bee, so one makes the sound of a humming bee when performing this pranayam. One should close their ears with their thumbs, inhale and upon exhalation, simultaneously hum with the mouth closed.
While Bhastrika and Bhramari help increase prana, Shambhavi mudra can result in a quantum increase in prana.
Being honest with our feelings and emotions builds prana, ojas and tejas.
According to David Frawley’s book, Yoga and Ayurveda –
“These three forces (ojas, tejas and prana) are interrelated. Prana and tejas are rooted in ojas and can be regarded as aspects of ojas. Tejas is the heat and light energy of ojas that has an oily quality and, like ghee can sustain a flame. Prana is the energy and strength that comes from ojas after it has been kindled into tejas. Ojas proper is the potential, the stamina of the mind and nervous system for holding tejas and prana. Ojas has the capacity to turn into tejas (heat), which has the capacity to turn into prana (electricity).”
Resources: Secrets of the Pulse, By Vasant Lad, Shiva Samhita