The Rhythm of Prana

Every Thursday I attempt to address a different metaphysical subject as it relates to health and physiology and the human body, mind and spirit. Metaphysics is described as that which is outside of the can of conventional physics to be able to understand lo.

met·a·phys·ics (ˌmedəˈfiziks / noun)
the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.

Love. Do you love your mother? Do you love your father? If the answer was yes, I’d like you to prove it.  Can you prove it?  No, you cannot but you know it. What about the existence of the soul, consciousness itself.  All of these things fall under the purview of metaphysics. It's interesting when you think about it because the very stuff that animates the human body, the very stuff that runs the show, is inside of the metaphysical zone.  MDs are inclined to completely discount this with their understanding of how the human body works because nobody has ever dissected the soul, seen the soul with an MRI or CT scan.  To them it does not exist because as far as physics is concerned, you have to measure it, you have to be able to prove it.  But you can’t.  You can experience it, but you cannot prove it.  Today were talking about the concept of prana.

Pra·na (ˈpränə / nounHINDUISM)
in yoga, the breath seen as one of the life-giving energies or forces of the universe; also, the processes of breath control.


Prana as it relates to the health and the function of the human body is a very interesting phenomenon. Prana is a term which originates with Hindu philosophy and it is a very well known phenomenon inside of old-fashioned yoga, not new fashioned Hollywood yoga.  I’m talking about fundamental foundation yoga which is quite a bit different than what is rolled out here in yoga studios in the United States. Prana is described by the yogis as an invisible force smaller than an atom which exists in nature and which is part and parcel of the spiritual experience of the physical plane of reality. How we exist with the presence of prana, inside the human body or the lack of prana inside the human body, goes a long way towards determining how healthy the human body is.

Prana finds entry into the body through different mechanisms or channels but the primary channel/method is the respiratory tract.  This is where it gets very interesting because you can go without food for weeks, water for days, but you can only go without air from minutes before you die.  Interestingly enough, there is an intimate relationship between the rhythms of your respiration, or breath, and the different states of consciousness.

You may have noticed that when you are angry or upset your breathing becomes hard and erratic and rapid right when you are physically exerting yourself.

When you are relaxed and in a peaceful frame of mind your breathing slows down considerably. 

You can have impact upon your conscious state of mind by regulating your breathing and part of this has to do with prana. Anybody can do this, by the way, it’s like riding a bicycle.  When you start to get on a bicycle it’s hard.  You don’t know how to do it.  You need training wheels or someone to help you. But then all of a sudden something clicks and you figure out how to ride a bike.  That's how it is with these metaphysical practices of meditation and breathing.  Once you figure it out, once it clicks, it’s easy to help calm your mind down or speed your mind up, whatever you need to do by regulating your breathing. 

Consider this. I don’t know if you have ever watched somebody sleep but when somebody sleeps it’s a long inhalation in the short exhalation.  This is the rhythm of breathing. Say you’re lying in bed and can’t sleep well, here’s an exercise you should try.

Find a comfortable position whether it’s on your left side you right side of your back (in a perfect world it would be on your right side) when you breathe you want to just become aware of your breath and consciously make it so that your inhalation is twice as long as your exhalation. If you do that, within five minutes you will be drifting off into the land of nod because your breathing regulates your consciousness so when you force your breathing into a particular pattern our conscious mind has to follow suit. It must. It can’t not follow suit.  So make the inhalation twice as long as the exhalation and you will be in the land of nod before you know it.

Now the yogis go on to say that when prana enters the body it moves through the body in two specific channels.  There are many channels that prana moves through the body and these channels are referred to as nadi's. The nadi's are similar to the energy meridians acupuncturists tell us about. The invisible channels in the body, through which the chi flows. The understanding of the oriental version of Chi or Qi and the yogic version understanding of prana.  There are similarities there but nonetheless the two major channels of prana in the human body are the left and the right and those channels are expressed in the human body in the nose. 


So as far as the yogis are concerned, when prana is moving through the left channel of the body, it’s a soothing calming and it slows things down.

prana breathing.jpg

When prana is moving through the right channel of the body, it excites things and heat things up.

This is the life that we experience here on the physical plane of planet earth, is this juxtaposition between dualities right.  The physical plane of existence is defined by duality(up and down, left and right, north and south, east and west, positive and negative, good and bad, night and day, winter and summer, spring and fall, etc).  It is a world of duality that we live in.  And this is expressed in the physical body through these two product channels.  The left channel which is calming and soothing and cool and the right channel which is excitatory and aggressive and hot.

If you were to watch your breath every day, as long as both sinus cavities are open and free and there are no obstructions, you'd notice something very interesting. The breath as it moves into your body through your nostrils changes nostril about every 15 minutes your breath.  The inhalation for 15 minutes or so will be through the right nostril and then exhalation through the left nostril and then it switches, inhalation through the right and exhalation through the left nostril. It switches back and forth like this in order to help maintain and regulate the energetic balance.  Remember, this is metaphysical.  If you are attempting to run a race if you are attempting to be aggressive in some way or you need to heat your body up, then you need to close the left nostril and just exclusively breathe in and out through the right nostril.  If you do that you will excite the type of prana which is associated with increased heat and increased energetic activity and conversely if you are trying to cool your body down or calm your mind down block up the right nostril and breathe exclusively through the left nostril.  You do this, your body will become cooler and you will calm yourself down.  Fascinating stuff.

sleep breathing glidden

When you are attempting to go to sleep at night you don’t want to be charged up, hot and energetic.  You want to be cooled down and peaceful. So you can help to cool your body down and get into a peaceful mellow state of mind by concentrating the breath exclusively through the left nostril.  So if you are having trouble sleeping and you want to take a dip in the metaphysical prana pool, then lie on the right side of your body and do the breathing technique that I described at the beginning of this blog where the inhalation is twice as long as the exhalation and you will drift off to the land of nod before you know it. 

That it for today, but check back for more about prana.

-Live long and prosper-

Dr. Glidden