Prana is the vital air, or breath, of the human body, as visualized in Hinduism. Also interpreted as the vital, life-sustaining force of both the individual body and the universe. Its first expounding came in the Upanishads, where it is part of the worldly, physical realm, sustaining the body and reliant on the mind. Prana suffuses all living form but is not itself the soul.
As such, the many pranas are the vital principles of basic energy and subtle faculties of an individual that sustain physiological processes and are part of the breath control system in Yoga. There are five 'Pranas' or vital currents, together termed as 'Prana': Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana.
If Prana enters a period of uplifted, intensified activity, the Yogic tradition refers to this stage of Prana as Pranotthana.
The pranas constitute the second sheath (kosa) of a human being (who is essentially the Atman or the Self). The kosas are listed below
- Annamaya Kosa (Gross Body)
- Pranamaya Kosa (Vital Air Sheath)
- Manomaya Kosa (Mental Sheath)
- Vigyanamaya Kosa (Intellectual Sheath)
- Karanamaya Kosa or Anandmaya Kosa (Causal Sheath)