What's the difference between prana and chi?


What's the difference between prana and chi?


Have you been hearing the word, prana, in yoga class? Maybe the word, chi, comes up almost as much. What’s the difference between the two, anyway? Or is there any?


Chi is the life force energy that comes from traditional Chinese medicine. Chi moves through the meridians, and the three dan tiens. The dan tiens are three gateways for chi to pass through. They’re a lot like chakras, but different in that there are only three of them: one in the pelvic region, one at the heart center, and one at the third eye center. (More about What is a chakra?)


Prana is also life force energy, but it comes from the yoga and Ayurvedic tradition. Prana moves through energetic pathways known as nadis. Prana is associated with the seven chakras unique to the yoga tradition. (Learn more in What is the importance of prana?)

Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Prana and chi are very similar in nature. However, given the fact that they come from two different and ancient healing traditions, they’ll no doubt be slightly different from one another. The Ayurvedic mind views the world one way, while the Chinese medicine mind views it in another. The perspectives are similar in many ways, but they also vary. Some believe there’s no difference between prana and chi. They are both a form of subtle energy that flows within our energy bodies. As long as chi or prana flows freely and is balanced, health is maintained. Off-balance or blocked chi or prana causes disease. In this sense, they’re quite similar.

It's Up to You

To study their subtle differences would necessitate a deep dive into the philosophies and teachings of each tradition. In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether one perception of the universe resonates with you more than another. They’re both intuitive and wise. And you can learn from both traditions, paying close attention to both your prana and your chi, to live a healthier, happier and more spiritual life. (Read on in How do I shift my perspective?)

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Written by Aimee Hughes
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Aimee is a yogi and writer who's been practicing yoga daily for more than 21 years. Since a journey to India when she was 20, the practice has been her constant companion. She loves exploring the vast and seemingly endless worlds of yoga. Aimee has also written a book titled, "The Sexy Vegan Kitchen: Culinary Adventures in Love & Sex." You can find her at her new site: https://natura.yoga