The third vayu is called prana vayu. It shares the name of the prana vayus as a whole because it is considered the most fundamental of the five. This vayu rules inward motion, including all that we take into our bodies. Physically, this vayu relates to the actions of inhaling, eating, drinking, and swallowing.
Mentally, prana vayu applies to the five senses and what we feed them. This vayu can be weakened by exposure to extremely loud or consistent noise, watching violent television shows or negative news before retiring, listening to angry or sad songs—basically any sensory overload. Because most of us live in very stimulating environments, we are often unaware of excess stimulation and the need for silence and space. With a healthy prana vayu, one is able to walk away from seductive stimulants and cultivate silence, allowing time to turn the attention inward. When this vayu is weakened, the mind cannot focus in order to meditate.
Working With This Vayu in Asana
• All backbends
• Savasana (corpse pose)
Meditation is also excellent for activating and balancing prana vayu.
The fourth vayu, udana, relates to the upward movement of our bodies and our perspectives. It is said to govern physical growth. Mentally, a healthy udana vayu is associated with the willingness to reach beyond general limitations—for example, by accepting challenges for career or personal growth. When it is weaker, one may have a tendency to become more stagnant in their career, in their life, and even in their Yoga practice. An example is choosing to stay at a job without mental stimulation and that leads nowhere, or the inability to speak up for one’s self and needs, or a lack of enthusiasm and will. Too much udana vayu, on the other hand, is associated with pride, willfulness, and arrogance.
To access udana, breathe from the feet or pelvic floor (if seated) all the way up the spine and exhale through the throat (the region of the body that udana is said to rule). Mentally following the rise of the rib cage as you inhale will help you expand in the upper chest and back, open the shoulder joints, and create a brighter perspective.
Working With This Vayu in Asana
Applying the breathwork described above can be particularly helpful during inversions where you feel compressed in the neck, arms, and shoulders; standing poses where you may be feeling compressed and stuck in your legs, (warrior I, chair pose, eagle pose); and seated forward folds where the spine is collapsing forward.
Backbends—particularly belly backbends—can activate udana vayu.
The final vayu, vyana vayu, moves from the center outward. This is the opposite of samana vayu, which draws everything from the outside inward to the center. Based in the area of the heart, vyana vayu represents the whole body, the skin, the energy that radiates past the boundary of our skin, and supports our optimal health.
Vyana vayu relates to circulation on all levels—from the circulation of food, water, and oxygen throughout the body, to keeping the emotions and thoughts circulating. Healthy circulation allows nutrients to reach where they are needed, the absorption of those nutrients, the release of energy from the absorption, and the elimination of wastes. Thus, this vayu supports the operation of all the other vayus.
On the mental level, vyana vayu relates to ideas and emotions being able to flow freely. Those who are able to express themselves in loving ways, those who are fearless and outgoing, and those who circulate and expand in the world are believed to have a healthy vyana vayu. Inefficient vyana is associated with separation, alienation, and hatred due to an extreme limitation of thoughts or emotions. The same separation is said to result when vyana is in excess, causing ideas and emotions to disintegrate due to the excess.
Working with This Vayu in Asana
• Sun salutations
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
These five pathways are tools that help us heal the various aspects of ourselves and move toward unity of mind, body, and spirit. They also come in handy when we practice our Yoga poses. For example, breathing with the direction of udana vayu in inversions and arm balances can help us move higher and with a lighter lift. Breathing in the direction of apana vayu helps us to ground ourselves in standing postures—particularly those that require us to balance on one foot—and helps us go deeper in our seated forward folds. It can also bring a sense of calm and inner strength. Using the breathing directions of prana vayu or vyana vayu in backbends can help us protect the lower back by elongating the thoracic spine, allowing the backbends to bloom from our hearts. Samana vayu awareness helps us in twists and abdominal exercises, moving us more deeply from our center and connecting us to an inner power.
It is exciting to experience how all five vayus occur at the same time in a pose. In trikonasana (triangle pose), for example, we could feel apana vayu move down our legs and root our feet into the floor as we feel udana vayu elongate our spines out from the pelvis. At the same time, samana vayu aids the twisting of the center, and prana vayu allows the expansion of the lungs. All of these actions lead to the role of vyana vayu, which celebrates the extension of the arms and the joy of the whole pose. Thus, trikonasana can become more than just a side body stretch with a little front hamstring lengthening. It becomes a means of opening the channels of prana to allow energy to radiate through our whole being.
If we explore our postures in this way, they will be new and exciting for us—as we use our life force to increase our energy while we strengthen our muscles. When we build energy, we build more strength than muscles alone can provide. We develop power that provides the courage to take any actions we wish, enabling us to become a positive force in our world. When we are aligned with good intentions, we can do whatever we want with this energy, feeling our lives flourish in harmony with nature.
That is the real goal of Yoga. Our practice may also end up giving us toned arms and the ability to balance a handstand in the middle of the room, but with this newfound limitless potential, we may not even notice our arms. We’ll be too busy radiating with the prana awakened within us. With the wise use of life force in the form of prana vayus, we’ll be well-positioned to do our part in making the world a better place.
Thank you for joining me on this journey to freedom.
Love, light and blessings to you all.
OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.
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