5 Vayus

Lately, I've been interested in the way that the vayus, or winds, move through the body and how they effect pranayama (breath control) and movement.

If allowed to flow freely without any physiological, psychological or energetic blockages, life force energy via breath inhaled wants to propel us forward and up; life force exhaled wants to draw us back and down, and in the pause between our inhales and exhales (or when we find ourselves in utter stillness) the swirling sensations of life can be felt coursing through our body. - Eckhart Yoga

The vayus make up 5 different types of prana (life force energy). They all govern different areas of the body and have very subtle yet distinct energetic qualities, including specific functions and directions of flow. Knowing the ways in which the vayus move through the body naturally can help to inform our physical asana practice as well as meditation and visualization.

1) PranaVayu is situated in the head, centered in the third-eye, and its energy pervades the chest region. 

Flow: Inwards and upward

Function: It nourishes the brain and the eyes and governs reception of all things: food, air, senses, and thoughts. This Vayu is the fundamental energy in the body and directs and feeds into the four other Vayus.

2) ApanaVayu is situated in the pelvic floor and its energy pervades the lower abdomen.

Flow: Descending and out

Function: Its energy nourishes the organs of digestion, reproduction and elimination. Apana-Vayu governs the elimination of all substances from the body: carbon monoxide, waste, emotions... etc.

3) VyanaVayu is situated in the heart and lungs and flows throughout the entire body.

Flow: Diffusing from the center of the body to the periphery

Function: It governs circulation and movement of all substances throughout the body.

4) UdanaVayu is situated in the throat, moving to the neck and head.

Flow: Circular flow around the head and neck.

Function: Situated at the throat chakra, udana vayu functions to “hold us up” and governs communication, self-expression, cognition and growth.

5) SamanaVayu is situated at the navel.

Flow: From the periphery of the body to the center.

Function: It governs the digestion and assimilation of all substances: food, air, experiences, emotions and thoughts. Qi Gong calls this area the dantian, or the very center of life force and energy.

When life’s strong winds come blowing, bend with them and let go. By bending you will become stronger in new places. By letting go you will be making room for the new and better.  - Karen Salmansohn   

All 5 vayus are related to the ability to breathe and control the breath. Oftentimes, the lungs are seen as the main breath center, but if you struggle to create breath control or rhythm throughout your practice, think about exactly where you feel the restriction within your body. The lungs and diaphragm are only one small part of moving the breath. Notice the way that energy may or may not be flowing through regions of your body and then refer to the vayus.

Physical asana practice can help to balance and open vayus where we need it, creating healthy breath, muscles and chakras.

Rosslyn KemererComment