The Five Vayus
Over the last five weeks at Namaste Yoga, we have spent our yoga practice working with the management of prana – or vital life force energy – that animates all our levels of being. Prana allows our bodies to move and our minds to think. Through devoting our practice to the five vayus we were able to become more attentive to energy in our bodies and enhance and directs its flow.
We began our study of the five vayus with episode 93 on Prana Vayu. Prana vayu governs anything we take into our bodies, from our inhalation, to our food, to inspiration in general. It is forward and upward moving energy from the heart center up to the head. Prana vayu governs the reception of all things – food, air, sense, thoughts – anything coming into your body.
Take a moment to reflect on what you take into your body. First become aware of your breathing. What is the quality of your breath coming into your body? How deeply do you draw breath in? What sorts of things are you taking in through your senses. Meditate on all the sites, sounds, tastes, touches, and smells you take in on any given day. What do you take into your body on any given day? What sort of food are you taking into your system? What thoughts are entering your mental body? What emotions are coming in? What sort of spiritual practices are inspiring you?
The second vayu – apana vayu – was explored in episode 94. Apana vayu is responsible for elimination, anything that moves down and out of your body. This includes our exhalation, bowel movements, urination, ejaculation, and child birth. According to ayurvedic medicine healthy digestion and elimination is incredibly important to good health. If we are not eliminating toxins from our bodies then they rest in the body creating disease.
Each time we exhale we have the opportunity to let go. Each breath out eliminates toxins from our bodies in the form of carbon dioxide. We tend to hold a lot of tension and dis-ease in our bodies. What is it that your body is ready to release? Are there any repetitive and negative thought patterns that you are ready to free from the entanglement of your mind? What emotional patterns are negatively affecting you? Is it time to let go of those? Are there any religious dogmas that no longer serve?
In episode 95 of Namaste Yoga we focused on Samana vayu, the great equalizer. This vayu sits directly in the middle of prana vayu (above it) and apana vayu (below it). This vayu has to do with assimilation, absorbing and consolidating. Samana vayu is assimilation of prana in all its forms from food and thoughts to breath and emotions. This vayu controls strong digestion.
Bring your attention to your breathing again. Pause slightly at the top of your inhalation. What is it like to absorb your breath/prana? What are you putting into your body as far as food goes? Is it nourishing for you? How about your actions? Are you nurturing or burning yourself out through your actions? What are your dominant thought patterns through any given day? What is it like for your body (physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual) to absorb those thoughts? What are your dominant emotions? How is it for you to simmer in those emotions? Consider your spiritual practices, do they nourish you?
In episode 96 of Namaste Yoga we focused on what might be the most important vayu, udana vayu. Udana vayu is an upward moving energy that allows you to express your truth, expand your awareness and raise your consciousness. This is the kind of prana or energy that you cultivate in deep meditation. Udana is the upward moving breath which directs the flow of prana from the lower to higher planes of consciousness. This is the creative, blissful state of enlightenment.
When I studied with Dr. David Frawley and Yogini Shambhavi Chopra at The Yoga Festival this year in Toronto, they emphasized over and over again the importance of cultivating energy internally. They stressed the significance of developing prana inwardly. One of the things Dr. Frawley said, that I’ve taken to repeating is “Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in.” Because we disperse energy so much in our culture, we really need to draw it back in. By cultivating udana vayu through meditation and pranayama practices such as ujayi pranayama or alternate nostril breathing, we can do just that. Yoga nidra is also another powerful practice to enhance udana vayu.
We finished our series of classes on the five vayus with episode 97, vyana vayu. This is the expansive aspect of life force energy. Once we cultivate energy internally through udana vayu, we can then begin to disperse it outwards like spokes on a wheel through vyana vayu. It is through vyana vayu that all things circulate through your mind and body. Vyana vayu is the network of 72, 000 energy lines or nadis throughout your body. It connects the functions of your nerves, veins, muscles, joints and circulate nutrients and energy .Vyana vayu moves from the center to the periphery. Hatha yoga and its endless yoga postures are fabulous for enhancing the flow of prana through vyana vayu and ultimately your circulatory system, lymph system, and nervous system. Through practicing hatha yoga we are able to remove the obstacles to the circulation of energy, and information through your mind and body.
When working with vyana vayu we can check in to see if we are moving from a strong core. Moving from a grounded center our actions are able to disperse much more widely out into the world. What sort of energy are moving out into the world? What thoughts, words, and actions are dispersing outward from your center? How is your spiritual practice serving the greater whole? These are some of the questions to ask as you cultivate and disperse vyana vayu.
As you reflect back on the five vayus, which one stands out as most important to you? Which seems critical to you at this point on your spiritual journey – what you take in? what you need to release? what you are absorbing? drawing your energy back in? how you move your energy out in to the world? I hope you enjoy working with these five vayus through the practices which are freely given at Namaste Yoga. I pray that these teachings bring you many blessings.