Yoga is a reminder of the crucial role that the breath has in circulating prana (life force) throughout the body. Prana is carried throughout our bodies by what is known in yoga tradition as a Vayu (wind). There are fives different Vayus that operate through the body each governing different areas of the body.
Yoga asana (postures) and pranayama (breath control) practice allow us to balance the Vayus to bring harmony, health and vitality to the body and mind.
The five Vayus are:
Prana-Vayu is situated in the head and centered in the third eye, and its energy pervades the chest region, allowing our heart and lungs to take in new life energy. The flow of Prana-Vayu is inwards and upward. It nourishes the brain and the eyes and governs everything that we take in: food, air, senses, emotions and thoughts. Focusing on this Vayu creates lift, lengthening and opens the upper body. It allows us to see life’s possibilities and motivates us to take action. Practicing pranayama and heart-opening asanas will gets our Prana-Vayu flowing.
Apana-Vayu is situated in the pelvic region, and its energy nourishes the organs of digestion, reproduction and elimination. The flow of Apana-Vayu is downwards and outward. It encourages us to ground and stabilise the lower body. To activate Apana-Vayu, we focus on rooting down in standing poses such as forward folds, which will bring a release to the mind and fill it with a sense of purpose.
Samana-Vayu is situated at the navel, it unites the upward energy of prana and the downward energy of apana. Our Samana-Vayu creates a powerhouse in our core, where we can find balance and our power. It is from here that our self-confidence rises from the fire created of converging energies, giving us the motivation for real transformation. We can activate Samana-Vayu by focusing on twists and abdominal work.
Udana-Vayu is situated at the throat and governs growth, speech, expression, and spirituality. It directs the flow of prana from the lower to the higher planes of consciousness. Activating Udana-Vayu allows us to maintain a long spine and a correct posture. Udana-Vayu assists us to ascend the mind and body towards a state of deep relaxation and meditation. We can activate Udana-Vayu with inversions.
Vyana-Vayu moves from the centre of the body to its periphery. It governs the circulation of all substances throughout the body, and assists to open and relax the body. Vyana-Vayu is expansive and nourishing energy, and it governs all of the movement in our muscles and joints, bringing our bodies to life with motion. This Vayu dictates the blood flow and the electrical impulses through our nervous system and the movement of fluid through the lymphatic system. We can active Vyana-Vayu with standing poses as they involve movement of every part of the body, from the center outward.
Being aware of the five Vayus is helpful for yogis to obtain optimum benefits as the movement of prana is the essence of yogic practice. Balancing the Vayus not only promotes physical strength, but also helps yogis move closer to their spiritual aspirations.