During many of my classes I have introduced a practice that I learned earlier this year, which helps to liven up our connection with prana and the vayus, bringing them to life, literally. This article attempts to explain that practice and its purpose. mjx
Prana is the life force energy in all living things
Prana is the vitality that rides on the breath
Prana is in the plants that we eat (raw/fresh)
Prana is the warmth and nourishment from the sun.
Prana is responsible for all functions, movements and change within us and outside of us. Krishnamacharya says that it is the prana that ‘connects everything in and of this universe’ (The Heart of Yoga; Desikachar, 1999).
Without this energy there is no life, it is prana that is responsible for ongoing life and procreation and it is prana that leaves us at the moment of death. Prana is all pervading and if we are healthy prana is a given. Hence there is a strong emphasis on pranayama (breath focus and control) for healing disease.
The ‘prana vayus’ are the ‘winds’ within us. They are located in different regions of the body according to the direction of flow of that vayu. When prana enters the body it is the movement of the vayus that carry it to the different areas of the body so that the energy can be used to maintain the health of the body/mind and to heal where there is dis’ease’.
Dis’ease’ presents in many ways and brings our attention back to self. If we continue to push forward and ignore or just mask the symptoms presented, then the body will find another way to get our attention, which is often bigger and more obvious than the last symptom. Hence we cannot afford to ignore our problems or disfunction's as they will plague us inevitably.
When we bring attention to the prana vayus whilst practicing we can help to stimulate the 5 different areas of the body/mind that each of the vayus govern. The breath and movement focus brings awareness and connection so that the vayus interact and support each other, resulting in balance.
The five prana vayus are:-
Apana vayu - is responsible to the ‘out’ breath, governs elimination and reproductive function. It is the energy (that we cannot ignore) when we need to eliminate and for the power and energy within a woman to give birth. The apana energy resides in the abdomen.
I place apana vayu first as without breathing out we cannot breath in and so this vital function becomes our life support in co ordination with prana vayu. The practice that I am teaching also begins with apana vayu.
Prana vayu - is responsible for the ‘in’ breath, governing respiration (movement of the diaphragm) and the absorption of prana. Prana vayu resides in the thoracic region.
Prana vayu and apana vayu are like two opposite forces and it is said that these two forces alone rule the body. Prana vayu is dominant through the day and apana vayu is dominant through the night.
Samana vayu - is also known as the ‘middle’ breath and balances the energy of prana and apana. Samana governs digestion and the absorption of nutrients, bringing vitality to the pancreas, liver and digestive tract. Samana is the pause between the ‘in’ and ‘out’ breath and resides between the heart and the navel, the solar plexus.
Samana holds the flame that burns off the toxic residue of bodily functions. Samana has the ability to conjoin prana and apana and push the energy up through sushumna nadi, which increases our pranic capacity and raises our consciousness.
Vyana vayu - could be thought of as the ‘expanding’ breath as it takes the energy out to the extremities. Vyana regulates the circulatory, muscular and skeletal systems and takes the nutrients that samana absorbs throughout the body. Swami Satyananda Saraswati says that vyana holds the body together and ‘resists degeneration’(Swara Yoga, Tantric Science of Brain Breathing, 1984). It is also written that the action of the other four pranas is the reason that vyana exists and that they would not ‘exist without the presence of vyana.’
Udana vayu - can be thought of as the ‘up’ breath, which holds the head and spine upright. Udana links prana, apana and samana with vyana and is the energy through which one reaches higher levels of awareness and consciousness.
Udana vayu is also responsible for the mind and speech. Udana helps us to articulate thoughts and ideas (Bruce Bowditch, Sacred Earth Blog).
Understanding some of the more subtle aspects of our existence (from the yogic perspective) leads us to the reasons yogi’s have been so deeply focused on pranayama for thousands of years. By raising our consciousness we are then placed more favourably to attain ‘SELF realisation’ or lets say a deeper understanding of our 'SELF', which is after all the goal of yoga.
Come to Dhirata Yoga with MJ to enjoy the beautiful practice of the prana vayus and authentic teachings of pranayama….
Om Satyam MJx
Sw Satyananda Saraswati - Swara Yoga, Tantric Science of Brain Breathing (Bihar School of Yoga 1984)
Saraswati Vasudevan - Notes from PG IYTA Adv Teacher Training on Panca Kosha & Pranayama (May 2014)
Bruce Bowditch - Sacred Earth Type Pad; Blog. Article; Prana Vayu - Five Vital Forces.