Embody and Enliven With the Pancha Vayus

The Pancha Vayus

As integral to asana sadhana as the breath and bandhas, are the Pancha Vayus. These three concepts, breath, bandhas, and vayus, are interlocked and part of each other. They are identified as separate parts of an indivisible whole leading to an embodied and fulfilling yoga practice.

Pancha Vayus translates to five winds, or energy flows. These energetic forces hold the body together, and enable the body to perform its functions, subtle and gross. These five vayus are Prana Vayu, Apana Vayu, Vyana Vayu, Udana Vayu, and Samana Vayu. These are all manifestations of Maha Prana, the cosmic energy manifest in all of us.

The Vayus in Asana

On a physical level, the Pancha Vayus represent the inherent quality of motion. When we balance and tap into the vayus during yoga, the body enlivens and we more fully embody our asanas. We root to rise, find expansion through emptiness, and find ease in strength. It is through the union of opposites that we find ourselves moving with grace and fully alive.

Prana Vayu

This Vayu initiates the action of all other Vayus. It functions between the throat and diaphragm. All respiration and cardiac activity is controlled by Prana. Every organ, muscle, bone, and cell in the body requires the intake of Prana and oxygen. The direction of Prana Vayu is upwards and outwards.

In asana. . .

As Prana Vayu governs the heart space, it is also the energy that helps us open up in backbends. In Cobra it is the buoyancy and fluidity in the heart space that lengthens the spine and expands the chest. In Wheel Pose it is the deep and expansive energy that pushes the heart upward and through the arms.

Apana Vayu

Apana is seated in the abdomen and pelvic floor. It is the downward and outward flow of energy that governs the kidneys, bladder, colon, rectum, bladder, and genitals. This Vayu is grounding, rooting, and relaxing.

In asana. . .

Apana is what ‘sends roots through the feet.’ It is pressing down into the ground and working with gravity. It provides a stable foundation by connection with the Earth and feeds the upward flow of energy. It is felt in standing poses by pushing down through the feet. In Downward Dog and Handstand it is the action of pushing the Earth away with your hands. In seated, prone, and supine poses it is the nurturing and rooted sensation we feel by sinking in and/or pressing down.

Udana Vayu

Udana is the inward and upward flow of energy governing the throat, brain, and face. Its corresponding element is ether. It nourishes and fuels how we interpret our experiences and react to these perceptions. As it is in the throat area, it also governs speech.

In asana. . .

We can access and direct Udana Vayu through inversions as a result of the increased blood and energy flow to the head while we’re upside down. In Shoulderstand, Jalandhara Bandha, or the chin lock, is also used to promote the right function of this vayu by stimulating the area of the throat.

Samana Vayu

Sama means equal. This vayu is the equalizer and located at the center of our bodies in the abdominal area. It is an inward-drawing energy from the peripheral body into the core. It fuels digestion, the liver and spleen, mental peace, and harmony.

In asana. . .

Samana Vayu is felt every time the core engages for Uddiyana Bandha and the belly pulls back and up. In standing poses it is the energetic pull into the body as the limbs expand outwards. In Warrior One it is the energetic pull of the legs into their sockets, the belly to spine, and the energetic hug of the arms towards center line.

Vyana Vayu

Vyana Vayu is the outward-moving energy emanating from the navel. It governs circulation and serves as the outer boundary of the body’s energy system and a connective force for tissues and the other Vayus. It permeates the entire body, coursing through all of the body’s 72,000+ nadis (energetic channels).

In asana. . .

Vyana is expansion rooted in the body’s center. In Warrior Two, it is the energy of the arms reaching away from center line. In Plank, as Samana pulls everything to center and contracts the core, Vyana reaches the heels away and lengthens the spine. In One Legged Crow it is the lift in the back leg as it reaches out and back. By keeping the outward-reaching leg energized and vibrant, the body becomes weightless yet strong.

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