The Five Vayus

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.
~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Yes! It’s March. We have weathered winter once more! A reason in itself for celebrating! So many reasons to practice being grateful for this life! March is known for its winds – some say ‘in like a lamb, out like a lion’ while still others would turn the proverb around. Whatever way the wind blows, we can be assured that the trees have begun to stir, the ice is melting from the rivers and lakes and spring is on its way. The Northern Cardinal – who stays with us silently throughout the cold and snowy months – begins his song once again. Although I prefer to think that the March winds are responsible for restoring his vocal abilities, apparently more daylight causes hormonerelated changes in the birdies’ brains. When these hormones increase, the song’s a ‘breeding’ thing! Marvelous!

So, just why is March known as such a windy month? Well, the increase in sunny days also causes an increase in atmospheric instability. The surface of the earth warms, and because warm air is lighter than cold air, the air rises, bringing down the stronger winds from the upper atmosphere. Winds evaporate snow, stir the trees and lift our mood.

In the tradition of Yoga also, we find that winds play an incredibly important part in shifting our own prana – life force energy. The winds of the body/breath are called The Five Vayus. Ancient yogis, while experimenting with various breath techniques, found that the Vayus have unique directions in which they flow, and further, that they have specific function. Mind-directed breath focus is the key to sending life-giving energy to various areas of the body, thus enabling healing and tension release.

The easiest Vayus to access are the up and down flows. Prana Vayu is easily felt on the inbreath – travelling inward and upward from the belly or heart and onward to the top of the head – the Crown Chakra. Receptivity is the governing quality of Prana Vayu – nourishment – food, air, senses and thoughts. Strength is received from the Universe as Prana Vayu, and
therefore, this is the single most important Vayu.

Apana Vayu has a downward and outward flow – on an outbreath as the mind directs the energy down from the Crown Chakra to the base of the spine – Muladhara Chakra. Elimination and release are the qualities of Apana Vayu.

Vyana Vayu moves energy from the centre of the body – heart and lung area – Anahata Chakra and Manipura Chakra – to the periphery. Circulation of prana through the body is its main function. Try inhaling with closed eyes, feeling the breath energy radiating outward from the navel to the arms and legs.

Udana Vayu is found in the throat – Vishudhi Chakra – and it’s flow it circular – around the neck and head. This Vayu serves us in self-expression, and growth. Experiment with sensing breath energy around the head and neck.

Samana Vayu is located in the low torso. This Vayu circulates breath energy from the periphery of the body toward the centre, governing digestion and assimilation of all substances whether they be food, air, experiences, emotions and thoughts. Try sensing into Samany Vayu on both inhalation and exhalation as you feel the breath rising and falling in the front, sides and back of the torso. Feel the qualities of softening, opening and relaxing. Feel the new space.

To sum up, once again we find the more subtle teachings of yoga enable us to facilitate our own healing and to deepen strength of mind. And, of course, to enable our spiritual growth. “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” — Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet