What are prana vayus?

In the practice of yoga we have what are known as prana vayus. Prana, meaning “life force” in Sanskrit, is chiefly associated with the breath in Western yoga. However, prana is actually divided into five “winds” or vayus that rule different parts of the body and its systems. These winds are similar to chakras as they have both physical and symbolic properties. Each vayu rules a spatial direction: up, down, inward-upward, spiraling inward and everywhere, respectively.

Prana : There is a good reason why the word “prana” has been tied to the breath in Western speak, and this is because the vayu known specifically as the prana vayu governs respiration, swallowing, sensory intake and the mental body. Prana vayu governs inward-upward direction and is located primarily in the throat and heart chakra. When prana vayu is weak, we may misperceive the reality of our surroundings – think of imbalanced prana vayu as intake malfunction in the mental or emotional body. To keep prana vayu strong and healthy, try Leo Yoga or Libra Yoga.

Apana : Downward prana is known as apana, located in the lower abdomen (sacral chakra) and pelvis (root chakra). Apana governs elimination in both the physical body (through excretion, urination and menstruation) as well as the subtle body. Just as when the root chakra is weak, we are more susceptible to feeling ungrounded or disconnected from the earth when apana is compromised. To keep apana vayu strong and healthy, try seated or standing poses that require a lot of pressure through the root chakra or feet, such as in Taurus Yoga or Scorpio Yoga.

Samana : Spiraling-inward prana is known as samana, located at the solar plexus chakra. Samana translates as “balanced” or “middle” force, so named not only because it lies in the center of the body, but also because it serves as the ultimate point of interconnection for all of the other vayus. Samana governs agni, or “digestive fire,” as well as absorption/assimilation, consolidation, metabolism, homeostasis and discernment. To keep samana vayu strong and healthy, try twisting and folding poses that constrict the organs of the lower abdomen. See Cancer Yoga or Virgo Yoga. Other poses performed on the stomach help spread the fire of samana throughout the rest of the body.

Udana : Upward prana is known as udana, located primarily in the throat chakra. Udana governs speech, expression and growth. Balanced udana manifests as articulate and open communication as well as good posture. Try Aries Yoga or Gemini Yoga.

Vyana : All-over prana is known as vyana and encompasses the entirety of the human body and spirit, extending infinitely in all directions. Although it does not have an actual location, I associate vyana with the crown chakra. Vyana prana is compromised whenever we feel spiritual disconnect from the Universe. Try Sagittarius Yoga or Pisces Yoga to restore your faith and bliss.