‘Prana‘ is the sanskrit word for ‘life force’; ‘vayu‘, from the root word ‘va‘ (‘that which moves’) is translated as ‘wind’.
The major ‘vayus’ we speak of in asana practice are particular ‘winds’, or currents of that move along specific routes, governing specific actions, within the body, and influencing as well the emotions and the mind. Like other aspects of the subtle body systems, there are nuances within nuances, but below is a basic, simplified primer.
‘Prana Vayu’ governs the area from the throat to the bottom of the heart. Its upward movement is associated with the inhalation.
‘Apana Vayu’ governs the lower torso, contained within the bowl of the pelvis. Its downward, ‘expulsion’ movement is associated with the exhalation.
‘Samana Vayu’ is found in the middle torso, from the bottom of the heart to the top of the navel and is associated with metabolism.
‘Udana Vayu’ encompasses the area from the head to the throat, but is based in the throat. As such, its upward and outward movement governs the exhale as it relates to speech.
‘Vyana Vayu’ is found circulating on pathways throughout the entire body, running through the thousands of ‘nadis‘. Its force and function is one of co-ordination and integration.
As a yoga teacher, I find one of the most enjoyable challenges is that of cultivating students’ awareness of their subtle body. It is a process of fine-tuning, as we move from the gross, external, palpable, visible into realms less tangible. It’s early January, and regular yogasana classes start up again this week; my annual February retreat is just a couple weeks away. In this more ‘internal’ time of year, it would seem a perfect setting to go inside and begin to map what find.