Prana Vayu: upward moving, uplifting, upregulating

Prana Vayu is one of the five Prana Vayus. It is the upward, uplifting current of energy

First let me mention that the singular term “Prana Vayu” is also the name of the five Vayus as a collective. The Vayus are also collectively referred to as the Prana Vayus. This makes it a little confusing! One of the components (Prana Vayu) has the same name as the group that comprises these five types of prana currents (“the” Prana Vayus). This individual Vayu, the Prana Vayu represents a type of energy, a current of energy that is upward moving from the navel to the heart center. I may have made all of that as clear as mud!

Inhale. Prana Vayu: upward movement of the breath, upward current of energy. Exhale. Apana Vayu: downward movement of the breath, grounding current of energy. Prana Vayu, along with Apana Vayu may be the easiest energy currents to feel in the body. After all, breathing in and out is a major component to the practice of yoga. The other Prana Vayus (Samana, Udana, Vyana) are perhaps even less easy to feel or embody. The Five Prana Vayus are subtle forms of energy that we may not actually be able to feel or sense in the body. By labeling and categorizing, we can understand these different types of energy, learn their locations in the body, and the come to appreciate the qualities they represent within our emotional body.

Prana Vayu begins at the navel and moves upward into the area of the heart and lungs – the heart center, the fourth chakra, Anahata.

HRV and the autonomic nervous system is the science describing energy fluctuation

In physiologic or allopathic terms, the movement of energy created by the breath is called respiration. The inhaling and exhaling of the body is the respiratory system at work. Any ideas about a “current of energy” would be ascribed to the nervous system and the stimulation of the vagus nerve. Depending on the breathing pattern, the inhalation and exhalation might have the effect of upregulating or downregulating the autonomic nervous system. Modern science “discovered” HRV (heart rate variability) Yoga “described” the phenomena nearly five thousand years ago. Sit up tall. Get quiet. Breathe and everything changes.

Chronic stress and trauma

Current trauma theorists and health care providers help us to understand the effects of respiration by using hybrid, non-medical language. For example, explaining the inhale as pushing the gas pedal, and the exhale as pressing down on the brakes. Both energies are necessary to move us through life safely. And I’d have to say that a person we describe as a “train wreck” may have fallen onto the throttle, with little desire to pull back on the brakes! A continual pushing the “pedal to the metal” leads to stress response overload. The physiology involves the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands (HPA axis). A cascade of hormones (pouring gasoline on the fire) cranks up levels of cortisol and keeps our complete system in high alert. Staying in a state that keeps you ready for a five alarm fire at all times will take its toll on your health. Stress can kill you. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but always eventually. Guaranteed.

Joseph LePage guides a seven chakra practice, including Anahata the fourth chakra
Anahata – Fourth Chakra

Prana Vayu and balance within Anahata, the Heart Center

Prana Vayu is the upward current of energy. It is related to Anahata, the heart Chakra. Heart-centered yoga practices guide us to breathe into the heart. Focus on the area around your heart and lungs. The yogic language sounds like this: Inhale deeply, exhale slowly. This is the mantra of yoga teachers the world over. Create balance in the container. Develop awareness of how an upward current feels in the body. Be reminded how to change your energy with a slow calming exhale, notice a downward current. Focus your breathing along the energy channels of the body, the Chakras. Modern science “discovered” the endocrine system. Yoga “described” the Chakras nearly five thousand years ago.

It is still true we need to press down on that proverbial gas pedal. We need to react to our own depressed states of fatigue and lethargy. If the breath is habitually shallow and quick we are unable to produce a long, slow exhale. Who needs the brakes when you don’t have enough gas to propel you forward? Upward energy is necessary to bring energy into the heart center. It brings positive feelings, reduces negative thinking, it is uplifting and inspiring. It keeps us alert. It helps us concentrate. And Prana Vayu helps to crack open the “emotional heart.”

We practice yoga to become more discerning. Our body awareness reminds us to balance both the highs and the lows of our energy. We use our tools to bring about this balance to our container, our heart-mind-body being. Our yoga practice needs to become huge in our lives. All encompassing. Yoga is a physio-psycho-social-spiritual practice. And I’m probably missing one of those “ologies” in that listing!

Come to yoga practice. Let’s inhale deeply, exhale slowly. Let’s watch the breath in the body. Let’s go deep inside and feel the uplifting quality of the Prana Vayu as a current of energy on the inhale. Let’s send the breath down through the body to its base and feel the grounding of that energy on the exhale. Prana Vayu up, Apana Vayu down. Pranayama. Our breath practice.

References

Voluntary upregulation of heart rate variability through biofeedback is improved by mental contemplative training. Bornemann, B., Kovacs, P. & Singer, T. Voluntary upregulation of heart rate variability through biofeedback is improved by mental contemplative training. Sci Rep 9, 7860 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44201-7

Understanding the stress response. A Staying Healthy article.
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, online
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

Vayus and Bayous: how does your energy flow?

Prana Vayus are the five main currents by which Prana flows subtly throughout the body.

In Yoga, “Prana” is what we call that unique, life force energy that animates all things. Prana moves through the body in a subtle way, that is, not necessarily experienced through the five senses.

Do you feel your own energy as a river or as a meandering, borderless, spreading bayou? Does it flow with direction and intent, or does it puddle and become clogged and seasonally disrupted? Our Sushumna, the spine, the central channel is our major river, our energy thoroughfare. Energy moves up and down the spine, and radiates into all parts of our body, our organs, and our limbs. This energy flow is helped along into all our “tributaries” with the specific types of currents called the Prana Vayus.

Ah, Take Me To The River YOGA

Let’s start with acknowledging the “ports of call.” We practice bringing our attention to the seven Chakras in the body. Our yogic study of these areas center around their location, core qualities, elemental attributes, colors on the light spectrum, and how to recognize balance and imbalance in these areas of the body. And we practice Pranayama (breathing) and Dharana and Dhyana (focusing) into these areas to generate currents of energy, to balance, and to unblock energy within the Chakras.

The Prana Vayus are our way to develop the story further! We learn more about Yoga through the interesting narrative laid down by the ancient philosophy of Yoga. The story of Yoga and of vital energy continues with the introduction of five new characters: the Prana Vayus. They have names, symbols, direction of energy, location in the body, are related to the Chakras and the five elements, and they have qualities. These are the currents that move our energy like that of water in the river. When we experience imbalance within our system (be it physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, or psychically) we may become like that proverbial bayou. The bayou can be wild, and rich, and exciting in its own right. But eventually we need to join the bigger river, and flow through our journey.

Summary of the 5 Prana Vayus

Apana Vayu – Downward direction, related to 1st & 2nd Chakra, earth and water elements
Samana Vayu – Inward & outward direction, related to 3rd Chakra, fire element
Prana Vayu – Upward direction, related to 4th Chakra, air element
Udana Vayu – Upward and in a circulating direction, related to 5th Chakra, space element
Vyana Vayu – From the center and outward, related to 2nd through 6th Chakras, space, air, fire and water elements.

Prana Vayus and the Pranamaya Kosha

This story of the Prana Vayus springs from the Pranamaya Kosha. In order to understand the many dimensions of our true being, Yoga looks at our form as having five distinct Koshas, or layers, or sheaths. The Koshas provide an outline to help categorize aspects of our human being-ness. Just as Asana (yogic postures) are related to Annamaya Kosha (the physical body), the breath and Pranic energy is related to Pranamaya Kosha.

The five Koshas are:

  1. Physical Body – Annamayakosha
  2. Breath/Energy Body – Pranamayakosha
  3. Psycho/Emotional Body – Manamayakosha
  4. Witness/Wisdom Body – Vijnanamayakosha
  5. Bliss Body – Anandamayakosha