by Morgan Webert
Last week in class we looked at the simple notion that all this yoga practice we’re doing is really about getting the great life force energy, Prana, into each and every cell of our body. By opening ourselves up to this energy and consciously directing the flow of Prana we stay vital, healthy, fresh and centered.
As our practice evolves we become more aware of this subtle energy flowing through our body. We also start to notice where the subtle energy does not seem to flow. Our areas of stagnation, both physical and psychological, begin to stand out with greater contrast as the yoga practice wakes up our whole being.
So how do we get this great life force into each and every cell?!
The wise yogis of yore observed that Prana moves in five distinct ways in the body, known as the vayus (literally “winds”). These five vayus govern different regions of the body and different physical and subtle activities.
When the winds are balanced we feel amazing, but when they’re not balanced we fall under the torments of the storm inside us. Traditional Hatha yoga practices work with the body, mind and breath to direct and balance these five winds blowing through us.
Prana vayu, the energizing force
The first of these winds, prana vayu, is the fundamental energizing force. This wind brings the outside world into us, from air and food to impressions and ideas. On a subtle level, this vayu sensitizes us to both external experiences and inner awareness, and is the vital energy that governs respiration and receptivity.
When balanced and flowing freely, we see easily the wonders and possibilities of the world, and feel full of contentment and confidence. When stagnant or distorted we feel restless, unsatisfied and suffer from cravings or fall into bad habits.
Most active in the region of the lungs and heart, prana vayu gives us a sense of moving forward, propulsion and boosting our energy. To enhance this energy we practice deep breathing as well as strengthening and opening our upper body.
Activating the prana vayu
A great way to enhance your prana vayu is to practice alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana pranayama) followed by deep inhale breathing systematically directed into various part of your body. The deep inhaling brings more oxygen into your system, but a fundamental part of truly getting the life force into you is through consciously observing its movement within you.
We breath every moment, mostly unconsciously, but something different and magical happens when we start to breath consciously. Anyone who’s been to a yoga class or practiced pranayama can attest to this. This is called soma, awareness, and is the real key to unlock the vitality within you and soar on the mighty winds of prana vayu.
Stay tuned for more on the other four vayus, apana vayu, smana vayu, udana vayu and vyana vayu, or join us in class as we explore these subtle energies over the next few weeks.