by Morgan Webert
In our recent exploration of the five forms and directions of energy, Prana, we’ve seen how inward movements governed by prana vayu fill us with life force and vitality, while outward movements governed by apana vayu eliminate waste and remove blockages (see last two posts).
With an increased flow of inward and outward energy, the body-mind complex begins to shift, and as it does a force inside of us works feverishly to integrate these changes. This process of transformation and integration is governed by the third form of energy, samana vayu, where the prana and apana unite.
Samana vayu takes the energy we bring into us from all aspects of life – through breath, food, sound, thoughts and experiences – and digests it. It is the force of concentrating, absorbing and assimilating.
No surprise, samana vayu governs the area of the naval center and digestive tract. It aids in the movement of food through the stomach and small intestines, fans the fire of digestion, agni, through stimulation of digestive enzymes and helps in the assimilation of nutrients.
This force also helps us to digest and process all that we consume intellectually and emotionally.
Remember back to when you first started Yoga, or maybe you’re at that point right now. Integrating all the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual changes the practice inspires can be overwhelming. That is why strengthening samana vayu is so important.
Ayurvedic scholar and initiated brahmacarini Maya Tiwari says, “Samana teaches us to discriminate between what is valuable and what is to be discarded…Its lessons are rooted in our ability to balance, an apt task given its location in the mid-body.”
Finding the center
We can work with the concentrating force at our naval center in nearly all asanas, but especially balancing postures, by bring awareness to the natural occurrence of Uddiyana Bandha at the end of the exhale.
Uddiyana Bandha, one of three primary bandhas in the body, is an inward and upward movement of the diaphragm and abdomen. Bandha means “to bind or tie together” and samana comes from the binding together of prana and apana at the naval center.
Stop now, take a deep belly breath, and then observe the movement of your naval at the end of the exhale. Can you feel this natural inward and upward movement? Now begin to exaggerate it with each breath. Remember to keep your breath flowing and soften the belly on each inhale so as not to clench the abdomen.
This practice with stabilize your torso in all balancing and twisting poses, massage your organs and bring your mind into a place of centered focus, strengthening the power of samana vayu.