Much of yoga practice or breath work or even meditation has a purpose, and that purpose can be very individual, but there seems to be no denying that across the board practitioners tend to feel a sense of opening into their center, discovering something about themselves in one way or another, after all, yoga is all about self-study. The Vayus, or inner winds, are another avenue into your inner mind and body with the possibility of new answers and inspirations.
The sanskrit word Vayu means wind, space or air and it is believed there is a manifestation of the vayus in the human body. One way of characterizing the vayus is that they are special pockets of space inside the body, an internal atmosphere of sorts, that allow for life and intelligence to thrive. There are 10 in total, 5 internal and 5 external: we will focus on an internal vayu, the Prana Vayu. It is said that the prana vayu moves always in the heart, and prana vayu practice focuses on uncovering the hidden qualities of the heart-if arrested vitality is there, and it is, a prana centered vayu practice will reveal it. Many ancient texts consider the prana, or heart, vayu the most important of the 5 inner vayus, the remaining four being located in the throat, anus, navel and one pervasive one that encompasses the whole body.
Access to the inner vayus is ultimately done with breath work, and you exhale in to the ‘seat’ or foundation of the specific location. The heart vayu’s seat is found at the base of the heart and just in front of the diaphragm and when exhaling deeply into this point of focus you creates a visible dimple and spontaneous alignment occurs as your spine is reinforced.
The essence of practicing prana vayu is discovery and enhancement of the heart through concentration and breath work at that particular physiological point. The practice will enliven your heart and is quite complex and can take some time to become fully aware of all it has to offer, for a much more complete explanation I highly recommend the book “Vayu’s Gate: Yoga and the Ten Vital Winds” by Orit Sen-Gupta.
Basic Prana Vayu Practice:
First observe natural breath when seated. Mindfully focus attention on the central area in front of your diaphragm aligned with lowest floating ribs, at the base of the heart. Bring acute awareness to exhales. Continue to intentionally exhale into that point of focus, creating a vertical spine and a dimple at this point in the front of the body-almost a mild uddiyana bandha. After your exhalation, there is a brief kumbhaka (breath cessation) and inhale into the area above, which is the heart cavity, where prana vayu is seated. When beginning this practice, it can be helpful to place a finger or two at the point you are exhaling into, that tactile awareness can help pinpoint the area you are focusing on and help your mind focus there specifically.
If you are interested in practicing Yoga, Shannon teaches weekly classes at Alpine Integrated Medicine and is accepting new students. Visit our website for the full Yoga Schedule.