According to yoga tradition, there are five currents of vital force (prana) that flow through our body. They are called the prana vayus. Prana means "life force" or "vital energy" and vayu means "wind" or "direction of energy." These five vayus govern different areas of the body and different physical and subtle activities. When they’re functioning harmoniously, they assure the health and vitality of the body and mind, allowing us to enjoy our unique talents and live life with meaning and purpose. They all have different names according to the bodily functions with which they correspond.
These forces are:
Udana Vayu: Is the upward movement of our bodies and our perspectives. It is said to govern physical growth. A healthy udana vayu is associated with the willingness to reach beyond general limitations—for example, by accepting challenges for career or personal growth.
Prana Vayu: Is the inward motion, including all that we take into our bodies. Mentally, prana vayu applies to the five senses and what we feed them.
Samana Vayu: Is the equalizing and balancing action of all that we ingest. The role of samana vayu is to digest information and experiences, taking in what is useful and eliminating what is not.
Apana Vayu: Is the downward and outward movement in our body (i.e., all elimination). Apana vayu applies to the mind’s ability to let go of difficult thoughts and memories, rather than hold on to them.
Vyana Vayu: Is the motion that moves from the center outward. This is the opposite of samana vayu, which draws everything from the outside inward to the center. The vyana vayu relates to ideas and emotions being able to flow freely.
Experiencing the prana vayus in a yoga practice can keep you connected to the flow of energy within you and the world around you. The result is that the flow of energy within you is reflected externally in a way that aligns to your values and highest self.
For more information and poses to help work with these vayus, read, "How to work with the 5 prana vayus in practice." from Yoga International. We will also be exploring how to work with the vayus in our yoga practice throughout the month of October.