Vayus – from the root va (“that which flows”) is often translated as “winds”.
As Prana operates within the body, maintaining life, it performs distinct functions, and is named according to the function it performs. There are 49 types of Prana Vayu in the body, ten of which govern mental and physical activity. Five of the ten, which are of particular interest to sadhakas, will be detailed below.
- Prana Vayu
- Apana Vayu
- Samana Vayu
- Udana Vayu
- Vyana Vayu
Prana Vayu is ‘seated’ in the Heart (from the heart to the throat) and sustains the vital organs of the body – ensuring that the heart continues to beat, for example. The Prana Vayu governs all processes of assimilation – inhalation, ingestion, and taking in sensory impression and assimilating mental impressions and experiences. Although ‘seated’ in the Heart, the Prana Vayu can be experienced throughout the body.
Just as Prana Vayu is the power behind inhalation, so Apana Vayu is the power behind exhalation – and also governs elimination of waste products in the body. It is also the force which governs moving new life outside the body – in reproduction, for example. Apana Vayu also relates to the power of decisiveness – in choosing to retain one thing and discard another. The Apana Vayu ‘covers’ the region from the navel to the lower legs.
The Samana Vayu is the power of the digestive fire and is seated in the body region from the bottom of the heart to the navel. The Samana Vayu is the root of the power of discrimination – not only does it function in terms of bodily processes such as sorting out nutrients and toxins, but also it governs those mental processes relating to discrimination and making judgements.
Udana Vayu is primarily related to the production of sound and speech. Udana is sometimes translated as “that which is carried upwards”, and is seated in the region of the throat and head (NB: it is also said to govern vomiting) and is an expressive power that moves both upwards and outwards. It is sometimes said that if Udana Vayu is ‘imbalanced’ then one’s attempts to speak will be disjointed and inarticulate.
Vyana Vayu pervades the entire body, and has a cohesive power, connecting all the powers of the body – the senses, muscles, nerves, giving rise to the experience of being a unified whole entity. It is said to be particularly experienced through sensations in one’s skin, and governs the sense of having a boundary between ourself and the rest of the world.