The word “prana” is one of the most commonly used words in the yogic tradition. All your efforts of practicing yoga, pranayama, and meditation are towards increasing the flow of prana energy and keeping it healthy.
Prana (written as “Praan” in Sanskrit) can be interpreted as “life force”, “energy” or “vital principle”. It can also be broken down into the root words pra means “forth” and an means “movement” or “to breath”. Thus, prana is the breathing forth of vital energy.
You may think that prana is similar to breathing. It is partially correct, but prana is more than just breathing. It is energy or shakti that courses through the various energy channel or nadis to provide the vital life force to the body.
One of the sources of prana is breath through which the energy is transported via our blood. And it is not only the breath but food, water, information, perceptions, talking, listening, sensations, etc also contribute towards prana energy for us to sustain.
Prana has 5 energy subtypes – Prana Vayu, Apana Vayu, Samana Vayu, Udana Vayu, and Vyana Vayu. Out of these subtypes, the prana vayu is considered an extremely essential or fundamental vayu.
In this series of 5 Prana vayus, we will explain what exactly is prana vayu and how it is important for our day-to-day functioning.
What is Prana Vayu?
Prana Vayu is the first of Prana (master Prana which has 5 vayus) and is related to forward-moving air. The flow of it is represented by the inward and upward movement of air.
This vayu is responsible for the intake of energy through the air we breathe, food, water sensory perceptions, and experiences. Even the actions of coughing, sighing, and swallowing are also governed by the prana vayu.
The prana vayu is the breath of vitality that is also responsible for supporting and feeding the other vayus.
The prana vayu is said to be present in the heart chakra or Anahata and the chest. This is also the location where the lungs reside. Through the lungs, you take in air, a necessary source of prana.
Some sources have an opinion that the third eye chakra or Ajna is also the location of the prana vayu. It is at the third eye that our focus or attention becomes fixed and the prana energy gets deeply connected with the element of air at this location.
The healthy and balanced functions of the heart, brain, lungs, and blood circulation are all possible due to the energy from the prana vayu.
Functions of Prana Vayu
One of the most important functions of the prana vayu is to control breathing. When we breathe, the lungs expand and contract. Breathing also indirectly affects the movement of the heart. The pumping of the lungs and the heart is a result of the space being created by the prana vayu in the chest cavity.
The smooth movement of the organs assures optimal functioning of the respiratory system and blood circulation.
The prana vayu flows inwards and downwards, hence one of the basic functions of this vayu is the swallowing of food. The downward flow of the chewed food through the food pipe to the stomach is controlled by the prana vayu.
The presence of the vayu in the mouth makes sure that while you are chewing the food, it gets transported immediately. This is unconscious command supports the samana and apana vayu to function effectively.
Before you even put the food in the mouth, the saliva is produced to make the process of tasting, chewing, and breaking down of food into digestible size. The production is saliva is also done by the prana vayu.
Have you ever noticed that soon after you have finished eating, you sometimes tend to belch? When the stomach is digesting the food, a belch, without any unfamiliar and odd taste, signifies that the digestive system is working properly. And abnormal belching happens when there is undigested food sitting in the stomach or the digestion is proper.
Thus, if the entry of the food, controlled by the prana vayu is not proper, the functions of the samana vayu will also be affected.
The other location where the energy of the prana vayu is circulated is the head. The prana vayu helps enhance the intellect by controlling nerve functions. It is these nerves that help us sense things, send signals to the brain, produce various thoughts, and process the information received.
It can easily be said that the prana vayu controls and commands all the mind functions.
Signs of Imbalance in Prana Vayu
Looking at the above functions, it seems that the prana vayu is all-pervading. There is not a single body area where the prana vayu doesn’t play an important role. The other subtypes also depend on the correct functioning of the prana vayu.
Hence it goes without saying that even the slightest imbalance in the prana vayu can lead to disturbances. If you have the below-mentioned signs, your prana vayu may be in a toss.
- Breathlessness, asthma, bronchitis, hiccoughs
- Cold, congestion, cough
- Hoarse voice
- Low immunity and energy
- Poor circulation,
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep apnea
- Poor posture
- Excessive anxiety, worry, fear, anger
- Loss of focus
- Emotional blockages due to imbalances in the heart chakra
How to balance the Prana Vayu
Just like the other vayus, yoga, pranayama, and mudra formation are some of the best ways to keep a check on the flow of prana vayu. You can also take care of your diet, take a walk in nature, surround yourself with colors, aromas, and sounds, and in general surround yourself with positivity to maintain a healthy prana vayu.
Yoga asanas that are dynamic will promote a fluid flow of the prana vayu. Heart-opening poses, twists, bends, inversions or any pose that focuses on opening the upper body are some poses that you should incorporate in your yoga sessions.
Child’s Pose, Cat/Cow Pose, Bridge Pose, Bow Pose, Camel Pose, Dancer Pose, Cobra Pose, Chair Pose, Warrior Poses, Downward Dog Pose, etc will be extremely beneficial.
Pranayama is one of the most effective ways through which you can enhance, stimulate and balance the prana vayu. Since pranayama is the technique of controlled breathing with awareness, imbibing it into your daily life will be effective.
Ujjayi Breath (Victorious Breath), Bhastrika (Bellows Breath) and Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) are some of the pranayamas that you can practice.
Meditation in general is a good way to bring awareness to the prana vayu. You also bring awareness to the condition of the mind, which is also an essential part of the prana vayu. During meditation, you can practice the Prana Mudra.
By joining the tips of the ring and the little fingers to the thumb, you can energize yourself by stimulating the various energy channels, clearing blockages in chakras, and balancing the elements of earth, water, and fire. It is a means through which you can encourage the flow of the prana energy throughout the body.
And just like any other hasta mudra, it should only practice for 45 minutes at a stretch or for 15 minutes 3 times a day.
The body’s sustaining system is known as prana. Take a minute to explore what your body requires once you’ve reached a state of understanding of how your breath flows throughout your body. A great place to begin is to become aware of your prana vayus and their various roles.