At its heart, hatha yoga is more than just flexibility or strength in postures; it is the management of prana, the vital life force that animates all levels of being. Prana enables the body to move and the mind to think. It is the intelligence that coordinates our senses, and the perceptible manifestation of our higher selves. By becoming more attentive to prana—and enhancing and directing its flow through the practices of hatha yoga—we can invigorate the body and mind, develop an expanded inner awareness, and open the door to higher states of consciousness.
The yoga tradition describes five movements or functions of prana known as the vayus (literally “winds”)—prana vayu (not to be confused with the undivided master prana), apana vayu, samana vayu, udana vayu, and vyana vayu. 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.
A Quick Look at the Five Vayus
Our life force, prana, divides itself into five vayus, each governing different functions and aspects of being.
|Vayu||Area of Body||Function|
|Prana||Chest, head||Governs intake, inspiration, propulsion, forward momentum|
|Apana||Pelvis||Governs elimination, downward and outward movement|
|Samana||Navel||Governs assimilation, discernment, inner absorption, consolidation|
|Udana||Throat||Governs growth, speech, expression, ascension, upward movement|
|Vyana||Whole body||Governs circulation on all levels, expansiveness, pervasiveness|