Note: This is part 2 of 7. For the full series on the 5 prana vayus click here.
Prana vayu is the breath of life. It’s the vital force you draw in from your environment and absorb as nourishment for your growth.
Food, liquids, oxygen, sensory input, information — everything you consume is part of this inflowing force.
Active above the navel, prana vayu functions primarily in the areas of the head and chest. It’s action energizes and enlivens on every level of being.
Balanced & Imbalanced Prana Vayu
Anxiety, tension, shallow breathing, and emotions such as fear and anger are all signs of a weak prana vayu. Along with these symptoms comes a feeling of constriction, a sense of being closed off from the world.
The flipside of this is an acceptance and appreciation of the moment and an openness to new experiences. It’s in this open state that we’re able to draw in nourishment from our environment.
When prana is balanced and flowing, we feel a sense of expansion and fulfillment. When it’s weakened, we feel a contraction and disconnection.
Ways to Strengthen Prana Vayu
Every moment of every day provides us with a new and unique expression of energy. When we drop our defenses and open to it, we’re nourished. Prana comes pouring in as sustenance which fuels our growth.
Prana vayu can be strengthened by consuming fresh, nutritious, and easily digestible foods, as well as fresh air and sunshine. It can be enhanced by consciously opening to the energy coming through your environment and through the people you’re in contact with. You can maintain a healthy flow of this vital force by keeping an open heart and mind.
Overeating, drug and alcohol addictions, or even an overload of information and sensory input can exhaust pranic stores. You have to be able to process what you ingest, to digest and assimilate it, and then to eliminate whatever you can’t use. Too much of anything can lead to indigestion and stagnation.
Through training, you can learn to increase your capacity to absorb prana and to use it to nurture your spiritual growth.
Practice for Strengthening Prana Vayu
Note: This practice is portable. It can be performed at any time, in any location, while in the midst of your daily activities.
- Set your intention. Make the conscious decision to relax, open, and become quiet inside.
- Become mindful of the moment. Make conscious contact with what’s taking place around you.
- Breath it all in as nourishment. Feel the energy of the moment flow into your chakra system.
To practice step 3:
- Allow your awareness to follow your breath. Let it dissolve any tension it touches.
- Take a deep, slow breath through the nose allowing the energy and awareness to flow up into the third eye area, then descend into the throat, through the heart center, and down into manipura (the chakra just below the navel and slightly inward toward the spine).
- Pause briefly, feeling the prana becoming absorbed deep into your chakra system.
- Exhale and release.
The purpose of this exercise is to dissolve your resistance — your illusion of separation — so you can open more fully to the energy which sustains you.
Energy is always trying to flow in, but you block it with your resistance and tension. Resistance terminates your connection. It cuts you off from the newness and vitality of life.
Cut a branch from a tree and its fruit will wither. It has no root system to feed and sustain its growth.
Your resistance and tension are born from the belief that you’re separate from the tree of life. Like the cut branch and its fruit, resistance appears to separate you from your source. But in reality there’s no separation. You’re always one with the tree of life.
Applying this Practice:
We often close unconsciously to what we’re most familiar with. Our house and neighborhood become a background we barely pay attention to.
Eventually, you’ll learn to open to the ordinary, even to the things which repel you, and you will be able to draw from them all. But in the beginning, the easiest way to learn how to practice this exercise is by taking a trip out of your normal surroundings.
This doesn’t have to be a vacation to a foreign destination — although I highly recommend that from time to time. For the purpose of this practice, you can go to a local museum or art gallery, take a walk on the beach or through the woods, or just take a seat by the river.
Prana Practice: Field-Trip to a Museum
You decided to take a trip to a museum. As you walk through the halls of ancient artifacts, try not to look with the mind.
Avoid spending too much time reading the descriptions on the cards next to the objects. Doing this can cause you to file the information away, imagining you have the item figured out.
This practice is not about acquiring more knowledge. It’s about opening to the vibration of the unfamiliar. Say you come across an oriental vase that was crafted in ancient China. Before your mind has a chance to analyze it, take a deep breath into the chakra system and open to what’s in front of you.
What does the vase feel like in your body? What impressions is it throwing up? Do you notice any internal images or emotions? Breathe into those, allowing them to expand and circulate through you.
Everything in the museum is an expression of conscious energy. Each exhibit has the flavor of the artist or craftsman who brought it into existence all of those years ago. If your mind is still, and your heart open, you can tune into that expression of energy and get a taste of what the artist felt when they were creating the piece.
Draw that feeling deeper inside you. Allow it to feed and nourish you. Let it inspire and stir something within you which will rise.
Prana Practice: A Walk in the Woods
The natural world is teeming with energy. Just sitting in nature, hiking through the forest, or floating down the river in a kayak, can balance your pranic field. And that’s without doing any type of practice at all.
The sounds of birds and insects, the smell of decaying leaves, the beauty of wildflowers — all have a harmonizing effect on your nervous system. Just by removing yourself from the influence of fluorescent lights, air-conditioning, and LED screens, and spending some time outdoors, you will become lighter and uplifted.
These effects can be greatly enhanced by consciously opening inside and allowing the prana around you to flow in.
As you walk through the woods, breathe the energy in using the method described above. Drop your mind into manipura chakra so you see and feel what’s going on around you rather than what you think about what’s going on around you.
Breathe in the sensation of leaves crunching below your feet, the sound of branches scraping against each other in the wind, the excitement of the squirrels chasing each other in the tall pines overhead. Everything you perceive through your senses is humming with vital forces. By making conscious contact with your surroundings you can tap into that abundant power.
Prana Practice: Attend a Music Festival
Another great place to practice drawing energy is at a live event like a music festival. When a talented band is playing, they have the attention of the entire audience. All the energy in the place is flowing in one direction.
There are certain bands who’ve been playing live shows for some time and have a sensitivity to this. They feel it, play off it, and create this beautiful, spontaneous interaction. At the peak moments of their most popular songs, the energy of the field is so charged it could power a small city.
Most members of an audience feel this energy to varying degrees. But they immediately externalize it. The force comes in, activates an emotion, then shoots back out.
By using your exercise, you can deepen the richness of your experience. The sounds, smells, lights, the excitement of the crowd — you can learn to draw it all in. You can let it circulate through you and open you to higher dimensions of being.
This can take some practice, especially if you have aversions to crowds or don’t resonate with the music being played. And like any other life experience, there may be a million things going on inside you which create resistance.
You might be hungry or overheated. Or you might be shy and self-conscious and have thoughts spinning through your head about how you look or whether you’re dancing the right way.
The person beside you might be bumping into you or wearing a perfume you can’t stand. There may be a guy the size of Shaquille O’Neal blocking your view.
All of this is material you can work with. You can either choose to let it annoy you or to free you. When you let go and accept what is, you make conscious contact with the energy of the moment. You rise within yourself and all your tensions and limitations fall away.
When your tensions loosen, you become more empty inside. That emptiness provides you with the capacity to draw more prana in, then to let it go and draw in more.
This allows you to stay open to the moment no matter what direction the energy is coming from. It’s only through training each day that you’ll be able to sustain this kind of flow.
In the next article, we’ll take a closer look at samana vayu, the centering force.