Note: This is part 4 of 7 of the five vayus series.
Vyana vayu flows outward from the navel chakra into all 72,000 nadis (subtle energy channels), circulating Prana throughout the entire body. This expansive force serves as the counterpart to the contracting power of samana vayu.
Functioning through the vascular, lymphatic, and nervous systems, vyana distributes nutrients and relays information between the various parts of the body. In this way, it integrates the other four vayus, bringing them into a coherent whole.
Balanced and Imbalanced Vyana
We know how important movement is for the body and mind. We’ve seen the studies which highlight the benefits of exercise and the detriments of a sedentary lifestyle. And we’ve all felt the effects of both extremes.
Too much stillness and our energy becomes dull and heavy. There’s a lack of fire and motivation. We’re more tense and irritable.
On the other hand, after a healthy dose of exercise — a jog, yoga class, or brisk walk — we become energized. We’re quicker to smile and laugh. We feel lighter, colors become brighter, and inspiration bubbles up from within us.
When vyana is balanced and strong, we feel an overall sense of health and well-being. We feel the warm spread and expansion of empathy and love, and we express these qualities with ease.
When vyana is weak, we feel numb, apathetic, and out of sync. A sense of unease dominates our consciousness. Because vyana is the force which integrates all the vayus, when it’s imbalanced everything feels off.
Ways to Strengthen Vyana
Paradoxically, it’s often when we feel the least like moving that we need to move the most. When we’re sad, depressed, or lazy we might feel more like curling up into a ball than going to the gym, but the bitter medicine of a workout will leave us feeling better than another Netflix binge.
The way to engage vyana vayu is through movement. We need to exercise our bodies as well as our minds. We can also work directly with the subtle energy, circulating it through the practice of pranayama.
Here’s a short list of ways to enliven vyana vayu:
- Physical Exercise
- Whole body massage
- Induced sweating through sunbathing, sweat lodge/sauna, etc…
- Mental stimulation (examples: reading, journaling, possibility thinking)
- Pranayama practices such as nadi shodhana and expansive breathing
- Energy practices such as chi kung, tai chi, and zhan zhuang
- Body scans
Meditations to Enliven Vyana
One of the most widely used forms of pranayama is nadi shodhana, aka alternate nostril breathing.
This simple practice helps to clear and refine the nervous system. It equalizes the lunar and solar energy channels, and balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Even just a couple minutes of this practice can stabilize and settle the mind.
Prana can circulate more evenly through a balanced system. Because nadi shodhana brings about this balance, it strengthens the function of all the vayus, particularly vyana vayu.
How to practice:
- Begin by placing your right hand in front of your nose. You will be using your thumb to block off the flow of air through your right nostril, and your pointer finger to block the flow through your left nostril.
- Take a deep, even breath through the nose, then exhale.
- Block your right nostril and inhale through the left. The breath should be slow, deep, and steady.
- Pause for a couple seconds after a complete inhale.
- Close the left nostril and exhale through the right. Again, the breath should be slow and steady.
- Pause for a couple of seconds after a complete exhale.
- Inhale through the right nostril.
- Exhale through the left.
- Repeat 5-10 cycles, then rest in the silence.
Nadi Shodhana can be practiced before a meditation session, or whenever feeling anxious or out-of-balance.
Expansive Body Scan
Through the power of attention, you can circulate energy throughout your entire body.
This simple meditation can be practiced in a seated meditation posture, while lying on your back, or while standing in tadasana (mountain pose). Its practice will enliven vyana and help integrate and balance all other vayus.
How to practice:
- Direct your attention to manipura chakra (the energy center just below the navel).
- Give yourself a moment or two to become centered here, feeling your energies gather.
- Then allow your awareness to expand out from that center into your extremities and the entire periphery of your body.
- Feel your hands and feet and any flow of energy through them.
- Notice any sensations throughout your muscles, and relax any tensions you encounter.
- Feel all the sensations in your skin.
- Become aware of your entire body at once.
- Allow your awareness to extend beyond your physical form.
- Rest in this space for a few moments.
- Then, bring your attention back to manipura chakra, gathering your energies once again in that center.
- Repeat this entire process several times.
Try playing with the speed of the practice, taking your time to explore each area of the body during one cycle. Then allow your awareness to spread rapidly from center to periphery and back to center again during the next.
The more you practice this meditation the easier it will become. The breath is a powerful tool for circulating energy, but in time, you’ll discover you can direct the vayus through the power of awareness alone.
In the next article, we’ll take a closer look at apana vayu, the force of elimination.