Which Way Does the Wind Blow?

This is part two of a post about prāṇa. Check out part one here.

Yoga poses are the part of yoga that most folks think of when you say the word yoga. However, the heart of yoga more than the flexibility and strength we build in our posture work. We are ultimately engaging in a practice of managing energy or life force, known in Sanskrit as prāṇa.

As you already know, science defines energy as the ability to work. Our ability to work is either potential or kinetic. Potential energy is stored up, intentionally like a battery, or latent in a way that is hidden and untapped. Kinetic energy is the release of potential energy

From this lens, our yoga practice is about how we direct our ability to do work - physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.

Sometimes the practice is expanding our capacity to store up energy for later. We are stockpiling what is known as potential energy.

Other times the practice of yoga is kinetic, releasing and directing work for a specific purpose.

But how do we know which practices will serve us best?

How can we change the the patterns of use and storage when needed?

Haṭha Yoga gives us a possible answer:

The Vāyu

Prāṇa - our life force energy - is divided into five specific internal movements called vāyu, literally meaning “the winds”.

Wind turbines on a green field with blue sky and clouds in the sky
Photo by Appolinary Lalashnikova on Unsplash

The five vāyu are:

1. Prāṇa Vāyu

While it is the same word, prāṇa vāyu is not to be confused with the undivided big concept prāṇa. Prāṇa vāyu is the inward moving energy seated in the heart and lungs that governs intake and receptivity. When in balance, this energy presents as feelings of unbounded possibilities and contentment. You feel inspired and ready to take action to make things happen without urgency.

Out of balance, prāṇa vāyu presents as unchecked cravings and restlessness.

2. Apāna Vāyu