The Five Vayus

Through their exploration of the body and breath, the ancient yogis discovered that prana (life force energy) could be further subdivided into energetic components they called Vayus (winds). The five Vayus of prana all have very subtle yet distinct energetic qualities, including specific functions and directions of flow. The yogis were able to control and cultivate these Vayus by simply bringing their focus and awareness to them. Through this conscious control and cultivation they were not only able to create optimal health and well-being, but were able to activate the primordial Kundalini energy to obtain states of enlightened Samadhi.

Complete mastery over the Vayus is not necessary to benefit from using them to improve our inward focus and the ability to feel the subtleties within the body. Cultivating a basic awareness of one or more of the Vayus will help us deepen our awareness of body and breath to enrich our yoga practice.

The two most important Vayus are Prana-Vayu and Apana-Vayu. PranaVayu is situated in the head, centered in the third-eye, and its energy pervades the chest region. The flow of Prana-Vayu is inwards and upward. It nourishes the brain and the eyes and governs reception of all things: food, air, senses, and thoughts. This Vayu is the fundamental energy in the body and directs and feeds into the four other Vayus. To experience Prana-Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale feel an energy flowing up the torso from the belly to the third-eye.

ApanaVayu is situated in the pelvic floor and its energy pervades the lower abdomen. The flow of Apana-Vayu is downwards and out and its energy nourishes the organs of digestion, reproduction and elimination. Apana-Vayu governs the elimination of all substances from the body: carbon monoxide, urine, stool, etc. To experience Apana-Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you exhale feel an energy flowing down the torso from the top of the head to the tailbone.

VyanaVayu is situated in the heart and lungs and flows throughout the entire body. The flow of Vyana-Vayu moves from the center of the body to the periphery. It governs circulation of all substances throughout the body, and assists the other Vayus with their functions. To experience Vyana-Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale feel the breath radiating outward from the navel to the arms and legs.

UdanaVayu is situated in the throat and it has a circular flow around the neck and head. It functions to “hold us up” and governs speech, self-expression and growth. To experience Udana-Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale and exhale feel the breath circulating around and through the head and neck.

SamanaVayu is situated in the abdomen with its energy centered in the navel. The flow of Samana-Vayu moves from the periphery of the body to the center. It governs the digestion and assimilation of all substances: food, air, experiences, emotions and thoughts. To experience Samana-Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale and exhale feel the breath rising and falling in the front, sides and back of the torso.

Awareness of one or more Vayu has several applications in yoga, and is most easily illustrated within a yoga posture. The awareness of Prana-Vayu creates a focus to lift, lengthen and open the upper body. The awareness of Apana-Vayu creates a focus to ground and stabilize the lower body. The awareness of Vyana-Vayu creates a focus of strength and fluid movement body. The awareness of Udana-Vayu creates a focus to maintain a long spine and a correct posture. The awareness of Samana-Vayu creates a focus to open and relax the body.

Comments 16

  1. thank you timothy. i am working on my final exam for a 200 hour teacher training. you have been very helpful. i was looking for this info for hours in my books and never found the right page. love asheville and hope to be down there in the fall. namastae y’all

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  2. Thank you for laying out this information so beautifully! I’m completing my 200 Hour Teacher training and this is helpful :)

  3. Dear Timothy, I have a question. Why do you say that Prana Vayu is situated in the head and centered around the third eye? According to the Bihar School of Yoga the sub-prana called “prana” belongs to a “specific part of the body between the larnx and the top of the diaphragm. It controls the functioning of the heart and lungs and …. ” . its related to the mouth and nose by breathing and the intake of food so I wonder is this wy you state it is situated in the head? Sorry I just would like to clarify this for myself and also could you kindly indicate the source of your findings. Thanks and all the best !! x

    1. This comes from error in translating from classical ayurveda/yoga texts. The word “urdhwa” is used while describing prana vayu in classical ayurveda text named Ashtanga Hrudaya. Urdhwa when used as noun means head and when used as verb means upward moving. As prana is an energy better to take its meaning as upward moving.

  4. Thank you for explaining this. It is very interesting. I have just started taking yoga classes – 3 times a week. At the age of 60, I’ve had surgery on both elbows, both wrists and a thumb joint replacement and find it difficult to do many of the poses, but even after one month I am seeing an improvement in my overall health.

  5. Thank you, Timothy for this piece of very knowledgeable information. It was trying to search the explanation on the Internet and luckily I have found your page here. I hope I can be able to explore and understand more in order to apply with the practice. Namaste!

  6. Hello,

    I have a question regarding the inhalation and exhalation, and how you can experience the vayus within.
    My experience has been to inhale (prana vayu) and send the breath down through the body to the Earth, and receive the earths energy. The exhalation (apana vayu) to ground and settle further…. Does this make sense? or do I have it a bit backwards? Thank you :)

  7. whoah this weblog is fantastic i really like reading your posts. Stay up the great work! You realize, lots of individuals are searching around for this info, you could help them greatly.

  8. Thank you for sharing the article on the five vayus. The explanation is very clear and easily understood by the beginners. I would love to read other articles of yours at leisure. Thank you once again.
    Regards,
    Ramesh Adwant.

  9. Thanks for simple and direct explanation. I will use this and credit your information in our yoga teacher training.

  10. Hi Timothy, thank you so much for such a perfect explanation! Could’t find it in my YTT. Looking forward to get more knowledge from you, OM Santi, Marina

  11. Thanks so much for sharing this information on the Five Winds and making it so accessible! I’m inspired (!) to include the visualizations for the Prana and Apana Vayus in my breath class.

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