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Prana Vayu, the Energy of Expansion
24 January 2016

Prana Vayu, the Energy of Expansion
24 January 2016

Prana Vayu, the Energy of Expansion

I thought I would devote the next 5 newsletters to mini essays (Sharon calls them 'essayettes') on the subject of the 5 Prana Vayus, with the disclaimer that this rich and layered topic is much much more than what I can present briefly here. That said, an introduction to the Vayus—the different "winds" of Prana that help us understand how energy moves in the body—is a reminder that yoga invites us to explore not just the world of asana and the obvious physical body, but also the more nuanced realm of the subtle body. Prana can be understood as that which instills life in a being by filling it with continual movement—life force, energy, you get the idea. The Prana Vayus are 5 subcategories of Prana that govern different movement, functions, directions and organs within the physical body, and are associated with various aspects of the breath.
The first of these is called Prana Vayu (which is a little confusing as it is also the name given to the 5 Vayus as a group.) Prana Vayu is associated with inhalation. As such it concerns the energy of reception—the taking in of oxygen and nourishment. It inspires the
feeling of upward lift and expansion. To understand Prana Vayu, take a comfortable seat, and close your eyes. Turn your attention fully to your breath. Begin to notice that the body moves with every inhalation, with every exhalation. Pay attention to what that movement is, on inhalation. You will soon identify the "up" lift of the chest on inhalation as the lungs fill, the drop on exhalation. Beyond physical movement, think of the soaring euphoria that sometimes accompanies backbending poses, or what is known in more recent, western lingo as "heart opening" poses. But, yoga poses are never one-dimensional expressions of a single direction, and similarly, the energy of Prana Vayu is held in check by its opposing energy, Apana Vayu. If you've practiced yoga awhile you know this intuitively. You can understand it this way: in a pose like dropping back from standing into urdva dhanurasana (upward facing bow), if you rely only on the energy of Prana Vayu lifting you up, you have no foundation from the feet and legs to ground you and give the pose substance and structure. If you rely only on Prana Vayu, you soar into the sky ready to fly but with no base to support you, you probably fall onto your head. The pose requires both Prana Vayu and Apana Vayu. Ultimately, none of the 5 Vayus exists completely independently but function instead as a kind of loop within the system of the body. I'll talk more about the next one, Apana Vayu, in the next newsletter. Until then, I invite you to explore the ways in which Prana Vayu is present as you practice yoga in classes or at home.

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ACCOMMODATIONS:

The building itself was renovated to be energy efficient, and the room is moderately heated in cooler seasons to promote a good, healthy sweat, but not heated to an excessive or wasteful degree. There are cubbies in our large office to store your personal belongings, a spacious changing room, a comfy sofa and a water cooler (please bring a water bottle to fill, to cut down on paper cup usage). Two nice, clean bathrooms are located just down the hall. There are also cubbies in the studio itself for valuables, which students are welcome to use. We have a full lending library of yoga books, and encourage students to borrow freely. Gift certificates are available for purchase in any amount.

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GUIDELINES FOR PRACTICE

Please do not wear perfume or any strong scent

People with allergies can be very sensitive to scent. Also, lots of people sweating in a closed space is less stinky than lots of people all wearing different brands of perfume or deodorant.

Wear comfortable clothing

Not so tight it binds, not so loose it gets in your way. And please do not wear clothes that “gap” and are inappropriately revealing.

Practice on an empty stomach

If possible, don’t eat at least three hours before practice. If you know that this isn’t possible for you, eat easily digested food one hour before class.

No food or outside beverages inside the studio

If necessary, bottled water is okay, but remember we are trying to generate internal heat; constant sipping cools the body. After practice, drink plenty of pure water.

Bring your own mat

Shared mats are not hygienic; you may borrow one from us if one is available, until you are able to purchase your own, but please clean it afterward with the mat wipes provided. Please understand mats may be borrowed on a first come basis….we have only a few to borrow, and do occasionally run out of them.

Keep your eyes on your own practice

The practice is richer when it happens from the inside out. It’s not about comparing yourself with the person next to you. Be present with your own experience.

Be kind and loving to yourself

Rest when you need to. Honor where you are in your practice. Use the energy of those around to inspire, not diminish, you. Remember: you are perfect just as you are now, and yoga is meant to enhance that understanding and let that perfection shine. Have fun!

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