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Udana Vayu: The Up Breath—Voice and Intention
19 March 2016

Udana Vayu: The Up Breath—Voice and Intention
19 March 2016

Udana Vayu: The Up Breath—Voice and Intention

We arrive at the fifth and final prana vayu, Udana Vayu (to see the previous blog postings on the prana vayus, see the website blog). Udana Vayu is sometimes called the "up breath", reflecting the force moving up through the central nerve channel—or sushumna nadi—with exhalation. The experience of Udana Vayu is specifically located in the throat and the face. When your perform Ujjayi breathing you experience Udana Vayu as that ocean-like quality of breath that you feel primarily in the base of the throat. The ordinary functions that are governed by Udana Vayu are actions like swallowing, facial expression, and speech. As it rules the throat chakra, Udana Vayu  is the power behind speech and expression and governs growth and metabolism through the thyroid and parathyroid glands. So, Udana Vayu is generally the energy behind all expression, both facial expression as well as speech, both inward speech and outward speech. It is active primarily in the space between heart and head, bringing prana to the energy centers deep in the brain. An ascending and radiant force, Udana Vayu is responsible for taking the mind from waking to sleep and to deep sleep (and the state of yoga nidra), as well as to higher planes of existence after death. As the prana vayu that ascends through sushumna nadi (the central axis of the subtle body), Udana Vayu is associated with kundalini shakti—the creative, blissful consciousness of enlightenment.

Since Udana Vayu is an ascending force, poses that direct energy to the head, neck, and upper back, and poses that turn the body upside down, are especially beneficial for activating Udana Vayu. I find that inversions, particularly headstand, are a really potent place to begin to feel the energy of Udana Vayu, especially if I go directly from headstand to a seated meditation, when the energy, at this point now moving in an upright body, seems to float effortlessly toward my throat and skull, and delivers a particularly sweet kind of space and clarity. Give it a try sometime, as a way to end your yoga practice and prepare for Savasana.

I hope you've enjoyed this 5-part sketch of the prana vayus over the past few weeks. It has been really gratifying to spend some time putting down my thoughts and exploring my own inquiries.



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