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Meaning Behind The Mudra: Vayu Mudra & Pranayama Practices

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Whether you’re travelling or in the office, in your own company or with others, a mudra is your own personal way of rebalancing and reconnecting to yourself, influencing your energy and allowing things to become calmer. Vayu mudra especially, is a wonderful way to energetically and mentally rebalance. This symbolic hand gesture is helpful for working with the element of air and the ayurvedic dosha vata – which is also the dosha most linked to anxiety and scattered thoughts.

Whether it’s an unsettled stomach or an unsettled mind, we can usually feel when something isn’t quite right. Turning to diet and exercise may be the first things we think of when trying to ‘fix’ something, but often the most helpful answers lie in the areas we least question. What if a feeling of fatigue or anxiety, low moods or scattered thinking, digestive issues or bloating weren’t just about what you ate for dinner last night or whether you’re taking the right supplements; what if they were about the ability to pause and bring awareness to right now? So often we might feel ‘off’ because we’ve neglected the ability to listen to ourselves, and have strayed too far from the present moment (i.e. the only moment in which we can really have some control over our decisions and actions). When moments like this arise, mudras can serve as a valuable tool for directing the mind’s attention and therefore the energy of our whole being in a positive way.

Subtle Winds

The word vayu loosely translates as ‘wind’ or ‘movement of subtle air’, and is the term used to describe the various directions of energy in the body. Feelings of being ungrounded or heavy, distracted or determined, light or lethargic and the many opposing energetic sensations we experience can indicate an imbalance of the vayus. Harmonious and healthy movement of the vayus promotes healthy digestion, good cognitive function, and good circulation of prana or ‘life force’ to name but a few.

Sanskrit words beginning with ‘V’, like vata, vayu, vahana, viparita, vritti, etc, indicate that the word is linked to some sort of movement, and when it comes to the vayus, there are five primary movements of energy:

The Five Vayus

Prana Vayu: In this sense, pranay vayu is the energy located in the heart, lungs and chest.

Apana Vayu: Downward movement of energy – linked to grounding, bowel movements, the menstrual cycle and the last trimester of pregnancy.

Udana Vayu: Upward moving energy – linked to enhancing cognitive function and preparation for visualisation and meditation.

Samana Vayu: Movement at the center of the body- linked to digestion and agni,the fire in the belly.

Vyana Vayu: Energy pervading the whole body

Practicing Vayu mudra can help bring awareness to the type of energy you’re looking to balance, and using an accompanying breath and visualisation can bring about subtle yet powerful effects. Try the following practices coupled with the Vayu hand mudra to balance the air energy and subtle winds within.

To enhance Prana Vayu: Bring your awareness to the heart and lungs, cultivate sama vritti or ‘equal breath’, and visualise a white light. Upon each inhale slowly fill from the bottom to the top of the lungs and ribcage, and upon each exhale visualise the white light spreading from the lungs and heart outwards.
To enhance Udana Vayu: Allow your inhale to be slightly longer than your exhale, and upon each inhale visualise the energy of your body rising upwards through the spine to the top of the head. Pause just above the crown of the head before releasing the breath and beginning again.
To enhance Samana Vayu: Visualise a warm golden glow in your stomach, circling in a clockwise direction. As you inhale, allow the glow to grow brighter and warmer, and as you exhale allow it to soften.
To enhance Apana Vayu: Allow your exhale to be slightly longer than your inhale, and upon each exhale visualise the energy of your body moving downward towards your pelvis, through the legs and feet and into the ground.
To enhance Vyana Vayu: Become aware of the entire body, moving your attention through all the limbs, the hands and feet, the head and torso. As you do this, feel the movement of breath in all parts of the body, even if it is very subtle. Visualise the energy of breath moving throughout the entire body.

 

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