How can you balance the Vayus?
Last time I spoke a little about the the winds, or the Vayus, as well as about the Sen lines and how I incorporate both of these into my Thai massage. Today I want to go a little more into depth with the winds and offer a practice to help you balance them on your own.
As a reminder, from my last post:
"The winds, or Vayus, as they are called, are a way to more deeply understand Prana, or life force. There are five winds: Apana, Udana, Samana, Vyana, and then Prana. Through the movements of Thai massage we work with all five, perhaps emphasizing one more than another for a particular client to help bring them all into balance.Prana Vayu's energy is inwards and upwards, and particularly supports our brain and our senses, including that of our third eye. Apana Vayu is down and out, nourishing the digestive system and organs. Udana Vayu has a circular upwards motion and supports our ability to express ourselves. Samana Vayu is an energy of contraction in, the exhale that helps us integrate all that we take in, whether that be food, emotions, or experiences. Lastly, we have Vyana Vayu, the energy of expansion out, supporting particularly our heart, lungs and circulation, as it supports the other Vayus.
In simple terms, these energies can be stimulated and supported by the movements of up, down, in, and out, through the inhale and exhale that occurs in our breath but also throughout our whole body's expansion and contraction through different movements."
In Thai bodywork, perhaps I notice that in your hips they seem to want to pull inwards, Samana, but through some gentle stretching and the breath we allow some of those muscles to relax and they open, even just a little, allowing for more Vyana Vayu to flow. And maybe with that easing of tension there is also a release from an experience that caused your muscles to pull in, protecting your core.
But sometimes we need contraction, perhaps when there is recent injury, on the physical or emotional level, our bodies naturally seek to protect it. And it is only through first bringing our energy in, nurturing and holding ourselves that we can heal. As a practitioner my goal is to be tuned in enough to discern if the contraction is what is needed still, or if perhaps it is a holding pattern from an old wound that is no longer serving and can now begin to soften and release.
For down and up, Apana and Udana, these winds can help to either ground us if we are too much in our head, or energize and wake us up if perhaps we are feeling sluggish, heavy, and stuck, either physically or emotionally.
Have you ever experienced how going to a yoga class can help you sink into your body and quiet your mind? This, to me, is the affect of Apana Vayu helping you to root and ground into your body. I have also had the experience where breaking a good sweat in Yoga helps me to break out of a negative thought pattern and suddenly feel energized and have clarity around an issue. Perhaps this is Udana Vayu at play here?
But it is never just one wind. All the winds are always present and working together, just as how one cannot have light without dark, or cold without hot, there is no down without up or contraction without expansion. That is how balance works in the universe.
While Thai massage is one great way to work with the winds I also have found a simple morning practice of doing 3 or more sun salutations helps me to start my day off feeling more balanced. I often start off slow, but slowly build in intensity, using my breath as my guide.
But that is what works for me, as I struggle with waking up feeling a little sluggish, stagnant, and perhaps vulnerable in my mind and body, especially at this time of year when the days are shortening and the light dwindling. So I am looking to build some fire and strength so that I feel ready to go out and meet the day.
For you, perhaps you wake up with a full to do list ready to hit the ground running. But taking a few minutes in the morning to do some gentle sun salutations to slow down helps you to check in with your body and find a pace you can sustain through the whole day.
If you want to try this practice I suggest don't over think it. Just start with doing at least three rounds of sun salutations in the morning. If you aren't familiar with the basic sun salutation sequence here is a link to an infographic. See what your body wants to do. Do you start fast and then slow down as you do more repetitions, or start slow and want to speed up? Maybe you want to hang out for a while in warrior I, perhaps taking it into a warrior II, or even a peaceful warrior. Or perhaps you are wanting to add a child's pose before going into down dog.
Give yourself the freedom to explore, just continuing to move through the sequence until you start to feel a flow, whatever that flow looks like for you on that day. And it won't be the same every day! And that is ok. For me though, I almost always feel better starting my day after this simple morning routine.
Try it out! And share your experience in the comments below!