Pranamaya Kosha is the body which consists of prana shakti (from Sanskrit shak - "to be able," meaning sacred force or empowerment). This pranic body anatomy is made of a network of energy pathways or nadis, which terminate in the spinning energy centers called chakras. The word chakra means wheel implying an ever-spinning vortex center. The chakras collect, transform and distribute energy to each and every part of the body-mind system through the network of nadis.
According to the ancient manuals of yoga, prana in the human body is subdivided into different forms called vayus or winds, each with its own direction, function and area in the physical body. The major prana vayus are prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana. These are collectively known as pancha prana (pancha meaning five). They are not separate manifestation of prana but different functions of the same one prana.
In this context, prana vayu is not overall prana but a sub-prana or prana vayu which is located in the chest between the larynx and the diaphragm, and governs the respiratory system and functioning of the heart. Prana vayu, literally “forward moving air”, moves inwards and regulates all the ways in which we take in energy - from the inhalation of air, eating of food, and drinking of water, to the reception of sensory impressions and mental experiences. It provides the basic energy that drives us in life. Imbalance in prana vayu is associated with heart and lung conditions. Diminished prana vayu leads to depression and lethargy.
Apana vayu is centered in the pelvic region below the navel and experienced as a downward flowing movement on exhalation. It controls the functioning of the kidneys, bladder, colon, rectum, and reproductive organs. Literally “air that moves away”, apana vayu moves downwards and outwards, and is responsible for the elimination of feces, urination, menstruation, orgasm, birthing a baby, as well as the elimination of carbon dioxide through the breath. On a deeper level it governs the elimination of negative sensory, mental and emotional experiences. Blockage of this wind can result in constipation, sexual dysfunction, menstrual problems, hemorrhoids, as well as inability to let go and move on.
Samana vayu, literally “balancing air”, is situated between the navel and ribcage, and acts as the stabilizer between the two opposing forces of prana and apana. It moves from the periphery to the center and rules all the metabolic activities involved in digestion. It digests and assimilates incoming energy, supplying the internal heat to "cook" the food we eat and to absorb sense impressions, emotional experiences and thoughts. Imbalance can affect the function of any digestive organs as well as mental ability of assimilation.
Udana vayu is a manifestation of prana which pervades the head and throat. It literally means “upward moving air”, and its upward movement governs the growth of the body, the ability to stand, the nervous system, thought, speech, communication, effort and will. Udana vayu is the energy that can be used for self-transformation and spiritual growth. Imbalance can result in problems of cognition and communication. At the time of death, udana draws the individual consciousness up and out of the body.
Vyana vayu, literally “outward moving air”, moves prana shakti from the center to the periphery. Being distributed from the core of the body out to the extremities this manifestation of prana pervades the whole body and acts as reserve energy for other prana vayus that require an extra boost. Associated with the peripheral nervous system and circulation, it induces the movement of food, water and oxygen as well as blood, lymph and nervous impulses throughout the body. Vyana governs relaxation and contraction of all muscles, the movements of the joints, as well as circulation of emotions and thoughts in the mind. Imbalance can cause poor peripheral circulation or numbness on a physical, emotional or mental level.
All prana vayus are intimately linked to one another. We can enjoy health and well-being only if prana vayus are balanced and work in harmony. Generally, Prana and Udana work opposite to Apana as the energy of collection and assimilation versus the force of elimination. Samana represents the energy of contraction while Vyana is expansion.
Along with the five major pranas, there are five minor or upa pranas. Naga is responsible for belching and hiccupping. Koorma opens the eyes. Devadatta governs yawning. Krikara induces hunger and thirst. Dhananjaya is in charge of decomposition of the body after death.
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