My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring
And carried aloft on the wings of the breeze;
For above and around me the wild wind is roaring,
Arousing to rapture the earth and the seas.
~Anne Bronte, ‘Line Composed in a Wood on a Windy Day’, in Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.
What do you think of when you think of the wind? Personally, I love the cliche phrase “winds of change”; in my mind, this phrase perfectly links the five prana vayus (or winds) of yoga with nature’s constant: change. In a nutshell, here are the vayus:
- Apana Vayu — Represents downward movement. Associated with exhalation, elimination, gravity, earth. In yoga, apana vayu invites us to settle into the pose via gravity.
- Prana Vayu — Represents upward movement. Associated with inhalation, lungs, the air element. In yoga, prana vayu invites us to lengthen and enliven our poses, expanding upward.
- Samana Vayu — Represents inward movement. It is associated with digestion of nutrients & emotions; with the stomach, the fire element. In yoga, samana vayu invites us to motion and inner exploration.
- Udana Vayu — Represents outward movement. It is associated with the throat, speech and sound, the ether element. In yoga, udana vayu invites us to extend outward, to expand our awareness of body, mind and spirit.
- Vyana Vayu — Represents pervasive movement in all directions. It is associated with the entire body and the nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems. In yoga, vyana vayu invites us to rest in multidimensional consciousness, to rest in the “I am that I am.”
I don’t know about you, but even though the concept of these various directions of movement and energy makes a lot of intuitive sense, sometimes it leaves me feeling a bit overwhelming and cerebral. That’s where I turn to nature and the winds of nature.
Nature is a study in change. Each moment is different from the next. Every organism is continually changing, from conception through its development and finally to its death. Every system of organisms is also continually changing as organisms adapt to the moment-by-moment unfolding of circumstance. Every thing inextricably connected to every other thing. Individuality and interconnectedness volleying back and forth as unique species evolve and/or fade away. Simply leaning against the dark trunk of the blooming sour cherry tree, I watch insects busily gathering food, simultaneously pollinating the tree’s flowers, occasionally freeing pink petals that waft slowly to the earth’s surface. Change is everywhere around me and yet I feel at ease with the movement of these natural winds of change.
In 1901, naturalist John Muir wrote: “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as the sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
Taking time in nature in nature fills us with positive energy and sweeps away the negative — in other words, we find balance among the vayus, the upward, downward, inward, outward and multidirectional winds that move within us. The simultaneous simplicity/complexity of a flowering cherry tree puts me at ease. Nature is just what the doctor ordered, medicine for the body, mind and spirit.