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Harnessing the Power of Vayu: Exploring the Air Element

Air is an indispensable necessity that defies imagination when it comes to sustaining life. Its primary association lies in our breath, for it is through breathing that all living beings survive. Furthermore, the air holds a paramount position among the fundamental constituents of the human body.

Vayu - the Air Element

Regarding the five great elements (Pancha mahabhutus), the air is the second element and is referred to as Vayu in Sanskrit. It emerges from the ether when the inherent potential of space becomes active. All motion or energy resulting from kinetic force can be attributed to air.


The essential characteristics of air include mobility, coolness, lightness, dryness, roughness, subtlety, flow, sharpness, clarity, and solidity. The sense of touch represents the subtle manifestation of this element, with the skin being the organ primarily associated with air due to this manifestation.


The air element enables various internal movements within our bodies, encompassing our thoughts, blood circulation, brain signals, breathing process, and digestive flow.

This article aims to explore the symbolism of the air element, identify potential signs of imbalances, and provide methods for establishing a connection with this vital element.


The Symbolism of the Air Element:

When we think of air, communication, breath, and life come to mind. Additionally, lightness, emotion, intelligence, knowledge, learning, thinking, imagination, creativity, harmony, perception, and strategy are all representative of this element. Ancient rishis recognized air as the immediate source of life due to its association with the air we breathe.


The Air Element in Various Traditions

Ayurveda

The combination of air and ether elements forms the Vata Dosha in Ayurveda. This dosha can be likened to a remote control that governs all the conscious or unconscious activities of the body. Functions such as movement of body parts, blinking of eyes, blood and oxygen flow, nutrient transportation, and elimination processes are all regulated by the Vata dosha. As air is the dominant element in this dosha, its qualities are reflected in its functions.

According to Ayurveda, the Vata dosha manifests in the body as 5 prana vayus - Prana Vata, Udana Vata, Vyana Vata, Samana Vata, and Apana Vata.

  1. Prana Vata (brain, lungs, heart) - Prana represents the fundamental life force. This vata governs the mechanisms necessary for survival, and its energy flows from the head to the rest of the body.

  2. Udana Vata (respiratory system and speech organs) - Responsible for breathing and the movement of vocal cords during speech. Udana signifies the upward flow of vayu.

  3. Vyana Vata (all-pervading) - Vyana represents the outward flow of vayu. This vata is responsible for muscle flexion, blood circulation, and all involuntary bodily actions.

  4. Samana Vata (stomach, intestine, liver) - Samana is the force that draws the Vayu towards the centre. It is responsible for the digestion of food, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of waste through urine or sweat.

  5. Apana Vata (lower body) - Apana is the downward flow of vayu. This vata governs waste elimination through faecal matter and is specifically associated with the colon.

The Vata dosha is said to be dominant during the late fall to winter seasons and tends to be more active in old age. The period from 2 am to 6 am (pre-dawn) and 2 pm to 6 pm (late afternoon) are considered the times when Vata is most dominant, hence the recommendation to wake up early in the morning to maintain balance.


Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), air is not identified as one of the five essential elements. However, the concept of Qi or chi, which represents the "life force" present in every living being, closely aligns with the air element.


Spiritual, Historical, and Cultural Aspects

In the early Mesopotamian civilization, Enlil was worshipped as the God of Air. Similarly, Shu, the God of air in ancient Egypt, symbolized strength. In ancient Greek philosophy, Plato described the air element as hot and wet, while Aristotle further elaborated that air was hot and wet and stood between fire and water. According to their medical beliefs, blood and the spring season were associated with the air element.


In Hinduism

Vayu is known as the God of wind and breath and is considered the spiritual father of Lord Hanuman and Bhima. The Sanskrit words Vata, Vayu, and Prana are all interconnected with air. For this reason, the deity Vayu is also referred to as "Mukhya-Vāyu" (the chief Vayu) or "Mukhya Prāna" (the dominant life force).


In Buddhism

Vayu is one of the Dharmapala, wrathful deities who protect and defend Buddhists against danger and enemies.


Chakra

The Anahata or Heart Chakra is associated with the air element. The heart is believed to be the dwelling place of the soul and life energy. According to Ayurveda, it is also where Prana Vata resides. When the air element is optimally balanced, feelings of love, freedom, openness, mobility, frivolity, positivity, and intellect are heightened.


Functions of the Air Element

Among all the elements, air possesses the most remarkable ability to cleanse the body of pollutants. This is partly due to its ability to stoke the fire element in our bodies and minds. Furthermore, the air is considered the life force or prana, and its circulation throughout the body automatically purifies us.


The air element plays a role in both voluntary and involuntary movements within the body, including breathing, heartbeat, blood and oxygen circulation, movement of food through the digestive system, flow of thoughts and ideas in the brain, generation of hormones and neurotransmitters, transmission of signals through the nerves, movement of limbs for various activities, blinking of the eyes, yawning, sneezing, sleeping, and optimal functioning of sensory organs.


Imbalance in the Air Element

Imbalances in the air element can be caused by factors such as multitasking, prolonged computer usage, consumption of raw or processed food, intense exercise, smoking, extensive travel, stress, grief, surgery, childbirth, late-night activities, or irregular schedules. These imbalances can manifest as excessive or deficient air element and can be identified through various signs.


Excess of the Air Element:

  • Hyper-excitability and hyper-mobility

  • Diarrhoea

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Gas and bloating

  • Unsteady or scattered mind, feeling spacey

  • Lack of grounding

  • Insomnia

  • Asthma or irregular breathing

  • Severe depletion of energy

Deficiency of the Air Element:

  • Sluggishness and dullness

  • Loss of motion

  • Giddiness

  • Weak senses

  • Severe constipation or obstruction

  • Stiff joints

  • Dry skin

  • Poor circulation

  • Laziness, lack of creative ideas, boredom

Practices to Balance the Air Element

By adopting proper dietary choices, engaging in exercise, practising yoga, and making small lifestyle changes, one can effectively address the imbalances associated with the air element. These practices can lead to enhanced enthusiasm, mental alertness, improved breathing, better circulation, restful sleep, and increased mobility.


Practice chest-opening yoga poses like Cobra Pose, Cat/Cow Pose, Bow Pose, and Bridge Pose to establish a deeper connection with the air element. These poses increase lung capacity, open the chest, and heighten awareness of the breath.

Bridge Pose

Bow Pose

Here are some practices to connect with the air element:


In case of excess:

  • Include cooling and grounding foods in your diet, such as carrots, cucumber, flax seeds, and beetroot. Avoid consuming raw foods.

  • Savour each bite of your meals and avoid skipping them to prevent acidity.

  • Minimize caffeine intake and other stimulants like alcohol.

  • Establish a healthy sleep routine by disconnecting from electronic devices 1-2 hours before bedtime.

  • Engage in pranayama practices like Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) to regulate your breathing.

  • Astringent and bitter foods can help alleviate excess swelling, promote wound repair, and create a sense of lightness. Consider including kale, Brussels sprouts, beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, pomegranates, black tea, legumes, and artichokes in your diet.

  • Practice Aakash Mudra by joining the tips of your middle finger and thumb to decrease the air element. Vayu Mudra can also be practised by placing the tip of your index finger at the base of the thumb and gently pressing the back of the finger with the thumb.

  • Engage in constructive activities to release nervous energy and avoid anxiety-inducing news.

Akash Mudra

Vayu Mudra

In case of deficiency:

  • Include air-increasing foods in your diet, such as pineapple, oranges, apples, oats, brown rice, basil, cinnamon, coriander, strawberries, and cloves.

  • Spend time outdoors feeling the breeze on your skin, smelling the freshness of flowers, or taking walks in the park. Open your windows to allow fresh air into your living spaces whenever possible.

  • Cultivate a meditation practice that emphasizes focused attention on your breath.

  • Practice Gyan Mudra, also known as Vaayu Vardhak Mudra, to increase the air element. To do this, place the tip of your thumb on the tip of your index finger while keeping the other fingers straight yet relaxed.

  • Engage in activities that stimulate and nurture your creative side.

Gyan Mudra

The air element is responsible for every movement within your body. Imagine being in a state where you cannot move or engage in your favourite activities; life would become utterly meaningless. Therefore, stay connected with reality and appreciate the occasional breeze. Observe the fluttering leaves and breathe in the fresh morning air to rejuvenate yourself. Remember, the air is all around you; you simply need to find ways to connect with it.



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About the Author

Namaste! My name is Pooja Chauhan

I am a Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher and a practitioner. Diving deep into the realm of my own heritage to create a significant impact in preserving and sharing my culture with the world.

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