What the Heck is Samana Vayu?

Posted by: on Dec 20, 2013 | No Comments
What the Heck is Samana Vayu?

WARNING: I am about to unleash my inner yoga nerd. If you feel like going deeper with me and geeking out on Pranayama, please read on. If you’re like What the Heck is Pranayama?, you may want to skip this article and go get yourself a chai.

Still here? Okay, let’s do this…

Richard Freeman is an asana genius. No surprises there. But did you know that he also has a real gift for making pranayama sexy? Yup. You heard me right. I said sexy. How does he do this?

Richard speaks of the inhalation, or the prana pattern, as yearning for its beloved, which is the exhalation, or the apana pattern. Prana spills into apana and apana flows into prana. These two streams pine for one another – desperate for union – like Romeo and Juliet. Like Radha and Krishna. Like Rumi and Shams. Like Brad and Angelina. They long to unite, and when they do a transcendent phenomenon known as Samana Vayu occurs. Sounds pretty hot already, right?  Let’s go deeper…

Where does prana live? Where does apana live? Where can we get them to meet for a lover’s tryst?

Pranastan, meaning the land of prana, resides in the center of the heart. Richard says, “very few people go there, but it’s the greatest place of pilgrimage- more holy than Jerusalem.” It is here, in the center of the heart that the “one dissolves into the many.” It’s a movement from the core to the periphery.

Apanastan, meaning the land of apana, is located in the muladhara (or root) chakra. Here the “many dissolves into the one.” In Apanastan, the endless array of potential generated from the prana pattern concentrates into one center. It’s a movement from the periphery to the core.

Pranayama is the linking of the two currents. The two complimentary patterns of prana and apana are maintained and allowed to occur simultaneously.

When this happens – when the two amorous lovers prana and apana finally become intertwined – this is called Samana Vayu.   Where do they meet? Richard says prana and apana unite at the naval, or nadi chakra, which is located on the front surface of your third lumbar vertebra. Who knew?

Once they join, they embrace so passionately and completely that you can’t tell them apart! This results in what Richard calls “umbilical breathing.” The inhale becomes the exhale and the exhale becomes the inhale. You literally can’t tell if breath is coming in or leaving the body. You are wholly absorbed in the ecstatic union of prana and apana. Now tell me that doesn’t sound sexy!

But… (yup, there’s always a ‘but’), don’t expect to unite prana and apana overnight!  You can serve them champagne and oysters, you can read them Neruda over candlelight, and they can still play hard to get.

I have been practicing pranayama for years, and I’ve only had fleeting glimpses of Samana Vayu. You must practice, practice, practice! As my teacher Rodney Yee says, ” Some things are not immediately revealed.”

So why do it, you may ask? Why go through all of the trouble of folding up your blanket and focusing all your attention on your breath? What are the benefits?

Well for one thing, according to Richard Freeman, Samana Vayu is an “inner massage therapist.” It processes emotion as pure feeling without “self” and “other” theories. It clarifies anger. It unravels our samskaras (levels of of memory in the brain and in mayo-facial tissue). It separates feeling from memory so you can experience feeling without reflexes. And by not responding to the feeling, you destroy the samskara. You liberate yourself from the unhealthy habits, negative thoughts, and damning compulsions that have been weighing you down. You’re free! And the simple act of breathing becomes at once grounding and transcendent.

Sounds amazing, right?

Oh, but where to begin?

Try this…

Set yourself up in a comfortable seat.  Sit up on a folded blanket or cushion, and you can sit at the wall for extra support.

When you inhale (prana pattern), you will notice that your heart (Pranastan) opens naturally, but you tend to compress your kidney area (the soft band beneath your lower back ribs) and you become a bit ungrounded. When you exhale (apana pattern), you will notice that you expand your kidney area and feel yourself tethered to the earth, but you tend to collapse your heart. What does that mean? In layman terms, the best part of the inhalation is the openness of the heart. The best part of the exhalation is the expansion of the kidney area and the rooting back into the earth.

So… why not take the best part of prana and put it in apana and take the best part of apana and put it in prana? You know how we like to say “put a little east in your west”? How about putting a little prana in your apana?

When you inhale, focus on filling up the kidney areas with “a thousand gallons of air.” Don’t worry about the heart. It will expand and float naturally. When you exhale, think of exhaling the breath through “the doorway of the sternum” (or breastbone). This way you won’t collapse your heart. Don’t worry about the kidneys – they take care of themselves on the exhale.

Inhale into the lower back body. Exhale through the heart. Repeat.

We’ll get those two lovers to unite one of these days. And oh the ecstasy that will erupt when we do!

But until then, keep practicing…






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