The Vedic deity Vayu is not a common term within western society, but is one of the most important deities especially pertaining to health and manifestation of the physical body.
The Sanskrit root to Vayu is “vaa” which means to “blow” or “to move”. Vayu would be one of the first movements from the soul, (Purusha, paratman, Surya, Brahman), which is often referred to as prana. Within the Purusha (soul), Vayu exists as unmanifested power or consciousness. Within the realm of nature Vayu manifests as Prana. Vayu manifesting as prana is responsible for the manifestation of all creation. .
Vayu manifests as prana and its subtle forms called:
From a yogic standpoint, Prana and Apana are the most important, as they represent vitality and elimination of toxins. From a cosmic standpoint, Prana starts the cycle of creation by moving from a sattvic (harmonious) state into a Rajasic (active) state. Apana gives firmness to the creation or form, by providing downward movement for manifestation. The form (matter) is maintained by the constant influx of new energy and the removal of old (prana and apana).
On a quantum level, energy is in constant movement even though it may appear stationary to the eye. As an example, looking at a wall it appears as solid matter. In reality it is a vibrating mass of energy in constant movement. It appears solid only because the molecules in our body are dense enough to not be able to pass through the wall. In the case of water, though there is still density of molecules, they are not dense enough to obstruct the body from passing through them. The same principle applies to air which is even less in density.
In relation to prana and apana, samana provides stability between the inflow and outflow of energy, providing stabilization. Vyana provides the outer flow of energy for more manifestation, or the circulating flow throughout the field of manifestation. Udana provides upward flow or movement toward a more primal state of being. Primal is not to imply a lower or lesser-evolved state in this case. This same process can be applied to all levels of creation including the human body.
This process is evidenced within the universe, the solar system, the physical body, and even on the cellular level. As an example, on the cellular level, Prana is the vital air coming to the cell via the blood. Apana is the release of carbon, wastes, and other materials from the cell back into the blood stream. Samana is the balance between these two forces (prana and apana) within the cell. Udana is the higher function of the cell for the health of the body; it is also the communication between cells via chemical messengers. Vyana is the circulation of the vital force throughout the cell.
According to Pandit Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley), Vayu is also known as sutratman. Sutratman consists of two words: Sutra (thread) and Atman, literally meaning the souls threads. This is reference to the nadi’s of the astral and physical body, clearly indicating that Vayu is responsible for the flow of energy (prana) through the body’s nadi’s. With this understanding, Vayu becomes the lord of all life, nervous energy, and movement.
Within the Rg Veda, Vayu, at times, is included in hymns with Indra (the higher mind). A more modern day example from India would be Shiva and Shakti. The argument arises, who is more important Shiva (Divine consciousness) or Shakti (Divine Power). While different philosophical systems answer this differently, I would like to suggest that both are equally important. Divine power needs Divine consciousness guiding it. Likewise, Divine consciousness is impotent without Divine power to manifest its will; therefore, both are equally important. Certainly this is true within the Vedic system where Vayu the divine manifesting power is similar to Shakti though not viewed as a feminine force. The relationship between Indra and Vayu represents this same line of thought. On a personal level, Indra represents the mental principle, or mental ability and Vayu representing the manifestation of the principle and the vital energy flowing through the body. From this standpoint, it is clear why they would be included in suktas (hymns) together on occasions as they do within the Rg Veda.
Other deities are often invoked for the pranas and their healing ability; within the Vedas most commonly we find references to horses or the Ashvins. It is important to note that the Ashvins are horses and associated with Ushas. In this function, they are representing the transition from darkness (ignorance) to light (knowledge). They are considered the twin physicians as wel. This is a clear indication of their association with prana/Vayu. This is not in contradiction, but is most likely an expression of a power of Vayu. The Nirukta, a classic Sanskrit text confirms this, “They are three gods: Agni in earth, Vayu or Indra in atmosphere and Surya in heaven. Each of them is known by various names depending on the different actions performed.”(1). It is possible that the Ashvins are Prana and Apana on one level, though they would not be limited to this function alone. This is not to be contradictory to Vayu but are additional expressions and expansions of this energy as stated above in “The Nirukta.”
The horse is a common symbol used in the Vedas to represent the stamina and power of prana. Indra has steeds as well as surya. Indicating their power (shakti) via Vayu. Vayu has steeds called niyut, which means to unite. Vayu (prana) unites the three Vedic worlds called Prithivi (Earth), Antariksha (Atmosphere), and Dyau (Heaven). Meaning that prana unites these worlds. Vayu is the ruler of the middle world Antariksha (atmosphere). In Vedic cosmology, antariksha is considered the most important world as it separated the earth and the heavens, giving birth to creation. Other deities associated with the atmosphere (antariksha) are Indra and Shiva.
Vayu is an important Vedic deity for understanding the unfolding universe and our physical manifestation. While more importance is placed on Surya, Indra and certainly Agni, Vayu’s importance cannot be underestimated. When mantra combining Indra and Vayu is applied, a potent force is awakened within the conscious being for health, and spiritual awareness. Vayu represents our awakening to the potential of the mind and its power. The primary expression is prana, but Vayu represents so many different levels of power, force, and the energy of consciousness.
Vayu is a drinker of Soma within the Vedic system; in fact all the deities drink soma. Soma has numerous meanings, but in the context of this article; Vayu drinks the vitality of the sensory impressions. This in turn feeds and vitalizes the pranas of the mind and body. This makes sensory impressions a form of soma or food for Vayu. It determines the quality of prana within the mind and body. Once clearly understood, the vital link between yoga and the Vedic teachings becomes quite clear.
The relationship between Vayu and yoga cannot be denied as it quickly becomes once the connection between Vayu and prana is established. Prana can be increased through a variety of tools, especially Vedic mantras to Vayu. Pranayama is just another expression of the worship of Vayu, this form of worship is expressed through the breath. While terms such as worship are often upsetting to western students, the act of breathing should be an act of worship. It is a bhakti (devotional) act that is performed tens of thousands of times each day. Each breath can be a silent mantra to Vayu. Each breath can be a silent affirmation of the pulsating energy from the cosmic mind. Tapas or psychic heat is generated by pranayama (Vayu).
Just these few examples clearly illustrate the relationship between yoga and Vayu. Without the vita air there would be no creation, existence, or life. In addition Vayu has an important link with Ayurveda. As one important attribute of Ayurveda is “Pranic Healing”, Vayu’s role as a healer becomes apparent, though it was often expressed in later Vedic times with the Ashvins. Without the energy of prana, the fire of Tejas cannot burn brightly. Without Tejas the mind becomes weak, clouded, and slow in function. Vayu flows through the Nadi’s and marmas for healthy energy within the bodies subtle energy system, the chakra system, and the physical organs themselves. Vata is the biological manifestation of Vayu. One aspect of Ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy is increasing/balancing prana within the body. This is illustrated with herbs such as Ashwangdha and Bala. Triphala increases the colon’s ability to eliminate toxins, balancing high vata in the colon and increasing the body’s vitality and ability to detoxify.
Vayu plays an important role within the Physical body. It is also present within the mental or emotional bodies. The importance of the 5 major forms of prana cannot be underestimated, and Vayu is the ruling deity behind them.
References and sources:
Frawley, David “Yoga and Ayurveda”
Aurobindo, Sri “The Secret of the Veda”
The Nighantu and The Nirukta
(1) Roy, Raja Ram Mohan “Vedic Physics” 1999 Canada: Golden Egg Publishing.
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