You will often hear the term ‘pranayama’ a lot throughout your journey with Kundalini Yoga. It refers to breathing techniques that make up an essential part of the practice.
The word pranayama itself translates as ‘control of life force energy’, and is the process of slowing and controlling your breathing completely as a means to affect the energy flow within the body, which can be deeply relaxing and invigorating.
The energy flowing throughout the universe, and into each of us, is called prana. This can be split into five primary pranas, also sometimes referred to as vayus.
The two most basic vayus in Kundalini yoga are ‘prana’, and ‘apana’. These refer to the flow of air into the body, bringing life and energy into the being, and then expelling it again.
When the student of Kundalini yoga masters these aspects of pranayama, they learn to control the flow of the life force around the body, and begin to gain command over their own place within the life force of the universe.
What is Prana?
In the simplest terms, the prana vayu refers to the drawing in of breath. When we breathe in, we draw in the primal energy of the universe. Everything we take into the body, including food, is included in the prana.
It is about accepting and taking nourishment from our surroundings, opening the mind and heart, and welcoming the wisdom of the universe into every cell of our being.
The physical position of the prana is at the base of our lungs, above the navel. Breathwork on the prana centers around the flow of emotions in and out of the body, helping to build relationships, intuition, and fortify against negativity.
Practices that focus on the prana vayu, such as sodarshan chakra kriya can be deeply healing and energizing, especially for those of us who are neglecting our personal needs in favor of a hectic lifestyle.
What is Apana?
Whenever we breathe in, we must follow this with a breath out. This exhalation is known as the apana vayu. It is the partner of the prana vayu, and exists in balance with it.
Apana also refers to the movement of the inward breath down into the body, pushing down from the heart center and into the stomach and further.
The apana function is located below the navel and commands elimination, both with the elimination of breath and the digestive system, but also the expulsion of energy out of the body.
When we control this breath, we control the flow of energy toxins within and outside of ourselves. If we release too much to become undernourished and the body is unable to flourish. If we release too little, we hold on to too much toxicity.
When we learn to control the apana, we become skilled at knowing what to hold on to and what we benefit from eliminating.
Any effective grounding asanas are perfect for connecting with the apana vayu. Try Cat-Cow Pose, or any other forward fold asanas.
Continuing Your Journey
Understanding the importance of breathwork, or pranayama in Kundalini yoga is an essential part of the student journey. Now that you know the basics, you may want to consider how it affects your own yoga practices.