Each of the seven chakras belong to the elemental forces of the body and nature. These elemental regions of the body are called “Vayu”, literally meaning air, and they relate to the “airy” vital forces of the body.
Each Vayu is classified as follows:
- Udana Vayu. Ether; head region; the sense organs, consciousness.
- Prana Vayu. Air; chest region; inhalation, energy, absorption, vitality.
- Samana Vayu. Fire; abdominal region; the digestive organs, circulation.
- Apana Vayu. Water; pelvic region; exhalation, elimination, reproductive organs.
- Vyana Vayu. Earth; legs and arms; the skeleton, muscles and joints.
The physical nature is in a constant state of movement despite its seeming solidity. Earth is an inward force and contracts to keep things together. Water is a downward force and eliminates the unwanted. Fire is an upward force that is transforming and consumes everything in its path. Air is an outward force that attempts to enter anything it touches. Ether has no physical manifestation and pervades everything.
Earth is eroded by water, but it also contains water. Water is evaporated by fire, but it can also extinguish fire. Fire is blown out with air, but it also consumes air. Air is directed by ether and it is the vehicle through which ether is experienced. Ether is manifested in all things.
Each of the five elements should be balanced within each aspect of the yoga practice. For Vyana, practice standing postures that deal with the skeleton, the legs and arms. Prone postures, particularly resting at the end of the practice, deal with Apana and are more cooling. For Samana, practice sitting postures that deal mostly with the midsection and are generally more heating and transformative. Vinyasa, or movement, cultivates Prana: Vinyasa always starts with an inhalation which then increases Prana. Udana deals with the finishing sequence, both inversions and sitting, and particularly the headstand.
While each aspect of the practice contains all of the elements within it, certain elements have a tendency to manifest more strongly with certain postures. This also depends on seasonal and climatic changes, phases of the moon, and transitions of the planets. It is useful to note these changes and to be aware of them as they occur.
Yoga is a balance of opposing polarities. Every body, every practice and every asana is both accumulating (prana) and eliminating (apana), both contracted (vyana) and expanded (udana), involving body and mind. You can balance these opposites by increasing awareness in each and every posture.
The dominance of each of the Vayu in the body varies with each individual. This nature is exhibited as different body types, or constitutions, called the three Dosha. They are Kapha, Pitta and Vata. Kapha combines both water and earth, Pitta is governed by fire and water, and Vata is governed by air and ether. The Vata constitution is more mobile and is exhibited by a slender physical structure. The Pitta type is goal-oriented and it is exhibited by a more muscular, solid structure and assertive disposition.
Every individual has a combination of all three Dosha, with usually one or two of them being more predominant. Depending on the individual’s constitution, the practice can support or aggravate certain aspects of these Dosha. For instance, too much movement can support or aggravate Vata depending how extreme it is. Activity, focus and competitiveness can support or aggravate Pitta, and no activity and quietness can support or aggravate Kapha. The practice can be adjusted somewhat for each of these possibilities. For example, slower movements will help support the Vata type. Doing a shorter practice tends to support the Kapha type, and keeping the inner focus and dristi supports the Pitta type.