Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Air is one of the most important and vital elements in the creation which keeps the life processes going uninterruptedly. Air can be said to be one of the basic instincts to survive. Air itself is life and life without air is unimaginable!
Vayu or Vata is the air-force, the central government and control force of the human body. It is the natural pacemaker from where all the activities initiate and keep going. Vayu is one of the 3 doshas, the basic humoral elements controlling the functions of the body. Pitta and Kapha are the other two elements or doshas. Pitta, Kapha, the dhatus (tissues) and malas (excreta) are all said to be Pangu (lame and dependent on Vata) and are said to be motivated and monitored by Vata. All the other elements of the body other than Vata are passive and do not have movements or activities unless propelled, pushed and motivated by Vata. Vata is the only active element and hence represents life.
The Vata present in the body is said to be a representation of the ‘air’ in the outer creation and also supposed to do all the activities including providing life just like the external air does.
Vata is the remote control of all the body mechanisms. It masters all small and big activities including blinking of eyes to swallowing of food, transporting the essential building blocks, nutrition and oxygen to each cell to evacuating the wastes from the body, walking, working and doing fine activities to sleeping and keeping us happy and healthy, ejaculation and menstruation to conception, breathing in of air to breathing out and lot more, rather every activity which defines our day-to-day life. When this Vata gets disturbed it can create havoc in the body by producing serious damage and causing degeneration leading to many disorders.
Vata subtypes, features
Vayu is a formula (tantra) which controls a machine or apparatus (yantra) called human body. It is all pervading and its presence is felt at all corners of the body, in all cells, tissues and organs, mind and senses.
Though Vayu is a single entity, it is of 5 subtypes, represented in 5 places in the body. They are all inter-related and the function of each Vayu is dependent on the functions of other.
The 5 types of Vayu are:
- Prana Vayu – Located in head
- Udana Vayu – Located in the chest
- Samana Vayu – Located in the Gut
- Vyana Vayu – is all pervading and is in circulation
- Apana Vayu – Located in the lower portion of the body, below navel
Subtypes of Vayu points towards distribution of its functions – Thus Vayu has its representations at 5 different places of the body. We can consider this as the distribution of duty of Vayu which it conducts bearing 5 different names, at five different places, in spite of being a single entity.
Each Subtype of Vayu has extended territories – The above mentioned places of 5 subtypes of Vayu or Vata should be regarded as chief sites of location and operation of each of the subtypes. But they too have their elaborated territory. Example, Prana Vayu is located in the Shira or Murdha (head) but also is said to move around or traverse in the Ura (chest) and Kantha (throat, neck) and renders its services in those areas also.
Each subtype of Vayu has its own assigned functions – Vayu has its generalized functions and is operational at each juncture of the body, controlling all the functions. At the same time, its subtypes are assigned specific functions. Example –
The functions of Udana Vayu located in the chest are Vak Pravritti (Production of speech and phonation), Prayatna (efforts), Urja (providing energy and strength), Bala (providing strength and immunity), Varna (provides good color) and Smriti (provides good memory).
Each subtype of Vayu has a normal course and direction of flow –
On a general note, Vayu moves everywhere in the body, all pervading. At the same time each subtype of Vayu has a normal course and direction of flow which is limited only to that subtype of Vayu. Example – Prana Vayu moves downwards, Udana Vayu moves upwards and Vyana Vayu moves everywhere, in all directions. The functions of these subtypes are also in the same direction. Example, Prana Vayu takes things in downward direction i.e. it moves air, food etc into the body while Udana Vayu propels things outside the body, Vyana Vayu distributes the nutrition and blood and oxygen to all parts of the body while Apana Vayu throws the excreta (urine and feces) out of the body through lower passages (urinary passage and anus).
The functions of Vata subtypes are integrated – The coordination of these subtypes of Vayu is necessary for the functions of the body to take place smoothly and uninterruptedly. Example, If Udana Vayu doesn’t cooperate with Prana Vayu, Udana Vayu throws the food in upward direction causing nausea, vomiting while Prana Vayu is trying to push the food into the stomach. Therefore the coordination and synchronization of each subtype of Vayu is necessary for the body and mind functions to take place smoothly. The concept of Anyonya Avarana of Vata (one subtype of vayu meddling with the activities of another subtype of vayu) also explains that these subtypes should have a cordial relationship.
The Vata subtypes work in synchronization with subtypes of Pitta and Kapha – Vata subtypes have to work in synchronization with the subtypes of other doshas i.e. pitta and kapha for sustenance of healthy and to provide disease free environment in the body. Example – Samana Vayu works in synchronization with the pitta subtype, Pachaka Pitta and Kapha subtype Kledaka Kapha in the stomach and upper intestines to aid proper digestion, absorption, assimilation and distribution of food and nutrition. Likewise, Udana Vayu, Avalambaka Kapha and Prana Vayu work in synchronization in the chest and enable good oxygenation and circulation, enables proper functioning of heart and lungs. In the head (brain), the synchronization of Prana Vayu, Tarpaka Kapha and Sadhaka Pitta enables proper thought process, sensory and motor functions, to promote intelligence and memory process.
Why should we have knowledge of Subtypes of Vata?
One should have a thorough knowledge of Vata Subtypes. This will help in addressing the Vayu or Vayus specifically and provide a comprehensive treatment. Generalized treatment of Vayu will help in addressing the vitiation of subtypes of Vayu, but the knowledge of subtypes will help in being more precise while treating a pathological condition related to vitiated vata, from a physician’s point of view. Knowing the subtypes thoroughly will also enable the physicians to understand the complicated conditions like Avarana wherein the treatment lineup needs to be planned in a different and skillful way so as to abort the pathological process and release the trapped Vata from the stronger vitiating subtype.
Prana is located in the head and moves in the chest, throat. It regulates will power, heart, sense organs, intellect and vision. It is the cause for expectoration, sneezing, belching, inspiration and swallowing of food.
Prana Vata is considered as the force that takes care of functioning of heart, lungs and throat (swallowing, belching etc).
The chest is the seat of Udana, it moves in the nose, umbilicus and throat; its functions are initiation of speech, effort, enthusiasm , strength, color, complexion and memory.
Udana Vata is correlated with breath and process of respiration.
Vyana is located in the heart, moves all over the body in great speed. It attends to functions such as flexion and extension (locomotor action) opening and closing of the eyelids etc.
Vyana is related with blood circulation and muscle activities – flexion and extension.
Samana Vata is located near the digestive fire. It moves in the gastro intestinal tract,
It receives the food into stomach, aids in digestion, helps in dividing the food into useful part and waste part, and moves these parts in their normal paths.
Samana Vata’s activities are limited to digestive tract, assisting in normal downward peristalsis.
Apana Vata is located in the Apana – large intestine, moves in the waist, bladder, genitals. It attends to the functions such as ejaculation, menstruation, defecation, urination and child birth.
Apana maintains all excretion process related with lower half of trunk.
Just Before Finishing
In this article I have covered about the subtypes of Vata, their location, salient features of vata subtypes and the importance of knowing the vata subtypes from the treatment aspect.
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