When I was only a few years into vipassana meditation practice in the 1990s, I took a 10-day silent retreat. This was my fourth retreat like this, and I was aware that there would be some physical discomfort, especially the first few days.
Every retreat I had taken up to that point had brought me physical pain in my back and shoulders. I was aware that my knees would eventually tire and that I’d feel tired and restless sometimes. On this retreat, however, I felt an uncontrollable agitation that I couldn’t identify. I felt dizzy and unfocused, and wanted to run from the room.
After a few days, during a 45-minute session, I suddenly lifted my bench from under me. Then, I sat cross-legged on a hard surface. The agitation disappeared immediately. I felt calm and grounded. I laid down on the ground, using a Zafu for the remainder of the retreat.
It took me some time to understand what was happening. My position on the meditation bench was actually against the vayu, which was dominant in my body at that time.
WHAT IS THE VAYUS?
Here is a description of the Yoga International vayus:
The five functions or movements of prana are called the vayus in yoga tradition. They govern different areas of the body, as well as subtle and physical activities. They ensure harmony in the body and mind and allow us to use our unique talents and live a fulfilled life.
Here’s a quick look at where the vayus are located and what areas of our physical/mental/emotional bodies each governs:
- Prana: Chest, head. Governs intake and inspiration.
- Apana: Pelvis. Apana: Pelvis.
- Samana: Navel. This governs assimilation and discernment.
- Udana: Throat. Regulates speech, expression, growth, ascension and upward movement
- Vyana: Whole body. Vyana: Whole body.
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED ON THE MEDITATION RETREAT
My period began the day that I felt strange agitations on the meditation retreat. The vayus states that apana (or downward-flowing energy) is predominant at this time, as apana governs the elimination process. Some people, including me, find that sitting on a meditation bench encourages an upward flow in energy. When I was on retreat during my moon cycle, I found that the upward-flowing energy I received from the bench was conflicted with my period’s downward-flowing energies. Once I sat down on the ground, my apana energy flowed without interruption.
There are many reasons to choose one type of sitting support over another . However, the retreat taught me to also consider energy flow.
A meditation bench can help you increase your energy levels if you are struggling with sleep. A Zfu or V–Shaped Cushion may be better options if restlessness is a problem. There are many vayus that dominate at different times so having more options might be a good idea.
The V-Shaped Cushion is the best for me, both energetically and anatomically. However, everyone is different so you should try different options at different times.
This post provides more information about the vayus, and how to use them in your asana practice.