As part of a therapeutic assessment, we evaluate the movement of vital energy (prana) throughout the system. Prana is said to be the force that animates all living things. Prana is a manifestation of all energy. As humans, we replenish our prana through food, water, air, and experiences. Once we learn how to understand and guide our own prana, there will be no limits to our powers. Breath is a vehicle of prana. The science of pranayama is a fundamental part of the yoga practice because its goal is to expand and harness our life force energy. In yoga therapy, when a student describes a specific health challenge, we try to understand it from the perspective of a subtle energetic imbalance. We can use the traditional Panchavayu model to understand the directions of the strongest energy movement and the impeded energy flow.
Sequence Wiz allows you to record your findings as you conduct an Energetic Assessment of your student.
How to conduct an Energetic Assessment
The Pancha Vayu model is most useful when the student experiences physiological challenges, although the vayu imbalance also shows up on the physical and mental–emotional levels. This is a subtle system, and sometimes there are no clear patterns of imbalance. Below are some steps you can take to see whether this model would be applicable to your student’s challenges.
- Identify the student’s primary locations of discomfort and unease through observation and conversation. Observe your students’ body language, ask about the symptoms they experience, and discuss their daily activities and lifestyle. Note if there are specific areas of the body that seem particularly painful, sensitive, contracted, or guarded. If there are, identify which vayu resides in that location.
- Note the directions of the strongest and of the impeded energy movement. Take a bird’s eye view of the student’s current challenges and patterns of behavior to identify which direction(s) of subtle energy movement seem the most pronounced (taking stuff in, processing it, distributing it, eliminating it, or getting nourishment from it) and which one(s) the student is having trouble with. For example, a new mother might have trouble taking things in (which manifests as gasping inhalation, restricted ribcage expansion, skipped meals, anxiety, and an inability to ask for help). She might also exhibit a very strong giving/eliminating pattern (which shows up as a lack of energy due to resource depletion, frequent urination, incontinence, and obsessive focus on the needs of her infant at the expense of her own). This would point to an imbalance in both prana and apana vayus.
- Identify which physiological systems seem to be affected. Methodically go through all the major physiological systems and note whether the identified pattern is manifesting anywhere else. Mark the system(s) where the pattern appears to be present and describe its manifestation. For example, the pattern of the new mother mentioned above could also show up in the following systems: sensory (as a limited ability to take in new information), nervous (as being forgetful), digestive (as diarrhea), muscular (as pelvic floor weakness), and lymphatic (as swelling of the feet and ankles).
- Summarize your observations about the student’s current state. After recording your notes about the locations of your student’s imbalance, the direction(s) of the strongest and impeded energy movement, and the physiological systems affected, record your thoughts, and formulate a vision of what you think is going on from the pancha vayu perspective.
- List your practice recommendations. Based on your summary, devise a course of action, and outline the strategies to include in your work with your student. Ask yourself, “How can the energy flow be restored/redirected to relieve the areas of congestion or insufficient concentration?” Be sure to use breath as a vehicle of prana, asana as prana pumps, pranayama as an energy regulating device, and attention as an energy redirection tool.