Tibetan Medicine Education center

Five Wind branches
From "The Essentials of Gyud-shi", Dr Pasang Yonten Arya

Physiology of the humors and constituents, part IV

The five Wind branches

1. Life sustaining Wind (srog ‘dzin rlung )
The Life sustaining Wind is a Wind which resides in the head (brain). It manifests from the central channel, from the subtle Wind of the mind and governs the head and the whole body/mind system. Also called Life-span Wind, it is the life fuel energy (tshe) stored in the middle channel and the bank of life energy like oxygen in a cylinder. It is released through the nostrils during respiration.
The breath is comprised of two components: the greater part of the breath which is the body wind (las rlung: karmic wind, meaning body breaths) and the Life sustaining Wind (srog ‘dzin rlung) more subtle and found in a smaller amount. Both come out from the central channel along with respiration. 

The breath, which contains a tiny amount of the Life sustaining Wind also divides into two parts when it reaches the nostril root. One part goes to the crown chakra (brain) and is burnt there, becoming the energy which supports the consciousnesses and the continuation of the Life sustaining Wind (brain) function. The second part of the breath comes out from the mouth and nostrils. This continuous use of the life energy resource reduces its amount day by day, like a candle slowly being consumed.
Generally, the quantity of life energy in the central channel is the basic life span of the person and its body/mind force. Each person has a different amount of the life fuel energy and, according to Buddhism, this amount is determined by the previous lives’ karma. Therefore, no one else but oneself is responsible for the lifespan amount [I]. It is difficult for common people to foresee the amount of this energy.

The Life sustaining Wind functions in the brain, sensory organs, mouth, nostrils, and esophagus. It regulates the nervous system, brain memory and it gives thinking and analytical powers and attention. It determines the emergence of  the sense of “I” and controls the body system and the functions of the organs. It helps to swallow food, breathe, sneeze, spit, vomit, belch, etc. It clears the mind and the sensory organs and sustains life. In short, it governs the whole head (brain) and crown chakra (psychic), and commands the entire body system. It regulates the pillar of the body or central energy channel, and the respiration function. It keeps the body/mind balanced and holds and sustains the mind and the mental functions.
Psychologically, it manifests ‘closed-mindedness’ and the lack of awareness (by incomplete function) which requires human beings to learn and train themselves in order to develop.

Malfunction of the Life sustaining Wind
If the Life sustaining Wind functions become distorted and disturbed by wrong factors, one may lose consciousness and balance, manifest vertigo, lose control of the body/mind, have wrong perceptions, confusion, hear sounds in the head and ears, experience feelings of head emptiness, and have hallucinations. It may cause shortness of breath; difficulty of inhalation, problems in swallowing food and drink, and could even become the cause of madness.

2. Ascending Wind (rgyen rgyu’I rlung)
The Ascending Wind (rgyen rgyu’I rlung) resides in the chest, lungs, throat, larynx, mouth and nasal cavity and especially in the vocal cords. It moves upwards to the throat and makes breathing through the lungs, trachea and nostrils possible. The body/mind energy flowing up to the head through the throat is an extremely important function for the balance of the body/mind.

It functions in the throat, larynx, tongue and nostril areas, it produces speech and voice, maintains the strength of the body, increases the body’s radiance, clears out the skin and complexion and generates interest and skills in art and works, and clears the memory and awareness. It eliminates excretions like sputum, mucus, etc from the mouth, nose and other sensory organs, throat, lungs, heart and chest. In short, it rules the throat and neck areas and produces the vocal sounds.
Psychologically, the Ascending Wind manifests attachment, desire and lust. It also provokes anger and nervousness.

Malfunction of the Ascending Wind
This wind could be the cause of many disorders of the upper part of the body such as thyroid and lungs disorders, sore throat, loss of voice, breathing difficulties, headaches and neck and shoulder pain. It also increases the pressure in the sensory organs and head, produces problems of speech, loss of strength, facial paralysis and loss of consciousness. Disharmony of this wind during the fetus development could manifest in various spinal or spondylolisthesis disorders as well as back, neck and chest deformations. The mother’s psychological problems may influence this wind which could produce fetal malformation.

3. Pervasive Wind (khyab byed rlung)
The Pervasive Wind (khyab byed rlung) resides in the heart, chest and shoulders, arms and hands, but it also pervades the whole body.

It is responsible for body movements including lifting the arms up and down, stretching, and bending. It regulates the organs and cavity functions, keeping one’s body in balance and providing a straight posture, etc. It sustains the heart function, makes the blood and wind circulate in all parts of the body and distributes the nutrition and nourishes the body. In short it rules all physical actions of the whole body especially in the chest.
Psychologically, this wind produces anger, hatred and the emotions of the mind arising from the heart. Therefore, according to Tibetan medicine Bile and anger reside in the chest.

Malfunction of the Pervasive Wind
The Pervasive Wind malfunction manifests in loss of balance, hypertension, chest tension, fear, panic attacks (Wind in the heart), fainting, loss of speech, general cardiac disorders, talkativeness, the desire to roam, pains in the joints, shoulders and back, blood circulation disorders, heart palpitations and rhythm disturbances, and in complaining and unfriendly speech which worsens the situation, etc.

4. The Fire-like Wind (me mnyam rlung)
The ‘Fire-like Wind‘ or ‘Fire accompanying Wind’ (me mnyam rlung) resides in the stomach and intestines. It is the bile fire fanned by wind and so is called me nyam, fire-like.

It is the firepower which helps the Digestive Bile to digest food. It performs its functions in the general and specific digestive systems. It assimilates and absorbs nutrition, matures the nutrients and transports the food essences (chyle) to the liver and body. In short, it governs the abdominal area below the diaphragm and above the navel.
Psychologically, this wind manifests a hunger for food, power, egotism, pride, and greed.

Malfunction of the Fire-like Wind
Malfunction of this wind causes cold stomach, poor appetite, vomiting, and disturbed blood circulation of the stomach [II]. It also manifests all the chronic and acute digestive disorders, especially in the lower abdominal organs, including gas formation, gastric problems, hiatal hernia, tension in the heart, back and chest pains, intestinal irritations, constipation, low metabolism, bacterial flora disorders, mal absorption, etc.

5. Descending Wind (thur sel rlung)
The Descending Wind (thur sel rlung) resides and functions in the colon, bladder, reproductive organs, thighs, and especially in the sigmoid colon. It governs the part of the body below the navel. As it functions downwards, it is called the ‘Descending Wind’.

It regulates the functions of the sexual activities, controls the evacuation of feces and urine, as well as semen and menstruation discharge. It rules conception, fetus development and labor, and so keeps the generations going on.
Psychologically, this Wind helps manifest jealousy, fear and worries which are due to problems of lacking space in the heart.

Malfunction of the Descending Wind
Malfunction or disturbances of this Wind manifest in the joints with a boiling pain, loose or rigid and hard joints. It produces lower abdominal disorders such as lumbar and back pains, constipation, infertility, bladder, urination and ejaculation disorders, menstrual disorders, hemorrhoids, intestinal hernia, lower body blood circulation disorders.
Psychologically, this Wind manifests joy and pleasant emotions but it also becomes the basis for psychological imbalances and wind disorders.


[I] Detailed explanations can be found in tantra, Kalachakra tantra astrology and Svarodhaya “dbyang’ char” astrology tantras.
[II] This concept is described in the bloodletting chapter of the 4th tantra


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Physiology of the humors and constituents, part 5: to be continued in the next newsletter