The Three Humors

The Wind humor

The Wind humor (rLung-spyi) is the breath, life force, and energy of the body/mind. It is pervasive and circulates inside and outside of the body. It manifests from the mind and the subtle wind energy and it is the source of respiration, movement, strength, and the power of the body/mind. It especially governs the main function of the mind and the wind systems. During embryo development, it goes down to the perineum and moves upward to the head straight from the navel chakra through the central channel, piercing the five chakras like a tree and its root. It is called the ‘Wind humor’ and its most important branch is the life sustaining wind (srog’zingyi-rlung).
The Wind humor is concentrated in the central channel where the mental consciousness is active and the life fuel energy is deposited. This is the root and trunk of the Wind energy. The central channel has five chakras which are like the nodes of a tree while the organs and sensory organs are like the tree’s fruits and flowers.
The Wind humor has five principal winds and five minor winds which comprise the vital wind energy. They sustain life and manifest from the emotions of attachment and desire.
The Wind humor shares the same nature and characteristics as wind in general or air but the ‘human bodily wind’ is subtler and smoother. The Wind humor governs the central channel and its branches, and, along with the Bile and Phlegm humors, the central part of the body. It rules psychic functions and emotions and neutrally balances the other two humors.

There are three main sources for the Wind humor

  1. The continuum subtle wind energy coming from the past life with the bardo consciousness is called the ‘mental affliction wind’ (nyonmongpai-yidkyi-rLung[1]) and it is the main cause of the Wind humor.
  2. The wind energy received and developed from the wind element of the parents and especially from the mother during fetus development becomes the physical Wind humor.
  3. The Wind energy is also received throughout life from the food and air which support the Wind humor system.

The Wind humor’s location and general functions

The Wind humor is found in every part of the body but it is particularly active in the heart, lungs, colon, small intestine, skin, ears, bones, hip joints, joints, lumbar-sacral area, lower abdomen and nervous system.
Tibetan Medicine and Yoga tantra describe five main wind branches of the general Wind humor. They are also called the principal or root winds and they are mainly located in the five chakras of the five body parts, from where they govern the psychic and body functions. The five chakras are: the crown chakra, throat chakra, heart chakra, navel chakra and secret chakras. In short they are the cause, governor, and sustainer of the five emotions and psychic energies.
Functionally, the Wind humor is a cold but neutral energy and it is equally able to associate itself with Phlegm or Bile. Wind serves as the vehicle of the mind and enables the mind to perceive sensations and thought. Wind regulates respiration and mobility, and sustains life through breathing; it gives energy for movement, and makes blood, lymph and subtle energy circulate. Wind helps absorb nutrition, transform tissues, clear the sensory organs, and sustain their functions. It controls the senses, as well as the functions of the vital and hollow organs. It transfers memory and experience of the gross mind to the subtle mind. In short: all the physical and mental functions depend on the Wind humor. Wind gives life to the body as well as to the body’s microorganisms. Wind transports the consciousness, lightens awareness and gives power to the mind.

The six characters of the Wind humor

The Wind humor has six qualities or characters: it is coarse (rough), light, cold, subtle, hard and mobile. These six qualities maintain the body in a general way by balancing the other two humors. Wind keeps Bile and Phlegm in balance and equilibrium by neutralizing the opposite elements.
But when the Wind itself becomes too strong, it attacks the other two humors, takes power from them and creates an imbalance. Then the body begins to show the Wind symptoms of dryness (coarseness), physical and mental lightness and restlessness, as well as sensitivity to cold. The mind becomes more fragile and subtler (sensitive), while the wind’s quality of hardness manifests lump, abscesses, tumors and swellings, and the body/mind’s nature becomes unstable.

Wind is a neutral humor

Wind has a neutral nature and it is able to associate itself with the other two humors: Wind helps increase the Bile fever but also cools down the Phlegm humor. However, Wind itself has a cold nature and dry nature.

The types of Wind humor (rLunggi-rigs)

Wind is found in all parts of the body and in all cells and particles. All winds in short belong to the five principal and five minor winds. They functions in the head, throat, chest, abdomen, lower abdominal and in the back of the body and in the coccyx area. The five principal winds govern and help manifest the five gross emotions of ignorance, attachment, anger, pride, and jealousy respectively from the five chakras: crown, throat, heart, navel and secret chakra.
The five chakras or body divisions are like the five provinces of a state where the principal winds are the governor. The five minor winds rule the five sensory faculties and they derive from the principal winds. There are many other different types of winds which manifest from the principal winds, and each wind is responsible for a different emotion. Winds and emotions manifest through the function of the body channels of the five chakras. The Buddhist sutras describe 84.000 emotions while the Mother Tantra counts 72.000 emotions[2].

The five principal Wind branches (rTsawei-rlung-lna)

The five principal Winds function separately in five different body locations or chakras, under the general command of rLung/wind humor. They all manifest from the Life sustaining Wind (Srog’zingyi-rlung) of the central channel during the fetus development, like rays emerging from the sun.

They are:

No Wind Chakras and body parts Negative emotions
1 Life sustaining Wind
Head and crown chakra Ignorance
2 Ascending Wind
Upper body and throat chakra Attachment
3 Pervasive Wind
Chest and heart chakra Anger Anger
4 Fire-like Wind
Abdomen and navel chakra Pride and greed
5 Descending Wind
Lower abdomen and secret chakra Fear and jealousy
tab humor wind

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 [3]. 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.

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.

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.

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 this wind causes cold stomach, poor appetite, vomiting, and disturbed blood circulation of the stomach[4]. 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 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.

The five minor wind branches (yanlag-gi-rlung-ln’a)

There are five minor winds which all manifest from the Life sustaining Wind (srog-‘dzin-rlung)[5] and rule the sense faculties and their related emotions. They are the vehicles of the sense consciousnesses, they help feel and perceive forms, colors, smells, and other sense objects, and transmit the message to the brain or ‘gross mind’. The minor Winds are also the primary cause of body/mind artistic qualities and body consciousness control. From there, the message is further transmitted to the ‘subtle mind’ in the heart and recorded in Kunshi.

The names of the five minor Winds described below are kept in Tibetan. Different names and also different origins may be found in other literature describing the same five minor Winds.[6]

1. Lu

Lu (klu) Wind is a minor Wind which resides and functions in the eyes. It bears the earth element quality and manifests from the Life sustaining Wind during the 6th month of fetus development. It develops the eye organs and resides in the eyes, and helps perceive objects. It also gives physical artistic style and skills in actions. Therefore, it is called the ‘artistic Wind‘.

2. Ruebal
(rus sbal)

Ruebal (rus sbal) Wind resides and functions in the ears. It bears the space element quality and manifests from the Life sustaining Wind during the 7th month of gestation. It develops the ear organs and perceives sounds and hearing. It rules the physical hands, legs and head movements and it is also called the ‘emotional artistic Wind‘.

3. Tsangpa

Tsangpa (rtsangpa) Wind resides and functions in the nose. It bears the water element quality and manifests from the Life sustaining Wind during the 8th month of the pregnancy. It develops the nose organ, and produces the sense of smell, and it also creates anger, irritation, nervousness and emotions that emerge through contact. Therefore, this Wind is called the ‘nervous Wind‘.

4. Lhajin
(lha sbyin)

Lhajin (lha sbyin) Wind resides and functions in the tongue. It is a fire element, which manifests from the Life sustaining Wind during the 9th month of pregnancy and it develops the tongue organ. It develops the gustatory function and makes one yawn when one is tired or sleepy. It is called the ‘sleeping Wind‘.

5. Norlagyal
(norla rgyal)

Norlagyal (norla rgyal) Wind resides and functions in the whole body. It bears the Wind element quality and manifests from the Life sustaining Wind at the beginning of the 10th month of pregnancy. It develops the tactile body sense. It resides in the body skin and provides the function of experiencing tactile sensation. This Wind remains in the body even after death until the body’s complete destruction.

The functions of the five principal or root Winds and of the five minor Winds are vital for the body/mind. Besides these Winds there are 24,000 Winds, which sustain life and circulate in the same number of channels. The Wind humor governs the breathing of the body and its organs, food digestion, nutrition distribution, body development, and the aging process. In short, all life movements and body/mind works are under the function of the Wind humor according to Tibetan medicine and Yoga Tantra.

  1. This wind manifests from attachment, and remains with the mind and produces all the mental affliction thoughts.
  2. More details can be found in the Abhidharma and Buddhist tantras.
  3. Detailed explanations can be found in tantra, Kalachakra tantra astrology and Svarodhaya “dbyang’ char” astrology tantras.
  4. This concept is described in the bloodletting chapter of the 4th tantra
  5. Sa skyaba Rgyal mtshan Dpal bzang’s “Rdo rje’i lus kyi sbas bshad” tells us that there are also different sources of these five branches and so that they don’t necessarily only branch from srog ‘dzin rlung the Life sustaining Wind.
  6. In a text from the Buddhist Yoga Tantra, called Rnal ’byor chenpo’i rgyud, these five minor Winds are called: 1. Ldang zhing rgyuba’i rlung (moving Wind), 2. Rnampar rgyuba’i rlung (thoroughly moving Wind) 3. Yangdagpar rgyuba’i rlung (perfectly moving Wind) 4. Ngespar rgyba’i rlung (definitely moving Wind) 5. Rabtu rgyuba’i rlung (strongly moving Wind).