Vayu is one of the key concepts of Vedic thought that has great importance in Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta. It has many profound implications both at a cosmic level and relative to our own individual lives. Indeed if one understands Vayu, one understands everything, including time, space and karma, life and death and one’s own deeper Self.
Vayu is usually regarded as the element of air at a material level. This is a good place to begin a study of Vayu, but only the beginning of many correspondences. In Vedic thought, Vayu includes the concept of space or Akasha. Space in motion is air, while air at rest is ether. These are the two sides of Vayu, which is the unity of air and ether. Ether is the field in which Vayu as a force operates.
Modern science recognizes that the universe consists of a fabric of space filled with various types of channels, currents or wormholes that are filled with dynamic interchanges. This is a picture of the cosmic Vayu, which is not only space but the energy within it both potential and actual. One could say that potential energy is space while activated space is air. The universe itself is Vayu in its ethereal vibration.
However, Vayu is much more than the material or even subtle elements. Vayu is the power through which everything comes into manifestation and into which everything eventually returns. Vayu is not just the material element of air and space but the cosmic principle of energy and space that pervades body, life, mind and consciousness. The entire manifest universe arises from space and energy which is Vayu at an outer level. At an inner level, Vayu stands for the formless principle of air and space, the invisible Spirit or Brahman behind the visible world of the earth, water and fire elements, the realm of name and form. The famous Shantipath of the Taittiriya Upanishad declares this: