Apana (outgoing) + Vayu (wind)
Apana Vayu Definition
Apana vayu is the downward-moving air or energy in the body, it is essentially the energy that governs both our physical and energetic removal of waste.
It is one of the five qualities of prana and translates to the meaning ‘the air that moves away‘.
Apana vayu deep dive
Located primarily in the pelvic region and originating in the navel, apana vayu flows in the Muladhara Chakra (root chakra) and descends through the legs and feet.
Apana vayu is one of five primary vayus that control the body’s vital forces, moving through the body in specific patterns and forming each of the three doshas, outlined in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Together they make up the five functions of our energy force: prana (inward), apana (outward), udana (upward), samana (moves towards the center in a churning motion), and vyana (circulatory).
Each of the five vayus is represented by one of the five elements, the Apana Vayu corresponds to the element of the Earth. Because of this, its characteristics are rooting, grounding, and therapeutic. It’s also a subclass of the vata (wind) dosha.
Functions of Apana Vayu
It controls the elimination of all substances from the body, relating to digestion, expulsion, menstruation, childbirth, and reproduction.
As well as physical waste, it helps to expel issues that weaken the body-mind, supporting our emotional elimination process. This might show up as allowing us to process and release any negative self-talk, limiting beliefs, or trauma.
For people who bleed, periods can often be a real struggle, with regular pain, nausea, cramps, and much more. But this shouldn’t be the case! The normalization of this kind of pain on your period can lead people to go undiagnosed for conditions such as endometriosis.
Apana is directly responsible for the length and quality of our periods as it’s located in the pelvic region.
If this vayu is aggravated or imbalanced, we can impede its natural flow which causes stagnation in this area, particularly impacting people who menstruate. We should try to support vayu and the process of releasing menstrual blood so we don’t get in the way of vata.
2. Excretion of toxins and feces
As it’s located in the small intestine, apana vayu supports all the functions of the urinary bladder and the processes of digestion, including the formation of feces.
You may suffer from symptoms such as IBS, bloating, constipation, or loose stools when it gets imbalanced. If you’re struggling with any of these things, a good suggestion might be to focus solely on eating instead of multi-tasking by chatting, working, or watching tv.
50% of digestion occurs in the mouth, and when we’re talking we are engaging udana vayu, which is the upwards motion of energy that is counteractive to apana.
3. Pregnancy & Childbirth
Because of its downward and outward energy flow, apana vayu is also responsible for pushing the baby out of the womb at the time of birth, causing contractions and relaxations of the uterus.
Fear, or our body going into fight or flight, can often halt the flow of apana and send the energy back up.
It is also very dominant in the last month of pregnancy, which is all about the body preparing for childbirth. Apana is required for the baby to become situated in the pelvis.
Do not try to stimulate apana vayu before the 8th or 9th month of pregnancy, because of its strong energetic motion.
Apana Vayu in your life
- Digestive issues
- Skin conditions such as eczema
- Erectile dysfunction or loss of libido
- Fatigue and sluggishness
- Pain in the lower body (namely lower back, thighs, and knees)
- Painful periods
- Frequent or stagnant urination
- Self-doubt or insecurity
Balancing Apana Vayu
Kapal Bhatti or the skull shining breath is the primary pranayama technique to balance this vayu. The forceful outgoing breath will help to clear away any excess toxins.
Do not practice this if you’re pregnant, have just given birth, or have any complications with your heart.
Here are some asanas to help balance apana, but in general, any twists or forward bends are the best kind of asanas for this.
- Prasarita Padottanaasana – wide leg standing forward bend
- Bharadvajasana – Bharadvaja’s twist
- Vrikshasana – tree
- Baddha Konasana – bound angle pose
- Salabhasana – locust pose
3. Pelvic floor exercises
You might want to do this with an exercise ball, on a chair, or as part of your asana practice. These practices will balance the energy in this area. Make sure to soften the body and try to focus on opening up the lower belly and pelvic floor area.
4. Basti (herbalized enema)
This one might sound a little bit scary, but medicated enemas are a great way to get the apana vayu moving again, releasing any obstructions of the vata dosha.
If you’re suffering from an apana vayu imbalance, a basti can help with any of the functions mentioned above.
5. Castor oil packs
This is a piece of cloth soaked in castor oil that you place over your liver to support the detoxing of the body. You can buy special packs made specifically for this, or make a DIY one at home.
They will help the proper functioning of vata as castor oil nourishes and grounds apana vayu, improving the body’s elimination of toxins.
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