Apana Mudra: Steps, Benefits, and Complementary Practices
Apana Mudra Meaning | Steps | Benefits | Complementary Practices
Apana Mudra is a yoga hand gesture (mudra) to balance the flow of Apana Vayu, the downward moving sub-current of the breath. The hand mudra balances the downward flow and aids the elimination aspects of our biology. It is used for relief in constipation, menstrual irregularities, and to improve the functioning of the organs in the pelvic region.
Apana = Downward-moving current of energy | Mudra = A hand gesture or seal
When the vital breath (prana) enters the human body, it is distilled into five currents – Prana, Udana, Vyana, Samana, and Apana. They are called Pancha Prana in Sanskrit. We call them "life-winds" as there is no English term for them.
In simple words, prana is the primary current and the 5 prana vayus are the sub-currents.
Each life-wind is located in a specific part of the body. From hormone secretion to regulating metabolism and well-functioning digestion, These sub-currents of the breath affect us at many levels. We experience good health when they are harmonious and balanced.
In this post, we explain the steps and benefits of Apana Mudra and other yoga techniques to strengthen the downward current of energy.
Apana and the Discipline of Mudras
In yoga, a mudra or hand gesture is used to redirect or influence the flow of prana (life-energy). The study of finger and hand arrangements is called Mudra Vigyan (Mudra Science). Mudras have a place in spirituality, yoga, and Ayurveda. They are also used for therapeutic benefits.
There are numerous mudras in the classical yoga texts with instructions on how, why, and when to use a particular hand gesture. They stem from observational research by yogis and Ayurveda scholars. Based on the mudra used, you can promote different types of energy flows in the body.
A few of their benefits include balancing humors (Vata, Pitta, Kapha), balancing elements (Air, Water, Wind, Fire, Earth, and Ether), altering the mood (reduce stress, better focus), and improving the biological functioning of the digestive, respiratory, reproductive system, etc.
What is Apana Mudra
Apana Mudra is an energy-cleansing hand gesture used in yoga and Ayurveda. It balances Apana Vayu, the sub-current of the breath responsible for the downward movement of energy in the human body. the Apana mudra hand gesture is used to improve functioning of organs in the pelvic floor related to elimination.
Apana Vayu is located within the pelvic region of the body. It is associated with the Root Chakra and the earth element (Pruthvi). Earth represents stability, materialization, and feeling secure and grounded.
From a sense of stability to elimination and love-making, Apana environs our very foundation. It underpins our stability, affording us the security to go out in the world and find our identity. Using Apana Mudra to balanced Apana means we can let go of what is no longer needed. This includes food waste, emotions, thoughts, memories, and habits as well.
Biological Role and Function
Apana governs the functions of the intestines, bladder, reproductive organs, and colon. It’s responsible for urination, elimination, ejaculation, menstruation, childbirth, and other functions of ousting things from the body in a timely manner.
Apana Vayu Imbalance
Apana imbalance manifests as improper functioning of organs in the lower body. It may lead to chronic constipation, erectile dysfunction, incontinence, and irregular menstruation. If too much elimination occurs, we can become malnourished. If too little occurs, we feel sluggish and congested - in a state of high toxicity. Apana imbalance can also contribute to negative emotional states and a feeling of anxiety or uncertainty.
How to Do Apana Mudra in 5 Steps
To do Apana Mudra, sit in a comfortable meditative asana like Easy Pose or Hero Pose. You can lie down in Corpse Pose or sit on a chair if you are unable to sit cross-legged.
Start with slow and even breathing to clear the mind. Place the hands on your thighs with palms facing the sky.
Touch the tip of your ring and middle finger to the tip of the thumb. Use both hands and apply gentle pressure. Keep the index and little (pinky) finger as straight as possible.
This configuration of the fingers is known as Apana Mudra in yoga and Ayurveda.
Optional: You can chant "LAM" silently or direct awareness to the Root Chakra.
Duration and Time
You can practice Apana Mudra using the five steps anytime, anywhere. For optimal benefits, use both hands and do if for 30 to 45 minutes per day. You can also do three 15-minute sessions spread out through the day.
Generally, it takes a few days to notice the benefits of Apana Mudra. It can be done as and when required if you are using it in yoga and meditation. Discontinue use after it has served its purpose if you are using it therapeutically (Ayurveda).
Follow the basic protocol for hasta mudras if you are using it therapeutically.
Note: Yoga hand gestures are only effective when used in combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle. They are not a replacement for medicine or ongoing treatment.
Apana Mudra Benefits
1. Reduces pains and aches due to inflammation
Touching the index finger to the base of the thumb equals to decreasing the air element in the body. The index finger embodies Vayu - the air element. Therefore, one of the benefits of Apana Mudra is to reduce inflation in the muscles and joints.
2. Reduces anxiety and provides anchoring
Apana mudra benefits or facilitates the elimination of negative thoughts, habits, and addictions. It is said to normalize blood pressure and resting heart rate. Both of these contribute to calming the nervous system and reducing anxiety. Along those lines, this hand gesture is also recommended to those who suffer from insomnia.
3. Improves functioning of organs in the pelvic region
Ayurvedic practitioners recommend Apana Mudra to maintain the proper functioning of the digestive and intestinal systems. This yoga gesture can be helpful in gastric problems, indigestion, and constipation.
4. Balances the three doshas
In Ayurveda, imbalances in the three doshas (body humors) are the root cause of all disorders and diseases. Apana Mudra is said to balance the three doshas, which can contribute to achieving a ‘tridoshic’ state – a state of balance and harmony. The mudra alone will not be sufficient, a balanced diet and other practices should also be adopted.
5. Improves Elimination and Digestion
Anecdotal benefits indicate Apana mudra benefits bowel movement and the elimination of waste (gross and subtle) from the body. The yoga gesture is used for relieving gas formation in the intestines. It strengthens digestive health, which plays a crucial role in the quality of life, immunity, and general wellbeing.
Apana Mudra In Yoga, Pranayama, and Meditation
Apana is one of the ten sub-energies of Prana according to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. However, the bulk of the practices for Apana (like the yoga mudra) are found in modern texts, many of which cross over into the Ayurvedic realm.
Weak or imbalanced Apana Vayu results in sub-optimal elimination. When people hear elimination, they think of sweating, bowel movement, or urination – all of which are physical in nature. Elimination in this context represents removing anything unnecessary from the body.
It includes thoughts, emotions, intellectual grudges, and other things that weigh us down. Such things clog our mind/body and make us anxious or unsettled. That’s why there is a bidirectional relationship between Apana Vayu and feeling anchored.
Try these five practices (instead of Apana Mudra) the next time you are feeling anxious:
Walk barefoot on the grass in the early morning or evening hours.
Bhumisparsha – the act of connecting to the earth.
Chant ‘LAM’ – the seed mantra of the Root Chakra.
Drape yourself with a cozy yoga blanket and relax in Corpse Pose.
Sit in Siddhasana and perform a few rounds of Chandra Bhedana Pranayama.
What about yoga? Can any yoga asanas be helpful in combination with Apana Mudra?
One of the benefits of a slow-paced and mindful yoga flow is it can feel grounding and balance Apana Vayu. To do this, create a flow of asanas that work on the core and lower body. Use slow, deliberate, and soft transitions to move between yoga poses.
For reference, try these yoga poses to your daily flow to balance Apana Vayu:
Child’s Pose - Balasana
Tree Pose – Vrikshasana
Bound Angle Pose – Baddhakonasana
Mountain Pose with Anjali Mudra (Tadasana)
Yoga poses where you press the soles and/or palms against the floor
Tips to Deepen Your Practice
You can club the 5 Vayu Mudras with meditation and/or pranayama. Additionally, they can be done as a standalone practice while sitting, lying, or standing. A seated cross-legged pose and awareness will increase effectiveness, but a cross-legged yoga posture is not mandatory.
When you breathe, prolong your exhalation as much as you can while staying relaxed. The act of exhalation is the act of letting go or eliminating unwanted elements. But don’t force the breath beyond your natural capacity. It may have undesirable effects on heart rate and blood pressure.
Silently chant ‘LAM’ as you exhale. लं or Lam is the beej (seed) mantra of the Root Chakra located in the pelvic floor.
If mantras are too alienating for you, sit in a seated yoga pose and close your eyes. Look at the tip of your nose with the eyes closed. You will immediately notice a sensation in the Root Chakra. Keep your awareness at that point while you practice Apana mudra.
To conclude your Apana mudra practice, release the fingers and empty your lungs with a gratifying exhale. Stay seated with eyes closed for a minute and bring your hands to your chest and do the Anjali Mudra.
This post concludes our mudra series covering the steps and benefits of the five energy-cleansing yoga hand gestures. Each yoga mudra correspond with the five sub-currents of prana, which is why they are helpful for yoga practitioners.
The harmony of these sub-energies plays a vital role in our mental and physical health. Bringing them in balance is crucial because they connect the physical and mental layers of our being. We hope complementary practices we provided will help you in your quest for better health.
Stay the Course: Related Articles
We use our practice to find ways in which the Prana Vayus and Mudras can be assimilated into yoga breathing and pranayama. In our quest to provide accurate and authentic information, we reference Samkhya Philosophy, Vedic Literature, Ayurvedic texts, and Mudra Vigyana. The final draft of every post in this series is reviewed by Dr. Alok Sharma (BAMS) and Dr. Mandakini Shah (BAMS), two Ayurvedic practitioners with 30+ years of combined experience.