Apana Mudra is the yogic hand gesture (mudra) to balance the flow of Apana. Apana is the downward moving energy current of the breath or life-energy. Apana mudra balances the downward flow and aids the elimination aspects of biology. It is used for relief in constipation, menstrual irregularities, and to improve the functioning of the organs in the pelvic region.
When the vital breath (prana) enters the human body, it is distilled into five currents – Prana, Udana, Vyana, Samana, and Apana. 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.
Apana (short for Apana Vayu) is the fifth and final current of prana current.
Each life-wind is located in a specific part of the body. From hormone secretion to regulating metabolism and well-functioning digestion, these currents of the breath affect us at many levels. We experience good health when they are harmonious and balanced.
In this post, we will explain how to do Apana Mudra, its benefits, and other yoga techniques to strengthen the downward current of energy in the body.
Apāna 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.
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.
There are numerous mudras in the classical yoga texts with instructions on how, why, and when to use a particular mudra. 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.
Definition: Apana Mudra
Apana = Downward moving current of energy
Mudra = A hand gesture or seal
Apana Mudra refers to a yogic hand gesture to balance the downward movement of energy. Apana 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
Apāna 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 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.
Apāna Mudra Steps
Sit in a comfortable meditative asana like Easy Pose or Siddhasana (Accomplished Pose).
You can sit on a chair if you are unable to sit cross-legged. Keep the spine elongated and erect.
Place the hands on your thighs with palms facing the sky/ceiling.
Prepare with slow and even breathing to clear the mind and relax the body.
Touch the tip of your ring and middle finger to the tip of the thumb. Use both hands and apply gentle pressure. Don't pinch your fingers during Apana mudra.
Keep the index and little (pinky) finger as straight as possible.
This configuration of the fingers is known as Apana Mudra.
Optional - you can chant "LAM" silently or direct awareness to the Root Chakra.
Duration and Time
For optimal results, practice Apana Mudra using both hands for 45 minutes per day (one session) or three 15-minute sessions spread out through the day. Furthermore, one week of daily practice is essential to notice any benefits. Discontinue use after it has served its purpose. Follow the basic protocol for hasta mudras if you are using it therapeutically.
Note: 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 and Uses
1. Reduces pains and aches due to inflammation
Touching the index finger to the base of the thumb equals to decrease the air element in the body. The index finger embodies Vayu - the air element. Therefore, Apana Mudra can reduce inflation in the muscles, joints, and the resulting effects such as knee pain, backaches, etc.
2. Reduces anxiety and provides anchoring
Apana mudra benefits or facilitates the elimination of thoughts, habits, and addictions that create uneasiness. 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 doing the Apana Mudra to maintain the proper functioning of the digestive and intestinal systems. It is said to be helpful in gastric issues, indigestion, and hyperacidity. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that Apan mudra benefits or supports healthy bowel movement and the elimination of waste (gross and subtle) from the body.
4. Balances the three doshas
In Ayurveda, imbalances in the three doshas (body humors) are the root cause of all disorders and diseases. Apan 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. Regulates Elimination and Digestion
Apana Mudra is helpful in relieving gas formation in the intestines. It strengthens the excretory system and enables timely elimination, which is important for a regular bowel movement and good digestive health. Both these factors play 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 mudra) are found in modern texts, many of which cross over into the Ayurveda realm. Weak or imbalanced Apana Vayu does a sub-optimal job at 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?
A slow-paced and mindful yoga flow can create calmness to balance Apana Vayu. Use slow, deliberate, and soft transitions to move between yoga poses. The mind should be linked to the breath and the exhalation should be prolonged while you move through the poses. Add 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:
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 Laṃ is the seed mantra for the Root Chakra, which is located in the pelvic floor. If mantras are too alienating for you, close your eyes and look at the tip of your nose (yes, with closed eyes). 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.
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.
This post concludes our mudra series that covers the yoga hand gestures to activate and balance the five sub-currents of prana. Harmony of these sub-energies plays a vital role in our mental and physical health. Hopefully, some of the instructions and complementary practices we have 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.