The Breath of Release, Apana Vayu

by Morgan Webert

In the previous post we looked at the first of the five forms of energy, Prana Vayu, the fundamental energizing force, that follows the in breath into our body and enlivens every cell with vitality and consciousness. But in order to receive this life giving energy we must clear space within and remove the blockages that prevent its free flow.

Here we see the importance of the second of the five forms of energy, Apana Vayu. While Prana Vayu governs intake, Apana Vayu governs out take and elimination.

imagesOur waste removal system

Apana Vayu is our energetic waste removal system, and when it flows strongly it gets rid of those things that create blockages within us both physically and psychologically.

This clearing of the system opens up our subtle energy channels, nadis, allowing prana life force to flow freely, bringing good health and a sense of groundedness.

Apana flows in a downward and outward direction and is most active in the lower abdomen and pelvis.  On a physical level it governs excretion, urnination, mensturation, sweating and all other forms of removing unwanted residues from the body. It also governs releasing of held emotions, memories or damaging habits.

When apana flow is weak our whole body-mind-spirit is weakened. We become weighed down by excess waste, also known as ama, and feel heavy, doubtful and without direction.

Extending our exhales 

Just as prana vayu correlates to the inhale breath, apana vayu correlates to the exhale breath.  Take note of your breath, is it easier to exhale or inhale?

Difficulty exhaling is a sign that the necessary apana flow of release is not fully active.  The simple solution: practice extending your exhale breath.  T.K.V. Desikachar says, “The most important part of pranayama [yogic breathing practice] is the exhale.”

Start with a few open mouth exhales, maybe even a big sigh. Observe the sensations in your body from these few simple breaths and notice if you feel a sense of relief.

Then take a moment to count the length of your inhale and length of your exhale. Slowly, without creating stress in your mind or body, lengthen your exhale one count at a time.

Desikachar suggests, “A breathing pattern where the exhalation is twice as long as the inhalation is aimed at providing more time during exhalation for freeing the body of its blockages.”


Legendary BKS Iyengar practicing lions breath.

A big release, lions breath

If you feel like you really need to let something go, either in the body or mind, try taking a big lions breath where you stick your tongue out on the exhale and gaze toward your third eye.

If nothing else, this practice will make you laugh, and we all know what a great release laughing is!  (And if you notice, laughing is a repeated strong exhale with a ha sound.) Enjoy!



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