Apana Vayu – Ayurvedic Keys To Health

What is apana vayu?

Apana vayu is an aspect of your vata, the principle of movement. Apana’s job is to support movements in the lower part of the body from the navel and below. Mainly, apana controls all movements that go downwards and out:

menstrual blood
an ovum as it travels in the fallopian tubes
the second phase of a complete expiration
all movements of the lower region of your back
all movement of the pelvic region (hips and thighs)

Apana is responsible for enervating all of the organs and systems concerned with the above functions. As a result, keeping the movement of apana healthy is akin to keeping this lower abdominal zone structures in good working order, keeping the energy flowing in these different places:

Colon ( large intestine)
Lower abdominal muscles
Pelvic floor muscles
Hips and pelvis
Lower back

Apana as an aspect of vata expresses the following qualities via its various functions or movements (contractions, peristalsis etc) which are somewhat sporadic, moving in a downward direction.


Apart from mobile, these qualities are not so obvious, but they will be if you ‘accumulate’ to much of them, as you will soon see things going wrong with the way apana does its job. Just make a list of movement-type dysfunctions of the above systems and structures, here are some examples:

Frequent loose stools
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
Lower abdominal bloating
Urinary track infection
Premature ejaculation
Lower back stiffness and pain (lumbago)
Slipped disk
Menstrual difficulty (insufficient, excessive, painful menstruation)
Hip joint pain or immobility
Prostate congestion and prostate diseases
Spontaneous abortion

The above list is not exhaustive. Basically any pathology involving a dysfunctional part of your lower body anatomy and physiology, especially if it involves a poor or inappropriate expression of movement, involves aggravated apana vayu.

According to ayurveda, prevention is better than cure. Most ayurvedic treatments are built upon the foundation of a very simple intuitive principle:

Opposites balance / like increases like

This axiom is used to help treat a freaked out or gummed up apana vayu, as much as it is used to prevent disturbances. The main idea is to encourage healthy movement in apana’s different domains by using therapeutic movements, and by seeking therapies that exhibit the opposite qualities to vata.

Apana often gets stagnant, which can cause muscle weakness. Movements become reduced or limited. Apana can also become cranky or unsteady, causing movements to become excessive of erratic (such as the alternating movements in IBS). Getting this movement principle back in shape must be built upon solid foundation of neuro-muscular reeducation. This includes the inner muscles (sphincters, viscera etc.).

In most disturbances of apana vayu, we need to reeducate, reanimate, strengthen, tonify, stabilize and relax the lower trunk, abdomen and pelvic zone using:

Lower back and pelvic exercises (flexing, twisting and squatting mainly)
Pelvic floor exercises (kegal exercises)
Full dynamic breathing to encourage complete expiration
Adopt a squatting posture when peeing and pooing (see http://www.squattypotty.com)
Learn to sit in a squatting posture, or other more ‘natural’ seating postures
Massaging with warm oil from navel to thighs and all in-between then apply a gentle form of local heat to the area. All vata imbalances are treated with oil and heat

Dietary measures to balance apana vayu

Whether or not we are able to remove any antagonistic uses of our lower back and pelvic zone, the above interventions will be of great benefit if integrated into daily life. But In addition to the above primary movement-based interventions, a few simple dietary practices can also help with maintaining healthy apana and its functions. In particular, a diet that encourages regular healthy bowel movements will keep apana and its primary sites, the colon, rectum and anus, in good working order. These guidelines are general and focus on encouraging good movement of apana in the G.I. Tract in general using opposite qualities of vata dosha:

Encourage regularity in your eating habits. This is perhaps the most overlooked issue in today’s culture towards therapeutic nutrition. All forms of vata, especially apana, benefit when we do things in harmony with the natural rhythms of day/night etc. Perhaps the most important two suggestions in this respect are to try to eat your meals at regular times, and avoiding skipping meals.

Avoid ice cold drinks and foods. Consider drinking only hot foods and drinks, especially if your transit is sluggish or if you have chronic constipation. It is especially important to avoid cold drinks at meal times. Another good practice is to drink 2-3 cups of warm to hot water as soon as you wake up in the morning.

Avoid eating too many raw, dry, rough, crispy foods. Favor cooked, soft, smooth, unctuous foods. This is a general recommendation for treating vata. This recommendation has to be applied in the correct context, i.e. assuming that the basic diet is following a wholefoods plant based model, low in animal foods, high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and depending on your capacity to digest them, well cooked unrefined cereals and legumes such as oats, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, wheat etc. While ayurvedic nutrition is a very versatile and individual approach, this basic ground rule is more or less respected by most modern proponents.

A diet that results in symptomless digestion, alertness (not sleepiness) after main meals, and regular healthy bowel movements (1-3 per day, well formed like a ripe banana) is probably suited to you and supporting your apana vayu. If not, it is worth making some changes along the above lines. The domain of apana extends outwith the lower region of the G.I. Tract, however, most chronic apana imbalances are at least in part caused by a chronic presence of ama (toxins born from the consequences of partially digested foods) in the large intestine and rectum.

Herbs for apana vayu

Ayurveda offers a range of herbal solutions to support the correct function of apana. Depending on the specific aspect of apana you aim to treat, different single herbs and formulas exist. It is possible however to highlight a few good general tonics for apana and its overall welbeing:

Valerian root is one of the best plants for correcting imbalances of apana vayu. It is very effective for clearing sama vata (ama produced by aggravated vata in the colon). It helps to re-educate apana to move correctly. It is a mild laxative, purifies the intestines, as well as having a calming or grounding effect. Small doses are well tolerated by most people, however, due to its heating nature, it should be used with caution if there is high pitta and in pitta types.

Triphala formula is a mix of three dried fruits in powdered for. It is perhaps one of the best natural remedies to protect and rejuvenate the intestines, skin, eyes and bones, and especially, the large intestine. It is a very useful overall tonic in its own right. Regular use of small amounts 1-2 grams per day before bedtime is safe for all body types and will help to target the colon and support healthy elimination.


16 thoughts on “Apana Vayu – Ayurvedic Keys To Health

  1. Thank you for this post.I have a friend who I want to help. He has herniated discs. Has poor posture, going to bed too late, stressed and suffered much diarrhea just before he got the herniated disc. Have also had prostatitis and had difficulty urinating. Are all this symptoms linked together? Could this be because he goes to bed too late, which alleviate vata?

    • According to ayurveda, these different conditions are partially linked via their involvement of deranged apana vayu. See my blog about sleep which is an important support for health vata function. Sounds like you friend could do with learning how to manage his apana vayu. A good treatment for his herniated disc is to apply liberal amounts of ayurvedic mahanarayana oil to the lower back, then apply mild local heat for 30 minutes. This can be done daily and will help speed up repair and reduce pain etc.

  2. Dear freind
    Could you please suggest a few foods which one can eat to eliminate ana vayu ,
    And does masturbation cause apana vayu due to loss of demen in body . Is there a way to regain it.

    • Food which “eliminate” Apana Vayu? Well, foods that “balance” Apana Vayu / foods that encourage its correct downward movement are foods which are warm, liquid, easy to digest but nourishing, have a mild laxative effect and heating nature. There are many things that achieve this. Try following more of a “Vata Balancing Diet” (plenty of books about that) combined with drinking several cups of hot (fresh) ginger root tea (use about 1 cm of ginger rhizome per cup of water).

      As for male masturbation aggravating Apana Vayu. On a mechanical (physical level) here are some thoughts:

      1. If you are masturbating often enough to cause dryness or irritation of the gland or foreskin due to lack of natural lubrication, then Apana Vayu can become aggravated. Use a pure sexual lubricant or better still some natural oil (coconut or sesame for example) to protect your self from friction. Your own saliva is also a good lubricant. To compensate for loss of sperm/semen you can take a 1/2 teaspoon each of Ashwaganda and Shatavari powders in a little warm milk (cow, goat, almond: whiter you digest best) afterwards. Add a good pinch of cardamom powder to help it all digest. These two plants are excellent regenerators of the sexual organs and their fluids.

      2. If you are mostly ejaculating (whether through masturbation or intercourse) while on your back, there is a small change that the ejaculate can stagnate (over time) in the prostate. Avoid this by simply urinating some time afterwards. I am not sure if this has been proven scientifically and have never read about it in an Ayurvedic text. Not sure where I heard it actually!

      On a mental/emotional/energetic level, I would say that so long as you feel that the experience is wholesome, loving, life affirming, then it will not reenforce the “fear” dimension of Apana Vayu’s subtle qualities.

      Cheers, Alex.

  3. Hello Alexa, I wanna know about some advice on my stomach how do I have firm stools because they are loose and constipated both at the same time
    So you talk about apana vayu treatment valerian root will definitely give me more loose stools and I have also tried triphala it causes extreme gas and loose motion with me so don’t know what herb should I take
    P.S : I have grey hairs too started around 300 hairs are grey
    Age is 24. Very skinny I am

    • Giving advice online like this is less helpful than you would think. Even though I know quite a lot about Ayurveda, I cannot advise on a case by case basis without seeing you in person and doing a thorough Ayurvedic Evaluation. It all depends on the situation you are in with your body and mind. It sounds like you have one of the main symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). This is a very common ailment. About 20% of world population suffer from it at some point. The fact that you are very skinny and many grey hairs at 24 years old suggests that Vata Dosha is moderately aggravated. I would advise that rather than seeking remote help, you consult with a qualified Ayurvedic educator. Your experience with taking plants (I assume self-guided) is typical (symptoms that cause you to doubt and stop the treatment). In order to use herbs wisely, we need to have the benefit of professional, experienced supervision, especially if the Doshas are moderately disturbed. Self-treatment is possible, but is rarely successful unless for preventative situations, or for mild imbalances. It is important that you seek real human help in the flesh, not surf the internet looking for treatment solutions. If my blog “spoke” to you, then carry that energy into practice: get yourself in a situation where you are guided and cared for by one or several health care professionals. Namaste ! Alex.

  4. Respected sir
    Thank you for sharing so much valuable information. Please tell me whether balancing apana vayu will correct my ejaculation?
    And also adviser some books or web sites about Ayurveda, I want to enrich my knowledge.

  5. How hypertension is caused?please throw light on this prescribe medicine and other alternative measures to balance it

  6. Have you written any book on the same..? Or could you suggest any book on apana vayu..
    Thank you for the information..

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