Apanasana: A powerfully simple pose

Apanasana is a basic yoga pose that is very easy to learn and grants rapid, noticeable benefits.

Use a yoga mat or folded boiled-wool blanket to cushion your back.  Lying on the back on the floor, legs are bent, feet flat on the floor, parallel and hip-width apart, heels near the buttocks.  Extend the neck and lower the chin to make a double-chin.  Maintain this neck gesture throughout.

Breathe in.  Breathing out, lift the feet off the floor, bringing the knees to the chest.  Place the palms of the hands on the knees. Breathe in.  Breathing out, pull the knees gently in towards the chest.  Breathing in, move the knees back and away from the chest.  Breathe out and rock the knees back in.  Breathe in and rock them away. Repeat.  Take note:  the movement is small.  Don’t straighten the legs on the inhale.   The elbows flex and extend, but the knees mostly don’t.

Repeat this movement for 6-8 breaths, three times per day and you will almost certainly reduce lower back pain (LBP).

LBP is one of the main reasons people visit the Doctor’s office.  Although in some cases surgery might be the only option, for most people a good program of chiropractic care and yoga would keep them pain-free and mobile.

Most of us know that weak abdominal muscles contribute significantly to lower back pain. The internal organs protrude behind the weak muscles, hanging forward and rocking the pelvis forward with them.  With the pelvis tipped forward this way, the hip flexors shorten and pull on their opposing muscles, the piriformis and gluteals.  Muscle tensions accumulate over the years and the tissue becomes rigid and inflamed.

It is important to have your spine checked by a chiropractor or osteopath.  Ask friends for recommendations – it is always the best way to choose a therapist.  But, always trust your instinct about whose hands you place yourself in.

Hatha yoga is a very good ally in the struggle against LBP.  Stretching, freeing, loosening and unbinding muscles, ligaments and tendons, yoga gently eases the aches and pains, realigning our bodies and calming our minds.  The anatomy of this posture is a full spinal and gluteal stretch, a contraction of the abdomen and compression of the abdominal cavity.

In the subtle anatomy of yoga, there is a dominant downward running energy and a dominant upward rising energy.  Apana is the downward facing energy.  It runs from the navel down to the tips of the toes.  It governs elimination, reproduction and the rooting, terrestrial facets of life.  Apanasana derives its names from the energy apana.  It is the posture (asana) that actuates directly on the downward energy current (apana).  Combining this gentle movement with the precise breathing technique of lengthening and counting the breath changes the direction of the flow of apana, sending it upwards.

When it flows upwards, apana nourishes our nervous system, giving us vitality, vigour and zest for life.

Observe carefully any limitations you might have including herniated disks or difficulty rising from the floor. If this is the case, you may wish to try practising on your bed.  Do not undertake any physical activity without consulting a professional first.  But also, don’t worry. This is a very safe pose, reclining, head neutral, feet raised.

Practice 6-8 breaths in apanasana three times per day, for one month.  If you wish you keep a diary of your experiment, you may find it informative. I welcome any feedback on your practice.  Keep it up!

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