Exploring Apasana

Exploring Apasana
At thirteen, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, and my doctor gave me an exercise to help straighten my back. I didn’t know then that the movement was a yoga pose called Apasana, otherwise known by “Knees to Chest Pose,” or, more humorously (yet accurate) as “Wind Relieving Pose.” At the time, I knew only that this position would help my posture and relieve my backaches. Many years and yoga teacher trainings later, I remain surprised at what I learn from this simple position.

Many of us tend to take Apasana on autopilot. We move into an approximation of the position and then wait for something more engaging. If we stop, however, and explore the pose, we learn a great deal about both our physical and mental bodies. Try it and see what happens.

Lie on your back, with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Lift your legs and bring your knees into the chest. From here, take note of how your body feels. Notice the placement of your shoulder blades, and on an exhale pull them down your back. How does that change your experience of the pose? This movement in your back is a key postural element, one that we use while standing in Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, as well as when moving through various other standing asanas. Try releasing the shoulders and then pulling them down again. What kind of control do you have of your upper back muscles? How can that control help to support your spine?

From here, note that there are other movements in this position that can change your experience. For one, take note of where your chin is pointing. Can you pull it back while keeping the back of your neck straight? This takes you into a form of Jalandhara Bandha, or throat lock. This constricts your sinuses and thyroid, which in turn then acts on your metabolism.

A final area that you can work with is the action of your hands on your knees. Experiment: you can use your palms to press your knees against your belly, squeezing your inner organs and enhancing the flow of blood. You can also use your arms to hug yourself in this position, which adds emotionally to the experience. All asana is a form of self-care; what happens when you intentionally add tenderness to yourself?

This pose is named after one of the vayus, or yogic winds. Apana is the wind that governs downward movement, assimilation, and digestion.
Clearly, the pose can help if you are having physical trouble with gas or constipation; by stimulation your digestion, it can also help with improving your metabolism. Metaphorically, taking this pose allows you to consider what to let go of and how to do such a thing. Practicing this pose can thus help us to integrate change into our lives by focusing on casting away that which no longer serves us.

Apasana can be practiced dynamically by moving in and out of the posture, or statically, by entering and remaining in the pose while focusing on breathing. In class, you will no doubt find yourself working both ways. While practicing at home, vary what you do and how you do it, and you will make new discoveries from this simple workhorse posture.

You Should Also Read:
Downward Facing Dog
Three Shoulder Openers Using a Strap
Half Pigeon Pose

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