Apas, sometimes called Jala or the water element, is all about nourishing our existence and experiences. This element gives us the power of adaptability and changeability and allows us to freely and creatively express ourselves. It is linked to the movement of the fluids of our body – blood and lymph circulation, sweat, urine – and all the functions that nourish and sustain our existence in physical form. Our bodies are made up of 90% water. It is the great ocean of life within us. On the mental and emotional level it helps us cultivate our sense of connection to our self and others through emotions, passion and creativity.
Vyana vayu is the movement of energy from the center of the body outward toward the periphery and beyond. This energy presides over all forms of circulation from the physical movement of fluids to ideas and thoughts in the mind. Its expansive nature allows us the freedom of expression through physical movement as well as the fluid flow of one idea to another.
Apas and vyana vayu together are a powerful force for cultivating fluid creativity. This is that unique space where we experience limitless potential in the flow of ideas or movement and there seems to be no barrier to what we can cultivate. They help us to express our innate passion, power and creativity and allow us to be adaptable to whatever life experience we are in.
Many of us experience a sense of contraction or stagnation at some point in our lives. Working with these two concepts regularly will help us stay balanced and vibrant in the flow of life. They are also wonderful tools when you need that extra boost of creativity or inspiration. Try experimenting with one of these techniques regularly over the course of a week and see how the quality of your experience (mental – physical – emotional) shifts and flows.
Asana: Any yoga asana can express the qualities of vyana vayu and apas by simply bringing in a pulsation or flow instead of being static. Try adding a fluid flow like quality the next time you try cobra or bhujangasana. On your abdomen, widen your arms and legs and move up on to your fingertips. As you inhale, flow gracefully up through the center, as you exhale, lower one shoulder down and turn your head in the opposite direction. Repeat as many times as you like and maybe allow yourself to explore additional movement with the legs. Let your creativity flow!
Pranayama: Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breath, is one of the most harmonizing and balancing breath practices available to all levels of practitioner. Fold the index and middle fingers of the right hand down to rest at the base of the thumb. Place the thumb against the right nostril and gently press it closed. Inhale through the left nostril, switch the ring finger to the right nostril and gently press it closed and exhale out the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, switch the thumb to the right nostril and gently press it closed and exhale out the left nostril. Create a slow, smooth, fluid and gentle flow of the breath as you repeat the pattern for 2-5 minutes. Finish with an exhale out the left nostril and then sit quietly and observe the response.
Mudra: Varuna mudra is the hand gesture that balances the water element in the body. Sit comfortably and bring the tips of your pinky finger and thumb together with the rest of the fingers extended. As you rest with eyes closed, visualize a flowing and gentle river that washes away all ailments, concerns or burdens. Rest in the sense of freedom and lightness this creates. Practice for 2-5 minutes then sit quietly and observe the response.
Bhavana: The quality of apas and vyana vayu is that of the gentle rolling waves of the ocean that wash up upon the beach. That subtle tide of in and out that is consistent and ceaseless. As you move through the experiences of life or your next yoga asana practice see where you can create a sense of fluid flow. That constant give and take and adaptability of the ocean waves to continue to move in and out despite what obstacles are in its way. Cultivate a sense of ease yet a deep connection to power and allow your creativity to navigate the way.