Sometimes if you miss a yoga class, you feel like you could really do with a gentle yet efficient workout at home. Or after a day in the office, working sat at the desk most of the time, you feel like you need to relax the stiffness and muscular tension.
For this purpose I would like to share a really wonderful series of asanas called “The Pawanmuktasana Series”. In Sanskrit “Pawan” means “wind” or “prana”; “mukta” means “release” and “asana” means “pose”. Therefore, Pawanmuktasana is a group of asanas that is aimed at removing any blockages preventing the free flow of energy in the body and mind. It is one of the special contributions of the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. You can find them in full in the book Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.
These series can be performed by a beginner or advanced, young and elderly. They should not be ignored just because the practices are simple, gentle and comfortable.
In this and the next couple of publications we will consider the first part of the exercises, which is called “Anti-Rheumatic Group”.
It is aimed at:
– releasing tensions from the joints of the body
– promoting health overall
– improving coordination, self-awareness and self-confidence.
It is excellent for those with:
– high blood pressure
– heart problems
– or other ailments where vigorous physical exercise is not advised.
The practices can be performed in 3 ways:
- With awareness of the actual physical movement, the interaction between the various components of the body (bones, joints, ligaments, muscles etc), with mental counting of each round and with awareness of thoughts arising in the mind. This method induces peace and balance bringing harmony in the physical body.
- With awareness and integrated breathing. The movements become slower, which in turn slows the brain waves, further enhancing relaxation. This has a greater effect on harmonising physical body and breath.
- With awareness of the movement of prana. Prana may be experienced as a tingling sensation in the body to which one becomes sensitized with practice.
Right-handed people will find that it is easier to perform the activities on the right side. They should also be performed on the left side, to counterbalance the effects of habitual behaviour patterns.
If tiredness is experienced at any point of this asana program, rest in savasana.
For maximum benefits eyes can remain closed. Do not practise mechanically, be aware through the practice.
All the practices of pawanmuktasana part 1 are performed while sitting on the floor in the base position. The body should be relaxed , and only the muscles associated with the asana being executed should be used.
There are 17 practices in this group, and today we will consider first 4 of these practices, working with toes and ankles.
Prarambhik Sthiti (Base Position).
Sit with legs stretched, feet close together but not touching.
Place the palms of the hands on the floor to the sides, just behind the buttocks.
The back, neck and head straight. Straighten the elbows. Lean back slightly, taking the support of the arms. Close the eyes and relax.
1) Padanguli naman (toe bending)
Be aware of the toes. Move only the toes of both feet slowly backward and forward, keeping the feet upright and the ankles relaxed and motionless.
Hold each position for a few seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Breathing: Inhale as the toes move backward. Exhale as the toes move forward
Awareness: on the stretching produced by the movement and the breath.
2) Goolf naman (ankle bending)
Slowly move the feet backward and forward, bending them from the ankle joints. Try to stretch the feet forward to touch the floor and then draw them back towards the knees. Hold each position for a few seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Breathing: Inhale as the feet move backward. Exhale as the feet move forward.
Awareness: on the stretch in the foot, ankle, calf and leg, and the breath.
3) Goolf Chakra (ankle rotation)
Keep the legs shoulder-width apart and straight. Keep the heels on the floor.
a) Slowly rotate the right foot clockwise from the ankle 10 times and then repeat 10 times anti-clockwise. Repeat the same on the left foot.
b) Slowly rotate both feet together in the same direction. Focus on rotating the feet and not the knees. 10 times clockwise and 10 times anti-clockwise.
c) Keep feet separated. Slowly rotate both feet from the ankles together, but in opposite direction. 10 times in one direction and 10 rotations in the opposite direction.
Breathing: Inhale on the upward movement and Exhale on the downward movement.
Awareness: on the rotation of the ankle and the breath.
4) Goolf Ghoornan (ankle crank)
Bend the right knee and bring the foot towards the groin. Turn the knee out to the side and if there is no strain, gently place the foot on the left thigh.
Make sure the ankle is far enough over the thigh to be free for rotation.
Hold the right ankle with the right hand. Hold the toes of the right foot with the left hand.
With the aid of the left hand, slowly rotate the right foot 10 times clockwise and 10 times anti-clockwise.
Change leg and repeat on the other side.
Breathing: Inhale on the upward movement. Exhale on the downward movement.
Awareness: On the breath, mental counting and rotation,
Benefits: All the foot and calf asanas help in returning the stagnant lymph and venous blood. They thus relieve tiredness and cramp, and prevent venous thrombosis.
In the next publication we will consider the next 5 asanas, which will involve working with the knee muscles. P.S. Special thanks to Carol, who has kindly agreed to demonstrate the asanas.