The pawanmuktasana series is one of the most important groups of practices that has a very profound effect on the human body and mind and is thus a most useful tool for the yogic management of various disorders and maintenance of health. It is one of the special contributions of the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. It is essential for laying a firm foundation for the perfection of yogic asanas.
Pawanmuktasana is valuable for understanding the meaning of asana by developing awareness of the body’s movements and the subtle effects they have at the various levels of being. It is very useful as a preparatory practice as it opens up all the major joints and relaxes the muscles of the body. The series may be practised by anyone: beginner or advanced, young or elderly. It should never be ignored and treated casually just because the practices are simple, gentle and comfortable.
In Sanskrit these practices are referred to as sukshma vyayama, which means ‘subtle exercise’. The word pawan means ‘wind’ or ‘prana’; mukta means ‘release’ and asana means ‘pose’. Therefore, pawanmuktasana means a group of asanas that remove any blockages preventing the free flow of energy in the body and mind.
Sometimes, due to bad posture, disturbed bodily functions, psychological or emotional problems or an unbalanced lifestyle, the energy becomes blocked. This initially results in stiffness, muscular tension, lack of proper blood flow and minor functional defects. However, if these blockages become chronic, a limb, joint or physical organ may malfunction, fail or becon1e diseased. Regular practice of pawanmuktasana removes energy blockages from the body and prevents new ones from fanning. In this way, it promotes total health, regulating and stabilizing the flow of energy throughout the body.
Most modern day diseases are psychosomatic in nature. Drug treatment of these ailments is only symptomatic and fails to touch the roots of the disease. These asanas, if done correctly, in a non-competitive and relaxed atmosphere, not only relax the muscles of the body, but these relaxing impulses travel back to the brain and relax the mind. By integrating the breath synchronization and awareness, the attentive faculty of the mind is made active and is not allowed to wander into tension and stress. The nature of these asanas is thus more mental than physical. If asanas are performed correctly they relax the mind, tune up the autonomic nerves, hormonal functions and the activities of internal organs. Right-handed people will generally find that these asanas are easily learned with the right side leading. They should then be performed with the left side leading to counterbalance the effects of habitual behavior patterns.
Pawanmuktasana is divided into three distinct groups of asanas: the anti-rheumatic group, the digestive/abdominal group and the shakti bandha group to release energy blocks. All three groups supplement each other, stimulating and encouraging a free flow of energy throughout the body. Practitioners are advised to perfect each group before attempting the major asanas. Daily practice of pawanmuktasana parts 1 , 2 and 3 over a period of months brings about a profound relaxation and toning of the entire psycho-physiological structure which is necessary for the practice· of advanced techniques. The asanas in each group should be performed in the order given. Advanced yogasanas are frequently physically demanding and have a powerful effect on the body and mind. It is essential to respect this and prepare correctly.
Pawannmuktasana Part 1
This group of asanas is concerned with loosening up the joints of the body. It is excellent for those debilitated by rheumatism, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart problems or other ailments where vigorous physical exercise is not advised. It is particularly useful for eliminating energy blockages in the joints of the physical body, and for improving coordination, self-awareness and self-confidence.
The practices may be performed in three ways:
1 . With awareness of the actual physical movement, the interaction between the various components of the body,
i.e. bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, etc.; the n1oven1ent in relation to other parts of the body; with mental counting of each completed round; and with awareness of thoughts arising in the mind. This method of practice induces peace, balance and one-pointedness, which in turn brings about harmony in the physical body.
2. With awareness and integrated breathing. In addition to the awareness of physical movement described above,
individual movements are synchronized with the breath. The movements become slower, which in turn slows the brain waves, further enhancing relaxation and awareness. This method of practice has a greater influence at the physical and pranic levels and is especially useful for harmonizing and revitalizing the body and improving the function of the internal organs. Breathing should be practised as indicated in the description of each asana. In addition, experienced students may find greater benefit gained if ujjayi pranayama is used as a breathing technique. This effectively stimulates and balances the pranic energy flowing through the nadis.
3. With awareness of the movement of prana. Prana may be experienced as a tingling sensation in the body to which one becon1es sensitized with practice. Mentally, one may feel light, yet one-pointed, emotionally fresh and receptive.
After every two or three practices, sit quietly in the base positionwith the eyes closed and be aware of the natural breath, ofthe part or parts of the body that have just been moved, and ofany thoughts or feelings that come into the mind. After aminute or so continue the practice. This will not only rest thebody, but will also develop awareness of the internal energypatterns, and the mental and emotional processes. This restperiod is almost as important as the asanas themselves andshould not be neglected.If tiredness is experienced at any point during the asanaprogram, rest in shavasana. Shavasana should be performedfor three to five minutes at the end of the program.
All the practices of pawanmuktasana part I are performed while sitting on the floor in the base position. The body should be relaxed, and only those muscles associated with the asana being executed should be used. Full awareness should be given to performance of the asana as per the notes above. For maximum benefit the eyes can remain closed. Do not practise mechanically, be aware throughout the practice.