Quite often, simple is best. And the same goes for yoga.
While the internet is full of bendy bodies doing fancy acrobatics in the name of yoga, it can be hard to believe that something as simple as wrist or ankle bending is also yoga. But it is.
When I first started practising in classical / integral style I’d already done several years in mainstream yoga studios including a few years doing Bikram (hot yoga). I considered myself fairly ‘good’ and was looking to advance my practice but I decided to start from scratch and enrol as a complete beginner at the Satyananda centre in south London, with the aim of learning the foundations of yoga.
I spent a whole year doing just the joint-freeing series, Pavanmuktasana, which involves simple, gentle moves that release tension from joints, accessible for all bodies and abilities. Think, ankle and wrist rotations, knee bending, hip openers and gentle twists.
Doing moves that others would consider too basic, taught me how to move slowly, which is actually harder than moving fast. I learnt what moving mindfully means and how to connect body and breath with full awareness. Both cornerstones of yoga. This then opened up the way to a deeper understanding and connection to the practices that followed in later years.
Going back to basics (and letting go of my ego in order to do so) was the best decision I ever made and I always look back fondly at my weekly class where we’d spend an hour doing beginner moves but actually gained advance knowledge and experience.
And believe it or not, 15 years on I still do the moves today, incorporating them as and when I need into my regular or daily practice.
So what is the joint-freeing series?
The joint-freeing series is a systematic yoga sequence that takes you from the soles of your feet up to the neck to loosen joints and help you check in with your body. It can be done as a stand alone practice or movements can be cherrypicked as a preliminary practice to surya namaskar (sun salutation) or other.
The movements take each joint through its full and natural range of motion, starting with the feet and ankles moving up to the knees, hips, midline and back, and then hands and wrists, shoulders and neck.
Each movement is repeated six times but can be adapted to suit those with limited mobility or injuries. The moves should be done at a comfortable and steady pace in time with rhythm and flow of the natural breath.
With regular practice you might be able to experience the movements through the breath rather than through the thinking, critical part of the brain.
Mukunda Stiles, in his book Structural Yoga Therapy says:
‘Regular practice of harmonising the breath with motion increases self-awareness. This in turn can be reflected in all activities of life.’Mukunda Stiles
I’d love to hear if you have any experiences with or thoughts on the joint-freeing series.