I’ve previously written about the joint freeing series in yoga, often used as a foundation sequence in classical and integral yoga. Not just for beginners, it’s also a great tool for more advanced students too, to practise focussed awareness on small movements and subtle flows of energy. Today I’ll be sharing how to use the series from a yoga therapy perspective.
To recap, the joint-freeing series is a systematic yoga sequence that takes you from the feet up to the neck to loosen joints and connect with the physical body. It can be done as a stand alone practice or movements can be cherrypicked as a preliminary practice to other yoga asana.
Joints are taken through full and natural range of motion without pressure or strain and can be adapted to suit those with limited mobility or injuries. The pace should be comfortable and steady and in time with rhythm and flow of the natural breath.
With regular practice the joint freeing series can be experienced with complete breath and body awareness and union, and as a result can be very grounding.
Here are a few of the benefits and purposes of this series, with references taken from Mukunda Stiles, Structural Yoga Therapy book.
- To heighten awareness of the physical body – with guidance the sequence can strengthen awareness of body sensations and identify any mental or emotional reactions to them.
- To enhance joint mobility – this can relieve joint pain and stiffness and therefore increase mobility. This process can also highlight any imbalances or weaknesses in the body.
- To observe differences in the body – mindful movement is part of the joint freeing series process so through observation the student can notice how different sides of the body and different body parts move to each other, which might also reveal underlying tension or issues.
- To improve circulation – by taking the joint through ranges of motion the synovial fluid released within the joint capsule can enhance vascular circulation.
- To identify areas of development for further asana practice – by noticing where difficulties arise with basic movements, it can help a teacher predict which future postures might need extra attention.
- To practise in line with classical yoga – according to Stiles, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras says yoga poses should be ‘comfortable and steady’. As this sequence is gentle enough not to cause any discomfort or instability it effectively follows those guidelines.
- It can help people with limited mobility or injuries – recommended also, by Stiles, as a way to relieve symptoms of arthritis.
- To raise conscious awareness – some movements might lead a student to feel bored or ‘space out’ so by encouraging conscious movement or even awareness to discomfort, it can trigger the release of subconscious blockages or chronic tension.
- It encourages free flow of energy – ‘this comes through persistent conscientious practice of this series with coordinated breathing,’ says Stiles. ‘This frees prana (energy within the breath) and enhances awareness of a subtle-body physiology that is the memory storehouse for all events.’