This series of practices, taken from Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Paramahamsa Satyananda Saraswati, loosen up all the major joints in the body.

Each joint has its own particular asana, and some joints, like the ankles, have multiple asanas to promote their full range of motion.

Classically these postures are performed in a sequential order from the toes to the neck, however, they can be practiced individually to warm up particular joints in preparation for
stronger practices. Mobilizing the joints in this way promotes the flow of synovial fluid, a liquid that revitalizes the tissue and protects the joint from degeneration.

These asanas are excellent for those with rheumatism, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart problems or other ailments where vigorous physical exercise is not advised. Because they are simple and easy to do their potency can often be overlooked, but they are powerful!

Each movement is an opportunity to delve deeper into yourself, to heighten the awareness of the body, breath and mind.

Neck movements

Greeva Sanchalana

Stage 1

  • Lower the chin towards the chest.
  • Hold for a moment then raise the head, lifting the chin towards the ceiling.
  • Practice 5-10 times.
  • Inhale on upward movement.
  • Exhale on downward movement.

Stage 2

  • Remain in the same position, face directly forward.
  • Tilt the head to the right, bringing the right ear towards the right shoulder.
  • Raise the head back to the centre.
  • Tilt the head to the left, left ear towards the left shoulder.
  • Practice 5-10 times.
  • Inhale on upward movement.
  • Exhale on downward movement.

Stage 3

  • Remain in the same position, face directly forward.
  • Turn head to right, as though running the gaze along the horizon, chin parallel to the floor.
  • Bring the head back to centre then turn the head to the left.
  • Practice 5-10 times.
  • Inhale to the centre.
  • Exhale to turn to the side.

Stage 4

  • Slowly rotate the head downward, to right, back and then to left side, in relaxed, smooth, circular movement.
  • Feel the shifting stretch around the neck and the loosening of the joints and muscles in the neck.
  • Practice 5-10 times clockwise, then 5-10 times anti-clockwise.
  • Gently return the head back to centre.
  • Inhale on upward movement.
  • Exhale on downward movement.

Awareness

  • The smooth and conscious movement.
  • The sensations experienced in the neck chest and back muscles.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Contraindications

  • Elderly people.
  • High or low blood pressure.
  • Vertigo.
  • Cervical spondylosis.

Practice note

  • Always move the head mindfully and ensure there is no strain. If dizziness occurs, stop the practice.

Benefits

  • Releases tension, heaviness and stiffness in the head, neck and shoulder region.
  • Helps to relieve frozen shoulder and cervical spondylitis.

Shoulder socket rotation

 Skandha Chakra

Stage 1

  • Place the fingers of right hand on the right shoulder
  • Keep the left hand on left knee, spine upright.
  • Rotate the right elbow in as large a circle as possible.
  • Practice 5-10 times clockwise, then 5-10 times anti-clockwise.
  • Gently lower the right arm.
  • In the same way, practice with the left arm.

Stage 2

  • Place the fingers of right hand on the right shoulder and the left hand on the left shoulder.
  • Bring the elbows together in front of the body, raise the elbows up then out to the sides and down, drawing large circles with the arms.
  • Practice 5-10 times clockwise, then 5-10 times anti-clockwise.
  • Gently lower the right arm.

Breathing

  • Inhale with the upward movement.
  • Exhale with the downward movement.

Awareness

  • The rotation of the shoulder joint.
  • The sensations experienced in the arm, chest and back muscles.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Benefits

  • Increases range of motion in the shoulder joint.
  • Helps to relieve frozen shoulder and cervical spondylitis.
  • Improves the posture.
  • Relieves tightness and tension in the upper body.

Awareness

  • The rotation of the shoulder joint.
  • The sensations experienced in the arm, chest and back muscles.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Elbow rotation

Kehuni Chakra

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Stretch the right arm in front of the body, shoulder height.
  • Have the right hand comfortable either a loose fist or open and relaxed.
  • Support the right upper arm with the left hand.
  • Bend the right arm at the elbow and rotate the lower arm around the elbow joint in a clockwise direction.
  • Make as large a circle as possible while keeping the upper arm steady and parallel to the floor.
  • Practice 5-10 times clockwise, then 5-10 times anti-clockwise.
  • Gently lower the right arm.
  • In the same way, practice with the left arm.

Breathing

  • Inhale on the upward movement.
  • Exhale on the downward movement.

Awareness

  • The movement in the wrist joint.
  • The sensations experienced in the arm muscles.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Elbow bending

Kehuni Naman

Stage 1

  • Extend the arms in front of the body, shoulder height.
  • Open the hands and have the palms facing up.
  • Bend the arms at the elbows bringing the fingers to the shoulders.
  • Hold for a moment, then straighten the arms again.
  • Practice 5-10 times.

Stage 2

  • Extend the arms out to the sides of the body, shoulder height.
  • Open the hands and have the palms facing up.
  • Bend the arms at the elbows bringing the fingers to the shoulders.
  • Hold for a moment, then straighten the arms again.
  • Practice 5-10 times.

Breathing

  • Inhale to straighten the arms.
  • Exhale to bend arms.

Awareness

  • The movement in the wrist joint.
  • The sensations experienced in the arm muscles.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Practice note

  • Keep the upper arms parallel to the floor throughout the practice.

Wrist joint rotation

 Manibhanda Chakra

Stage 1

  • Extend the right arm in front of the body, shoulder height.
  • Make a loose fist with the right hand, the thumb inside.
  • This is the starting position
  • Mindfully rotate the fist from the wrist, keeping the fist facing downward throughout the rotation.
  • Make as large a circle as possible whilst keeping the elbow and arm straight and still.
  • Practice 5-10 times clockwise, then 5-10 times anti-clockwise.
  • In the same way practice with the left wrist.

Stage 2

  • Extend both arms in front of the body with the fists loosely clenched.
  • Keeping the arms straight and at shoulder level.
  • Rotate the fists together in the same direction.
  • Practice 5-10 times in each direction.

Stage 3

  • Practice as in stage 2.
  • Rotate the fists in opposite directions.
  • Practice 5-10 times in each direction.

Breathing

  • Inhale with the upward movement.
  • Exhale with the downward movement.

Awareness

  • The movement in the wrist joint.
  • The stretching sensations experienced in the forearm muscles.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Benefits

  • Increases range of motion in the wrist joint.
  • Stretches the forearm muscles.
  • Relieves tension caused by prolonged writing or typing.

"Progression

  • Try practicing with a coin on the wrist!

Wrist bending

Manibandha Naman

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Straighten the arms in front of the body, shoulder height.
  • Open the palms of the hands and have the fingers together and straight.
  • As if pressing the palms against a wall, bend the hands backward from the wrists, fingers point upwards.
  • Hold for a moment then bend the hands forward from wrists so that the fingers point towards the floor.
  • Practice 5-10 times.

Breathing

  • Inhale to raise the fingers upwards.
  • Exhale to point the fingers towards the floor.

Awareness

  • The movement in the wrist joint.
  • The stretching sensations experienced in the forearm muscles.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Practice note

  • Keep the elbows horizontal to the floor and have the fingers together and straight throughout the practice.

Hand clenching

Mushtika Bandhana

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Straighten the arms in front of the body, shoulder height.
  • Open the hands, palms down and stretch the fingers out wide
  • Close the fingers tight to make a fist with the thumbs inside.
  • Mindfully open the hands again and stretch the fingers out wide.
  • Practice 5-10 times.

Breathing

  • Inhale when opening the hands.
  • Exhale when closing the hands.

Awareness

  • The sensations experienced in the fingers.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Progression

  • Bend and straighten each finger individually!

Full butterfly

Poorna Titali Asana

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Bend the knees and bring the feet towards the buttocks.
  • Separate the knees to the sides and join the soles of the feet together.
  • Bring both the heels as close to the perineum, (the general region between the anus and the genital organs) as comfortable.

Stage 1

  • Take a hold of the ankles with the hands.
  • Gently move the knees up and down quite swiftly, the movement resembling a butterfly flitting its wings.
  • Practice up to 30 up and down movements.

Stage 2

  • In the same position, relax the leg as much as possible.
  • Place the hands on the knees.
  • Gently push the knees down with the hands letting the knees spring up by themselves.
  • Practice 10 to 30 movements.

Breathing

  • Natural breath.

Awareness

  • The sensations experienced in the hip joint.
  • The stretch in the thighs and groin.
  • Keeping the legs relaxed and passive.

Contraindications

  • Sciatica
  • Sacral conditions

Practice note

  • To release the legs after completion of the asana, bring both the knees to the chest before straightening them back into the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti). This will help ensure that the knee joint is realigned.

Benefits

  • Prepares the legs for meditation asanas.
  • Releases the inner thigh muscles.
  • Helps remove tiredness.

Hip rotation

Shroni Chakra

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Bend the right leg and position the right foot on the left thigh.
  • Place the right hand on the right knee and the left hand under the right ankle.
  • Using the muscles of the arm, rotate the right hip by making circular movements with the raised leg.
  • Practice 10 times clockwise and 10 times anticlockwise.
  • Repeat with the left leg.

Breathing

  • Inhale with the upward movement.
  • Exhale with the downward movement.

Awareness

  • The sensations experienced in the hip joint.
  • Drawing as large a circle as comfortable.
  • The stability of the torso.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Practice note

  • To release the leg after completion of the asana, gently bring the knee to the chest before straightening the leg along the floor. This will help ensure that the knee joint is realigned.

Progression

  • Point the index finger out and use it as a guide to perfect the circular movement.

Half butterfly

Ardha Titali Asana

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Bend the right knee, lower it to the side and position the right foot on the inside of the left thigh.
  • Place the right hand on the top of the right knee.
  • Rest the left hand comfortably on left thigh.

Stage 1

  • On the inhalation, gently move the right knee up towards the chest.  On the exhalation, gently push the knee down toward the floor.
  • Keep the torso upright, shoulders relaxed down and back..
  • Allow the leg to be passive and move with ease.
  • Practice 10 up and down movements.

Stage 2

  • In the same position, relax the leg as much as possible
  • Push the knee down with the right hand and let the knee spring up by itself.
  • Practice up to 30 swift movements, with the natural breath.
  • Repeat stages 1 and 2 with left leg.

Awareness

  • The sensations experienced in the hip joint.
  • The stability of the torso.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath in stage 1.

Practice note

  • To release the leg after completion of the asana, gently bring the knee to the chest before straightening the leg along the floor. This will help ensure that the knee joint is realigned.

Modifications

  • As the hamstrings, hips and back loosen, the foot may be place on the thigh to increase the range of motion.

Knee crank

 Janu Chakra

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Bend the right knee and place the sole of the foot on the floor in front of the buttocks.
  • Interlock the fingers of the hands under the right thigh.
  • Raise the foot from the floor. and rotate the lower leg in a large circular movement; straightening the leg at the top of the upward movement.
  • Keep the upper part of the leg (thigh and hip), as still as possible.
  • Practice 5-10 times clockwise and 5-10 time anti-clockwise.
  • Repeat with the left leg.

Breathing

  • Inhale on the upward movement.
  • Exhale on the downward movement.

Awareness

  • The sensations experienced in the knee and thigh muscles.
  • The stability of the torso.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Practice note

  • To release the leg after completion of the asana, gently bring the knee to the chest before straightening the leg along the floor. This will help ensure that the knee joint is realigned.

Knee bending

Janu Naman

Stage 1

  • Bend the right knee and place the sole of the foot on the floor in front of the buttocks.
  • Interlock the fingers of the hands under the right thigh.
  • Elongate the spine and consciously relax the shoulders down and back.
  • Keeping the hands under the thigh, straighten the right leg extending and engaging the leg muscles.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then bend the right knee, drawing the thigh towards the chest.
  • Practice 5-10 times.
  • Repeat with the left leg.

Stage 2

  • Bend both knees, interlocking the hands under the thighs.
  • Straighten the legs, extending and engaging the leg muscles.

Breathing

  • Inhale when straightening the leg(s).
  • Exhale when bending the leg(s).

Awareness

  • The sensations experienced in the knee and thigh muscles.
  • The stability of the torso.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Contraindication

  • Stage 2 is quite strenuous. It is contraindicated for those with weak abdominal muscles, back conditions, high blood pressure or heart conditions.

Modification

  • Keep the heel(s) in contact with the floor throughout the practice.

Kneecap contraction

Janufalak Akarshan

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Gently contract the muscle surrounding the right knee, drawing the kneecap back towards the thigh.
  • Hold the contraction for 3-5 seconds, counting mentally.
  • Release and relax the kneecap.
  • Practice 5-10 times.
  • Repeat with the left kneecap.
  • Then practice contracting both kneecaps together.

Breathing

  • Inhale when contracting the knee cap.
  • Exhale when relaxing the knee cap.

Awareness

  • The sensations experienced in the knee and thigh muscles.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Ankle crank

Goolf Ghoornan

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Bend the right knee and bring the foot towards the buttock.
  • Turn the knee out to the side and gently place the right foot on the left thigh.
  • Have the ankle far enough over the thigh so it can rotate freely.
  • Support the right ankle with the right hand.
  • Hold the toes of the right foot with the left hand.
  • Using the left hand rotate the right foot 5-10 times clockwise and 5-10 times anti-clockwise.
  • Change sides.

Breathing

  • Inhale with the upward movement.
  • Exhale with the downward movement.

Awareness

  • The sensations experienced in the foot, ankle, calf and leg.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Practice note

  • To release the leg after completion of the asana, gently bring the knee to the chest before straightening the leg along the floor. This will help ensure that the knee joint is realigned.

Ankle rotation

Goolf Chakra

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Keeping the legs straight, separate the feet so that they are shoulder width apart.
  • Keep the heels on the floor during the whole practice.
  • Without moving the ankles, for a moment, take the awareness into them.

Stage 1

  • Mindfully rotate the right foot clockwise 5-10 times and then repeat anti-clockwise 5-10 times.
  • In the same way, practice on the left side.

Stage 2

  • Mindfully rotate both feet together in the same direction.
  • Keep the knees still and focus the awareness in the ankle joints.
  • Practice 5-10 times clockwise and anticlockwise.

Stage 3

  • Mindfully rotate both feet together, in the opposite directions.
  • Practice 5-10 times in one direction, then in the other.

Breathing

  • Inhale with the upward movement.
  • Exhale with the downward movement.

Awareness

  • The sensations experienced in the foot, ankle, calf and leg.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Ankle bending

Goolf Naman

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Without moving the ankles, for a moment, take the awareness into them.
  • Bending from the ankle joints, mindfully move both feet backward and forward.
  • Stretch the feet towards the floor to lengthen the shins, then draw the feet back towards the knees, elongating the calves.
  • Hold each position for a few seconds.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

Breathing

  • Inhale flex the foot backward.
  • Exhale point the foot forward.

Awareness

  • The sensations experienced in the foot, ankle, calf and leg.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Toe bending

Padanguli Naman

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Without moving the toes, for a moment, take the awareness into them.
  • Mindfully move the toes of both feet forward and backward, keeping the feet upright, ankles still and relaxed.
  • Hold each position for a few seconds.
  • Repeat 5 -10 times

Breathing

  • Inhale the toes backward, flexing the foot.
  • Exhale the toes forward, scrunching the toes.

Awareness

  • The sensations experienced in the toes.
  • Synchronizing the movement with the breath.

Progression

  • Try to move each toe individually!

Seated Base position

Prarambhik Sthiti

  • Sit with the legs outstretched in front, feet slightly apart.
  • Place the hands, palms down, beside the body.
  • Lift up from the tailbone and align through the head, neck and spine.
  • Keeping the elbows straight, lean back a little, using the arms to support the torso.
  • Keep the chest lifted and shoulders relaxed.
  • Close the eyes and go within.

Breathing

  • Natural breath.

Awareness

  • Integrity of the pose whilst consciously relaxing.

Progression

  • Use core strength to sit upright and place the palms of the hands on the thighs.

Practice note

  • Sit on a folded blanket or cushions to support and protect the back from slumping.