Yoga is for everyone whatever age group. The secret is in modifying the postures according to the needs of the body. In yoga there is a series of movements called the joint-freeing series or Pawanmuktasana Part 1. This series can be performed at any age.
The joint-freeing series starts with wiggling the toes and finishes with gentle neck movements. Performing simple movements of the joints regularly helps to keep the synovial fluid healthy. In this blog I will concentrate only on the feet to get you started.
The secret is to perform the movements with awareness and intention. By bringing your awareness to the body part you are moving and having the intention to keep the joint well you are training the body to respond to positive thought. Moving the joint in conjunction with the breath aids in focusing the mind on the joint. Regular practice, i.e. everyday particularly in the early morning before or after rising, is recommended to get the body into a habit of healing.
Stop what you are doing now. Take off your shoes and socks/stockings and look at your feet and toes. People often don’t like their feet but for today admire the miracle of your feet. Become aware of all the joints in the toes.
Now begin to curl the toes. Then straighten them noticing what is happening as you do so. If you want to go further add in the breath. As you curl the toes breath out. As you straighten the toes breath in. Repeat the exercise 6-10 times on each foot. If you are short of time you can wiggle both sets of toes at the same time. But it is better to be focussed on one foot at at time as our feet are often different. Pause and notice how your toes feel.
If you should perform this exercise everyday you may find that your toes become so flexible that if you took up a paint brush you could paint with your feet! Some people find that their toes may get a little stuck – there may be a toe that doesn’t move much and so on. The secret is not to judge your own body but to be patient with practice and see if anything changes over time.
Once you have started wiggling your toes you will want to move the other joints in your body. So staying with the feet and starting with your right foot point your toes towards the floor then flex your foot. Do this 6-10 times. Then do the same on the left. As you do so bring your awareness to what is happening in the lower leg – you may find that muscles are moving in the calves. Is anything else happening that you are aware of? Enquire of your body how it is responding to the movements.
Then for the final foot exercise circle the right ankle 6-10 times in a clockwise direction then 6-10 times in an anticlockwise direction. You can use the breath to slow down the movements. Half a circle breath in and half breath out. Then do the same on the left. Be aware of how each ankle feels as you circle it. Maybe the joint clicks as it releases. Don’t worry about these sounds. It usually means that the joint is releasing. Notice if there is a difference between one ankle and the other. Bring your awareness to what is happening in the lower legs. Does circling your ankles affect more than just the ankles?
The joint-freeing series covers all the joints of the body (except the spine) and if performed with awareness and a sense of enquiry into the workings of your own body can have a beneficial effect on the joints, the muscles and fascia around the joints and your sense of well-being. As with all exercise regular and consistent practice is necessary to really appreciate the benefits.
SELF-PRACTICE: When you wake up tomorrow morning before getting out of bed focus on your toes, feet and ankles. Notice how each part feels without judgement. Then begin the three exercises outlined above in the following order. It is more beneficial to focus on one foot at a time. However, if time is an issue exercising both feet at the same time is fine. Do this for the next 30 days and see if there is any change in how your toes, feet and ankles feel.
2) Pointing and flexing the feet
3) Circling the ankles clockwise and anti-clockwise.
MORE EXERCISES FROM THE JOINT-FREEING SERIES TO FOLLOW.
Satyananda, Saraswati, Swami (1996, reprint 2005) Asana, Pranayama, Mudra and Bandha, Yoga Publications Trust, Mungar, Bihar, India pp.23-27 Section on Pawanmuktasana Part 1 series – toes, feet, ankles.