Severe winter conditions invariably mean a stiffening and pain of the joints. Yoga has a non-invasive and safe method of keeping them agile. The best part is that the practices are simple and almost anyone can do them. They are also good for BP and heart patients.
What has to be borne in mind is keeping your awareness on the different joints that you are exercising and visualising. Through this method, you can gather all the pranic energy within you and direct it to the different joints as you exercise each of them, from toes to the head. Most of these practices are best performed with eyes closed so that you can internalise, feel, become aware of the effect of the various movements on the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and so on. Also, you can feel the stiffness, tension in the joints being freed up from the toes to the head as you exercise each part. A pronounced effect can be felt in the shoulder and neck movements, which are prone to accumulating mental and physical tension. Moreover, with our present lifestyle and use of mobiles and laptop, all joints and muscles in the upper part of the body are tense.
The movements listed below will prevent any knee problem till old age. The hip joint movement and butterfly asanas are also good for maintaining healthy prostrate, kidney and mood-elevating practices.
On some days, these practices can be done with slow breathing and synchronised slow body movement. This slows down the brain too, relaxes the mind. It is further advised that in between every movement, rest and relax the body.
1.Base position: Sit down with your legs stretched out, feet a little apart. Place the palms behind the hips with fingers pointing away from the body. The head and spine should be aligned. Keeping the elbows straight, lean back comfortably and relax the whole body. Close your eyes and watch your own breathing, stabilize within yourself.
2. Pada anguli naman ( toes bending): In the base position, focus your mind on the toes and move them forward and backward without moving the feet or ankle joints. You have to ensure that only the toes move; the rest of the body should be still and relaxed. Inhale as you bend the toes backward and exhale as you move them forward.
3. Golf Naman ( Ankle bending): Continue in the base position and bring awareness to the ankle joint. With inhalation, move the ankle towards the knees and hold in the maximum bending position for a few seconds. With exhalation, bend the ankle joint towards the floor, almost touching it, hold for a few seconds then with inhalation, pull back. One backward and forward movement makes one round. Do 5-10 rounds. A supple ankle joint prevents a tendency to twist the ankle. Even if it does twist, then the impact is far less. I have twisted my ankle twice due to faulty pavement. I literally saw stars with the pain, but with just some ice packs, the ankle joint was just fine by morning.
4. Golf chakra asana ( Ankle rotation): In the base position, relax your body and rotate the right ankle first in a clockwise and then in an anti-clockwise direction for 5-10 rounds. Inhale as the foot moves towards the body and exhale as the foot moves away from the body. Do the same with the left ankle joint and finally with both ankle joints together. For each of these do 5-10 rounds.
5. Janufalak Akarshan ( Kneecap contraction): In the base position, squeeze and tighten your knee as you inhale so that the kneecap moves up and the surrounding muscles are contracted. Hold for a few seconds. As you exhale, release your body and relax. This is one round. Do 5-10 rounds.
6. Janu Naman ( Knee bending): While sitting in the base position, clasp the thigh above the knee with interlocked fingers, fold the knee, then with inhalation, raise the leg straight without bending the knee. Make sure the foot is about 10 cms off the floor. Then as you exhale, bend the knees and press the thighs against the stomach. This makes one round. Do 5 rounds. Do the same with the left leg.
7. Janu chakra asana ( Knee rotation): In the base position, clash your right thigh as in the above asana, then rotate the right knee for 5 rounds in a clockwise direction, and then in an anti-clockwise direction. Do the same with the left knee for 5 rounds. Breathing is normal, natural.
8. Ardha Titali asana (Half butterfly): In the base position, bend the right knee and place the right foot over the left thigh as high up or close to the groin as possible. Place your right hand over the knees and left hand on the right foot. Look up, keeping the spine straight, then bounce the right knee up and down like the flapping of the wings of a butterfly. Do a minimum 10 rounds of up and down movement. Do the same with the left leg.
9. Poorna Titali asana ( Full Butterfly): In the base position, draw the feet of both legs up towards the groin such that the sole of both feet face and rest against each other. Hold the toes of both feet with both hands, then bounce both knees up and down together like the flapping wings of a butterfly . Do a minimum 10 rounds. Initially many people find it difficult to do these two butterfly asanas due to our current lifestyle of sitting on chairs and never having to sit on the floor. Thus the hip joints are pretty stiff.
10. Shironi chakra ( Hip joint rotation): Continue sitting in the position of Ardha Titali asana with the right foot placed over the left leg. Place your right hand over the right knees and with the left hand grip the right toes. Then use the hands to rotate the knee joint first in a clockwise and in an anti-clockwise direction for 5-10 rounds in each direction. Do the same with the left leg placed on the right thigh.
11. Mushtika Bandha (Hand clenching): Sit in base position or crossed leg or Vajrasana. Raise both arms at shoulder height in front of you with palms facing downward. With inhalation, stretch all the fingers of both hands, hold the position and breathe for a few seconds. Then with exhalation, make a fist with the thumb inside and the fingers wrapped around it. Relax the wrist and fingers. This is one round. Do 5-10 rounds.
12. Mani Chakra ( Wrist joint rotation): Continue in the above base position, keep body straight and relaxed. Stretch your right arm in front at shoulder height and grasp the right wrist with the left hand. Then just rotate the wrist joint first in a clockwise direction for 5 rounds. Continue with anti-clockwise direction for 5 rounds. Then lower the right arm and do the same with the left wrist by keeping the left arm stretched out and right hand clutching the left wrist.
13. Kehuni Neman ( Elbow bending): Remain as in the above asana, stretch both arms in front of you with elbows straight and palms facing up. Exhale and bend the elbows so that the finger tips touch the respective shoulders, inhale and straighten the arms again. This makes one round. Do 5-10 rounds.
14. Standard chakra ( Shoulder joint and socket rotation): Be in the base or cross-legged pose. Place the tip of the fingers of the right hand on the right shoulder. Make sure the left hand is on the left knee and body is straight and relaxed. Rotate the right elbow in circular movement in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions for 5 rounds for each. Then do the same with the left arm. Finally, with fingers of both hands resting on the respective shoulders, rotate both arms in full circular movement for 5 rounds in clockwise and 5 rounds in anti-clockwise direction. Breathing can be normal or inhale when the arms move at the back of the body and exhale when they come forward. For maximum effect, let the elbows join in the front of the body, then take the arms back as close to the ear as possible.
15. Greens Sanchalan ( Neck Movements): Sit in cross-legged or Vajrasana. Keeping the head and spine aligned and straight, relax your whole body, close your eyes to maintain awareness inside the neck as you do the various movements of the neck.
Inhale when your head is in the centre, then as you exhale, drop your head to the right such that the ears move towards the right shoulder. Inhale, come back to the centre, with exhalation, drop head to the left. This makes one round. Stretch fully and maximum on both sides and feel the stretch and compression on each side. Do at least 5 rounds.
Follow this up with up and down movement of the neck area such that with inhalation, your head is thrown back maximum, then with exhalation, drop your chin to the chest. One backward and forward movement makes one round. Do 5 rounds.
Finally, do the neck twisting movement, by starting with your head in the centre position. Then with exhalation, twist the neck to the right, inhale, come back to the centre. Then with exhalation, twist to the left. This makes one round. Do at least 5 rounds.
End the neck movements with full neck rotation in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions for 5 rounds in each direction.
(Kamini Bobde is a Kundalini practitioner who follows the Swami Satyananda Saraswati tradition of yoga. She is the author of Kundalini Yoga for All: Unlock the Power of Your Body and Brain. Published by Penguin.)