Many people, especially beginners, have stiff muscles and joints. For this reason they have much difficulty in doing classical asanas. Though the whole pawan¬muktasana series is effective in loosening up the body, the following energy block exercises will greatly help the beginner to do asanas. Even people who regularly do asanas may occasionally feel stiff; these are ideal exercises to remove inflexibility in the body. So as apart of series now we look the shakti bandha asanas.
What is an energy block or shakti bandha in Sanskrit ? Energy in the form of prana (life force) is in every part of the body. It should be in a state of free flow but due to faulty chemical reactions in the body free flow of this prana is impeded. This results in stiffness, rheumatism and muscular tension. These energy block exercises eliminate toxins in the body and ensure that the body’s reactions are in balance with each other. One of the most common malfunctions in the body is faulty operation of the endocrine system. Scientific experiments carried out in various parts of the world, such as Russia, Poland, France, Germany and India have conclusively proved that asanas and the energy block exercises are very powerful in harmonizing the endocrine system.
So those people who cannot do asanas should do energy block exercises to prepare for the practice of asanas and to harmonize the activities of their body.
Exercise I: Nauka sanchalana (Rowing the boat)
Assume a sitting position with the legs stretched in front of the body.
Make movements as though you are rowing a boat, keeping the legs together.
Make circular motions, bending the body forward and backward as far as possible.
Do this 10 times.
Reverse the rowing movement as though you are going in the opposite direction.
Do this 10 times.
This is an excellent exercise for pregnant women, up to three months.
This practice massages all the abdominal organs and muscles.
Exercise 2: Chakki chalana (Churning the mill)
Stay in the sitting position with the legs outstretched. Make horizontal circular movements with the arms, keeping them straight and the fingers interlocked. Imagine you are grinding wheat between two stones as in the traditional mill.
Move the body only from the waist.
Do the exercise 10 times clockwise and then 10 times anti-clockwise.
This is also a good exercise for pregnant women as it massages the uterine and abdominal muscles.
Exercise 3: Pulling the rope
In the sitting position, raise the arms alternately up and down as though pulling a vertical rope.
This exercise is helpful in strengthening and loosening the arm and shoulder muscles, and in developing a firm bust in ladies.
Exercise 4: Chopping wood
Assume a squatting pose with the feet flat on the floor and the knees fully bent and separated.
Clasp the hands and keep the arms straight, make chopping motions as if using an axe to cut wood. Inhale while raising the arms above the head.
Exhale while bringing both arms down.
Repeat this process 10 or 20 times.
If the squatting pose is too difficult, the chopping movement can be done from a standing position. Benefits
This is an excellent exercise for the chest and exercis¬ing the sacral and vaginal muscles prior to childbirth.
Exercise 5 : Namaskara (the salutation)
Assume a squatting pose with the feet flat on the floor and the knees wide apart.
Place the hands together in a gesture of prayer.
Press the elbows against the inner sides of the knees. Inhale, lift the head and push the knees out as far as possible.
Maintain this pose for a few seconds.
Exhale, straighten the arms so that they point horizon¬tal ly forward.
Return to the starting position.
Repeat the practice 10 times.
This practice has a very powerful effect on the nerves of the thighs, knees, shoulders and arms.
Exercise 6 : Vayu nishkasana (the gas releasing pose)
Assume a squatting pose.
Place the fingers under the feet from the inside so that the palms are under the arches, with the elbows pressing against the inner sides of the knees.
Inhale and raise the head.
Exhale, bring the head downward and straighten the legs.
Maintain this position for a few seconds.
Return to the starting position.
Repeat the same process 10 times.
Helps to release gas from the digestive system.
Like the previous exercise, this practice is good for the nerves of the thighs, knees, shoulders and arms.
Exercise 7 : Udarakarshan asana (the abdominal massage pose)
Assume a squatting pose, hands on the knees.
Bend the left knee to the ground while turning the trunk as much as possible to the right.
Keep the hands on the knees and look over the right shoulder.
Return the to the starting position.
Repeat the same procedure, twisting the body in the opposite direction.
Twist the body 10 times in each direction.
This is a very useful asana for those people with abdominal ailments because it alternately compresses and stretches the digestive organs and muscles.
It is one of the asanas practised in the hatha yoga technique called shankhaprakshalana.
Constipation sufferers should do this asana regularly.