The Pawanmuktasana Series

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Man doing the pawanamuktasana series


The Pawanmuktasana series is the first sequence of yoga poses in the Satyananda tradition. It is an easy but efficient programme, beneficial for all regardless of one’s physical condition or level of experience. This programme was devised by Swami Satyananda but teachers of other styles have embraced it as well. It is a great programme for beginners because it is so easy to learn.

The Pawanmuktasana sequence favours relaxation of body and mind and stimulates the natural healing processes. In contrast to most other modern asana practices, the aim is not primarily to develop flexibility or to build strength. Instead, the Pawanmuktasana programme is more a mental practice than a physical one.

Structure of the Pawanmuktasana sequence

The programme begins with small dynamic movements. First, you bend and extend your hands, your arms, your feet and your legs. Then, you rotate your wrists and ankles as well as other joints. The whole body is systematically covered and as a result, joints that are normally underused are addressed.

Certain movements influence blood flow, others massage internal organs and the spinal cord. Some exercises prepare your hips to sit in a meditation pose, others to stimulate your back. You should do the movements slowly and consciously in order to build up concentration. It is a precise sequence with a beginning a middle and an end.

The Pawanmuktasana series should start with savasana. When your mind is calm the energy released by the exercises are more easily distributed and absorbed. Also during the programme, there are regular breaks where you are asked to sit still or lie down on your back with your eyes closed. These moment of motionlessness are important. They harmonise the effects of the exercises and allow you to become aware of the subtle changes in your state.

The deeper exercises are at the end of the programme. The lion, simhasana has a calming effect. For this exercise, you have to focus on the eyebrow centre and make a deep and relaxed sound pronouncing the letter A. Indian singing traditions use this type of exercise to relax the voice and make it more dynamic.

The boat pose, naukasan is another beneficial asana. While holding your breath you contract your whole body vigorously. When you let go of the tension you will feel immediate relaxation. The more you tense up the deeper the letting go afterwards.

The programme ends with a few minutes in the hare pose, shashankasana.

What the name Pawanmuktasana tells us

Pawana means air. Mukta means liberation and asana is used in its modern sense meaning posture or exercise. The name of the programme should be translated as “the exercises that liberate air”.

In the yoga tradition, we believed that a subtle energy supports the material dimension. We call this energy prana. It circulates in subtle channels called nadis. Yogis often describe the flow of prana as a flow of air vayu in Sanskrit. So here pawana refers to prana. The purpose of the Pawanmuktasana sequence is to ensure a free flow of prana throughout the body.

The mill. This exercise is part of the Pawanmkutasana sequence.

Prana in Chinese medicine

In the 70’s, the Japanese doctor Hiroshi Motoyama studied the Pawanmuktasana sequence in cooperation with Swami Satyananda. He drew interesting conclusions based on his knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine.

The meridians in Chinese medicine correspond to the nadis of the yoga tradition. Qi corresponds to prana. The endpoints of each of the main meridians are situated in the extremities of the fingers and the toes. They are called sei points. For example, the sei point of the lung meridian is found at the tip of the thumb. That of the heart meridian is on the inside of the little finger.

The qi or prana enters and leaves the meridians at these points. The state of the energy in the endpoints reflects that of the flow of energy in the whole meridian. Little exercises like the bending your toes or fisting your hands stimulate the sei points in a way similar to that of acupuncture or acupressure.

Chinese medicine also describes gen points or source points. You find these points in the wrists, the ankles and between these joints and the sei points. A disease in internal organs is often detected at the corresponding gen point. Following this logic doing these rotations of the wrists and the ankles allows to normalise the functioning of internal organs and favour the health of the whole body.

The knee joints, the hips, elbows and shoulders all have gen points. Thus, they can play a role in the functioning of the internal organs.

You can find the original explanation of sei and gen points in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. It is more than two thousand years old and contains the basic theory of Chinese medicine.

Do Pawanmuktasana slowly and with concentration

Usually, it takes a bit more than one hour to go through the Pawanmukutasana sequence. If you do the exercises thoroughly it can take a bit longer. Do each exercise attentively and feel the body part that you exercise. That way you enhance the mental effect.

“The pawanamuktasana series is one of the most important series of practices…”

Swami Satyananda in Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha

The Pawanmuktasana series in Yin Yoga

Another modern yoga current that has embraced Pawanmuktasana is Yin Yoga. Paul Grilley, the founder of Yin Yoga and a student of Hiroshi Motoyama, has a section devoted to this practice on his website. He recommends this series as preparatory work before going into any other asana practice. Grilley thinks that these poses deserved respect due to the great value they bring, even though the programme isn’t challenging.

The pose Pawanmkutasana

There is also a yoga pose called Pawanmuktasana. This pose is included in the programme.

The western perspective

From a western point of view, the Pawanmuktasana series has many benefits. It helps to prevent arthritis by stimulating blood flow and the flow of synovial fluid in the joints. The ligaments get more supple and with practice, the range of motion can improve.

These exercises also act on the blood circulation in the veins and in the lymphatic system whose role in eliminating waste is crucial.

Bending and extending the toes. One of the many super easy exercises in this sequence.

The Pawanamuktasana series as daily practice

Daily practice of this programme helps to improve the general physical condition. It’s preparatory, preventing and healing effects are outstanding.

Even on the most advanced yoga and meditation retreats in the Satyananda tradition, like Swami Janakananda’s three month course, this programme plays an important role. I know many yoga teachers who in spite of years of practice regularly revisit this series to stay in shape. When prana flows freely in the body it also flows better in the mind. The result is sharper thoughts and deeper meditations.

Practice the Pawanmuktasana series online

In Forceful Tranquility, you can learn and practice the Pawanmuktasana series online with audio instructions. I have integrated this programme into my long yoga and meditation sessions. It is available as an independent asana programme as well.

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Hi, I am Christian Möllenhoff

Christian Möllenhoff is an experienced yoga and meditation teacher as well as a teacher trainer. He is from Sweden, but he lives and teaches in France. He is the driving force behind Forceful Tranquility.

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