Before we get down to the serious yoga business, let's get something out of the way. Translated into English from Sanskrit, Pavanamuktasana means ‘wind removing’. Cue sniggering, giggling and snorts of laughter from the back row.
Whilst it’s indeed designed to remove wind, I’ve yet to attend a class where this pose prompted a volley of farts ricocheting around the studio. But if during this posture gas does emit from a certain orifice, you can claim with pride that Bikram’s wind removing pose does what it says on the tin.
This pose – the first in the floor series – comes as sweet relief from the sweat waterfall-inducing standing series. It’s designed so that your thigh gives your colon (transverse, ascending and descending) a massage, helping improve any gastrointestinal problems such as trapped wind, cramps and constipation.
Not only will this pose help dodgy digestive systems, using your biceps to work with your sweaty skin will also give you guns of steel. Boom.
Pavanamuktasana: Step by Step
1. Lie flat on your back, arms down by your side, palms facing upwards and heels touching.
2. Bring your right knee up to your chest, whilst your head and shoulders remain on the floor. Keep your left leg relaxed, toes slightly flexed towards your face.
3. Interlace your fingers together in the ‘Bikram grip’ used in Dandayamana-Janushirasana (standing head to knee) and loop them over the top of your right knee just under the knee joint (do not pull directly on top of the knee joint). Keep your elbows close to your sides, your shoulders down and gently point your toe.
4. Without letting your left shoulder lose contact with the floor, use your biceps to pull your knee down so that it nestles (as close as you can get it) to between your torso and your right arm. Hold for 30 seconds. The aim of the posture is to have your knee touching your armpit, and this pose will improve the flexibility in your hips to enable you to reach the full expression.
5. Repeat on your left leg.
6. The final stage of the posture is to bring both legs up at the same time. Loop your arms over your knees so they rest just below the kneecap, and grip your elbows with your opposite hand. If you can’t reach your elbows, you can grip your forearms or wrists. Remember to keep your head, neck and shoulders on the floor and as you pull down on your legs, try to keep your hips and bum in contact with the floor. The aim is to have the length of your spine from coccyx to neck stretched out so they remain in contact with the floor for the duration of the posture.
Pavanamuktasana: The Benefits
“Wind removing posture is essentially a deep hip opener,” says Olga Allon, Director of Hot Bikram Yoga in London. “It’s a very simple but incredibly effective posture for opening your hips and releasing any tension and tightness lurking in the lower back.
“If running has given your tight hips and groin strains, this pose helps stretches out that area. It also lengthens the spine, opening up the vertebrae which can get compressed from running.
“Every time your foot hits the ground, up to 1.5 times your body weight can reverberate up through your skeleton. This force – officially called ground reaction force – contributes to tight hips.
“Stretching the spine out may help prevent dreaded back ache. A healthy spine and flexible, open hips is going to help better your running performance.”
Bikram specialist Olga Allon teaches at London's Hot Bikram Yoga.