The Sukshma Vyayam series is one of the most important series of practices that has a very profound effect on the human body and mind and is thus a most useful tool for the yogic management of various disorders and maintenance of health.
Being the first practical series taught in hatha yoga, it is essential for laying a firm foundation in yogic life. Sukshma Vyayam is valuable for understanding the meaning of asana by developing awareness of the body’s movements and the subtle effects they have at the various levels of being. It is very useful as a preparatory practice as it opens up all the major joints and relaxes the muscles of the body. The series may be practiced by anyone: beginner or advanced, young or elderly, and by those convalescing or with disease conditions. It should never be ignored and treated casually just because the practices are simple, gentle and comfortable.
In Sanskrit sukshma vyayam means ‘subtle exercise.’Sukshma Vyayam is a group of asanas that remove any blockages which prevent the free flow of energy in the body and mind. Sometimes, due to bad posture, disturbed bodily functions, psychological or emotional problems or an imbalanced lifestyle, the energy becomes blocked. This initially results in stiffness, muscular tension, lack of proper blood flow and minor functional defects. However, if these blockages become chronic, a limb, joint or physical organ may malfunction, fail or become diseased. Regular practice of Sukshma Vyayam removes energy blockages from the body and prevents new ones from forming. In this way, it promotes total health, regulating and stabilizing the flow of energy throughout the body.
Most modern day diseases are psychosomatic in nature. Drug treatment of these ailments is only symptomatic and fails to touch the roots of the disease. These asanas, if done correctly, in a non-competitive and relaxed atmosphere, not only relax the muscles of the body but these relaxing impulses travel back to the brain and relax the mind. By integrating the breath synchronization and awareness, the attentive faculty of the mind is made active and is not allowed to wander into tension and stress. The nature of these asanas is thus more mental than physical. If they are performed correctly they relax the mind, tune up the autonomic nerves, hormonal functions and the activities of internal organs. Therefore, these asanas are of great preventative and curative value.
Sukshma Vyayam is divided into three distinct groups of asanas: the anti-rheumatic group, the digestive/abdominal group and the shakti bandha or energy block group. All three groups supplement each other, stimulating and encouraging a free flow of energy throughout the body. Practitioners are advised to perfect each group before attempting the major asanas.
Daily practice of Sukshma Vyayam parts 1, 2 and 3 over a period of months brings about a profound relaxation and toning of the entire psycho-physiological structure which is necessary for the practice of advanced techniques. Advanced yogasanas are frequently physically demanding and have a powerful effect on the body and mind. It is essential to respect this and prepare correctly. The asanas in each group should be performed in the order given.
Sukshma Vyayam Part 1
This group of asanas is concerned with loosening up the joints of the body. It is excellent for those with rheumatism, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart problems or other ailments where vigorous physical exercise is not advised. It is particularly useful for eliminating energy blockages in the joints and outer extremities of the physical body, and works on the pranic and mental bodies as well.
The practices may be performed in three ways:
With awareness of the actual physical movement
The interaction between the various components of the body, i.e. bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, etc.; the movement in relation to other parts of the body; with mental counting of each completed round; and with awareness of thoughts arising in the mind. This method of practice induces peace, balance and one-pointedness which in turn brings about harmony in the physical body.
With awareness and integrated breathing.
In addition to the awareness of physical movement described above, individual movements are synchronized with the breath. The movements become slower which in turn slows the brain waves, further enhancing relaxation and awareness. This method of practice has a greater influence at the physical and pranic levels and is especially useful for harmonizing and revitalizing the body and improving the function of the internal organs. Breathing should be practiced as indicated in the description of each asana. In addition, greater benefit will be gained if ujjayi pranayama is used as a breathing technique. This effectively stimulates and balances the pranic energy flowing through the nadis.
With awareness of the movement of prana in the body.
Prana may be experienced as a tingling sensation in the body to which one becomes sensitized with practice.
After every two or three movements, sit quietly in the base position with the eyes closed and be aware of the natural breath, of the part or parts of the body that have just been moved, and of any thoughts or feelings that come into the mind. After a minute or so continue the practice. This will not only rest the body but will also develop awareness of the internal energy patterns, and the mental and emotional processes. This rest period is almost as important as the asanas themselves and should not be neglected. If tiredness is experienced at any point during the asana program, rest in shavasana. Shavasana should be performed for three to five minutes at the end of the program.
All the practices of Sukshma Vyayam part 1 are performed while sitting on the floor in the base position. The body should be relaxed and only those muscles associated with the asana being executed should be used. Full awareness should be given to performance of the asana as per notes above. For maximum benefit the eyes should remain closed. Do not practice mechanically, be aware throughout the practice.
Sukshma Vyayam Part 2
This group of asanas is concerned specifically with strengthening the digestive system. It is excellent for those persons suffering from indigestion, constipation, acidity, excess wind or gas, lack of appetite, diabetes, disorders of the male or female reproductive systems and varicose veins. It also eliminates energy blockages in the abdominal area.
Throughout the practice be aware of the following:
- mental counting
- intra-abdominal pressure
- the stretch of the muscles.
Before starting the practice, the body and mind should be calm and relaxed. This state is best achieved through the practice of shavasana. In addition, a short rest should be taken between each asana, lying in shavasana. One minute or thirty seconds should be sufficient but a more reliable guide is to rest until the breathing returns to normal.
When starting this series, it is not advisable to attempt all the practices in one go, especially the ones which involve using both legs together. It is better to choose one practice at a time and incorporate that into the previous practices. The Sukshma Vyayam part 2 series requires a great deal of effort and may put a strain on the lower back. Therefore, be aware of physical limitations and do not strain.
These practices should not be performed by people suffering from high blood pressure, serious heart conditions, back conditions such as sciatica and slipped disc or soon after abdominal surgery. If there is any doubt, please consult a competent therapist.
All these asanas are performed from the supine position, that is, lying flat on the back with the legs together and straight. The arms should be by the sides, palms down, and the head, neck and spine in a straight line. Be sure to use a thin mat or a blanket, particularly with asanas such as supta pawanmuktasana and jhulana lurhakana where the body is balanced on the spinal vertebrae.
Sukshma Vyayam Part 3
(Shakti Bandha Asanas)
(Energy Block Postures)
This group of asanas is concerned with improving the energy flow within the body and breaking down neuro-muscular knots, especially in the pelvic region where energy tends to stagnate. The series is very useful for those with reduced vitality and a stiff back. It is especially useful for menstrual problems and toning the pelvic organs and muscles. It can be practiced before and after pregnancy, facilitating the process of childbirth and retoning flaccid muscles. These asanas also eliminate energy blockages in the spine, activate the lungs and heart, and improve endocrine function. The shakti bandha series may be started straight away if good health and fitness prevail, however, if there are any serious ailments, a therapist should be consulted.
- Padanguli Naman
- Goolf Naman
- Goolf Chakra
- Goolf Ghoornan
- Janufalak Akarshan
- Janu Naman
- Dwi Janu Naman
- Janu Chakra
- Ardha Titali Asana
- Shroni Chakra
- Poorna Titali Asana
- Mushtika Bandhana
- Manibandha Naman
- Manibandha Chakra
- Kehuni Naman
- Skandha Chakra
- Greeva Sanchalana
- Chakra Padasana
- Pada Sanchalanasana
- Supta Pawanmuktasana
- Jhulana Lurhakanasana
- Supta Udarakarshanasana
- Shava Udarakarshanasana
- Rajju Karshanasana
- Gatyatmak Meru Vakrasana
- Chakki Chalanasana
- Nauka Sanchalanasana
- Kashtha Takshanasana
- Vayu Nishkasana
- Kawa Chalasana
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