I often think back to an incident that happened when my son was a baby. I was unable to calm him and I suspected he was suffering from colic.
His grandmother took charge and after gently bending his knees she pressed his little thighs against his belly, first one side and then the other, holding for a few seconds before continuing to the opposite side. My baby very quickly gained relief and was soon smiling again.
It was over a decade later, that I learned in my yoga practice, about wind releasing pose (pawanmuktasana). I think everybody could benefit from this at some point during their lifetime. For most people it is a very accessible means of first aid when suffering from painful gas or bloating, and it can help relieve constipation, also.
The principle behind the pose is that it moves trapped wind along the colon until it is excreted. This provides instant pain relief. Be warned that it produces flatulence, but quite honestly I would would rather that than suffer such unnecessary pain.
How to do Pawanmuktasana (wind releasing pose)
- Lay on your back with the legs outstretched and feet together
- Take a few long inhales and exhales. Hold your chin slightly tilted towards your chest to prevent the hyperextension of your neck.
- On an inhale draw your RIGHT knee towards your chest, and as you exhale clasp your arms around the shin, drawing your thigh tightly against the belly.
- Take several more inhales and exhales, relaxing the grip of the arms slightly, on the inhale, and drawing the thigh closer to the belly with each long exhale.
- Repeat on the left side.
- This often provides instant relief, but for some people it may be necessary to repeat two or three times on each side - first the right side, then the left and so on. Remember to breath deeply, and to perform a prolonged exhale, squeezing the thigh against the belly. Hold each side for several inhales and exhales.
Note it is important that you work on the right side first. Bowel contents move up the ascending colon, on the right side of the abdomen, across the abdomen via the transverse colon, and finally towards the rectum via the descending colon on the left side of the abdominal region.
Practicing pawanmuktasana facilitates the movement and excretion of trapped wind, and can also assist with the movement of waste, thereby helping to relieve constipation.
Apanasana (knee to chest pose)
After a few rounds of wind releasing pose, you may like to relax in knees to chest pose (apanasana). This massages the abdominal organs, promoting heat and circulation. It also assists with the movement of the bowel contents, and helps alleviate bloating. It offers the additional benefit of relieving tension in the lower back.
- Remain laying on your back, bending your knees with your feet on the floor, hip width apart. Hold your chin slightly tilted towards your chest to avoid hyperextending your neck.
- Take a few long inhales and exhales, then draw your knees up towards your chest.
- On an exhale clasp your arms around your shins drawing the thighs in.
- Inhale and relax, slightly lengthening the arms at the elbow, whilst clasping around the shins.
- This pose can also be done passively: simply lay on your back, knees drawn in, chin slightly tilted towards the chest. Breath passively while pressing the thighs gently against the belly.