Bodhidharma, the Shaolin Arts, and Hatha Yoga’s Pawanmuktasana Series 1: Foundations of Practice

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When I practice qigong forms from the ‘Eighteen Lohan Hands’ or ‘Sinew Metamorphosis’ sets, I am literally participating in a powerful art form passed from Bodhidharma himself to the monks at Shaolin Monastery, to strengthen and prepare them for pursuing the path of enlightenment. That’s a pretty profound feeling.

As an interesting correlation for my yoga friends, the Shaolin ‘Sinew Metamorphosis’ series is strikingly similar to Hatha yoga’s ‘Pawanmuktasana Series 1’, the anti-rheumatic group. Despite their simple form and lack of complicated techniques, both are powerful systems for cleansing the meridians and energy flows of the body, clearing blockages, building strength and endurance, and restoring balance.

While it may be exciting to explore more complicated forms of qigong or yoga as you progress in your practice, do not dispense with these foundational exercises: they do more for your internal strength and energy than you can imagine.

I struggled with Bakasana for a long time. I have lots of lower body mass and strength – not so much in the upper body; this made arm balances are a real challenge for me.

In December 2013 I made a renewed commitment to do yoga and qigong every day, with a focus on meditation and beginning with ‘Pawanmuktasana Series 1’. Within a few weeks, I found stability in Bakasana for the very first time.

Once I managed to get that far, I became aware that I had finally succeeded, in part, due to increased strength in my forearms and wrists – strength that came without my even intending to build it, simply through daily excercises like Manibandha Naman and Mushtika Bandhana (two of the exercises in ‘Pawanmuktasana Series 1’).

‘Pawanmuktasana Series 1’ is generally safe and beneficial for people of all ages, health conditions, and physical ability levels. Adding a short ‘Pawanamuktasana Series 1’ portion to your daily practice will greatly increase the physical, spiritual, and mental benefits you gain.

*Note to students: Though the movements and techniques of the exercises in the ‘Sinew Metamorphosis’ and ‘Pawanmuktasana Series 1’ sets are simple and straight-forward, there is a level of internal intention which cannot be learned from books or instructions. It is always beneficial to learn from a qualified instructor; that said, your knowledge gained from books and studies will allow you to apply the skills your instructor shares more effectively.*

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