November 22, 2010

Moo-Laah(bandha)! Aaah. Growing on Trees?

I went on the Magical Mulabandha (moo-laah-Bunn-dhaah) and Book Tour for The Mirror of Yoga with Richard Freeman in Chicago.

And I’m flying high on mulabandha! But maybe I should back up a little…

The weekend started with a talk and book signing on Friday night with Richard Freeman at Yogaview.

Seemingly not one for pretense, he sat in front of us, on a chair, and just sat there for a moment or two before saying something like, “This just seems like such a waste to be together like this and not do any yoga.”

We giggled a little and he taught us a chant that he said would imaginatively install a little Ganesha (Hindu elephant deity) in the temple of the body right above the middle of the pelvic floor and below the belly. And right away we encountered one of the countless ways to envision the exciting and esoteric mulabandha!

When he was finished with the official talk he sat on the floor for the book signing.

This weekend Richard also offered a full schedule of workshop yoga sessions. And mulabandha was an ever-present topic. It was described in physiological and metaphorical ways, and yet one might never “get” mulabandha completely because it is an ever-changing entity. But if we pay attention to the area “down there” and right above “there” (the pelvic floor between the genitals and anus—it is often said when it is said at all) during yoga practice there is a potential for getting a perception of it which according to Richard can grow over time. What starts out as a glimmer of awareness can be cultivated into a rich and nuanced perception, I sense.

One thing that allows for awareness in the pelvic floor is releasing the mouth. This is where we communicate with language, and if we are holding the mouth tightly (especially the soft palate, or the back of the roof of the mouth) it prevents awareness and energy from going deeper into the body. In other words, if we are constipated with verbal thought forms (this happens around the mouth) then our energy cannot descend towards a grounded yoga posture.

Personally, when Richard was talking about holding in the mouth, I felt uncomfortable tightness, almost as though there was a toxic fluid running very slowly around the whole lower half of my face and jaw all the way back to the throat. I knew, or it seemed like my body was telling me that I needed to take a verbal dump…as in a serious letting go of old stories that I might be holding physically or metaphorically in my tightly strung jaw and gripping tongue and throat.

Things that help us relax the mouth with a delightful “aaaaah” are acting with kindness, laughing and experiences of awe.

And when we do that the pathway opens towards, ahem, deeper awareness in the pelvis!

Mulabandha is the intelligence in the pelvic floor that keeps us safe and balanced in yoga. It is also known as yoni mudra (yoni=flame of intelligence, mudra=seal) and vrtti mudra (the movement of thought, or vrtti is held).

So the illusive mulabandha seems very practical as it may help protect the low back in yoga postures, and extremely mysterious in its multiplicitous metaphorical representations.

Here is a detail of an illustration by Susan Chiocchi from ‘The Mirror of Yoga’ that combines physiology and metaphor:

In the above representation you can see the “flame of intelligence” between the pelvic floor and the round pot, or “belly” (this is where we installed Ganesha at the book signing). Mulabandha! Requiring imagination, sensitivity and curiosity…

As I am walking around after a whole weekend of practicing yoga with Richard Freeman, I just keep thinking, “mulabandha.” And I wonder if mulabandha is in my cells deeply wound with my DNA. Is mulabandha in everything? The sidewalk? The trees? Yes perhaps mulabandha is so plentiful (if only we are courageous and disciplined enough to look for it) that it may seem to grow, like spiritual money, on trees.

Thank you, Richard! Chicago loves you! (I just know…)

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