October 19, 2013

Finding Mula Bandha. ~ Toni Romero

That which is the root of all beings,

that root which bonds all of the mind

(all thought and experience)

That is , which should always be served

attended to) and which is fit  for rajayogins.

~ Sri Shankaracharya

Mula bandha is the gate that moves from the physical to the subtle.

Learning to understand all of this intelligence takes many years. These simple notes are the result of learning from several sources and daily practice. With all the humility, I hope it will be useful to people who read it.

The first point is try to create mula bandha in the physical sense. Hatha Yoga Pradipika and other classical texts define mula bandha as heel pressure directly on the perineum.

Positions like siddhasana are a good starting point to begin to feel the area between the genitals and anus (pelvic floor). The intention is to create a tension in that muscle group and lift it upwards as if it were a flame that lights just that intermediate point and rises. At the beginning, it is near impossible; it is almost instinctive and easier contract the anus (Aswini mudra).

To distinguish different muscle tones, it is recommended to practice Kegel exercises in which you are using what is called the pubococcygeus (PC) muscle. It is the muscle used when the action of urination is interrupted. This allows us define two starting points from the front and back (PC muscle and anus). If we try to visualize a rhomb in this area and add the left and right buttock, then we have four corners that draw the gross surface where the pelvic floor is contracted.

To put mula bandha into practice at first, the recommendation is to contract the three points and try to visualize the left and right gluts coming together into a compact group of muscles. Once you locate the point in between the anus and the genitals, there is an interesting lack of tension in the anus. When you feel mula bandha, the apana is drawn upwards.

Prana vayu and apana vayu are two of the five types of vayu that form the Prana, which is translates to vital energy. As prana vayu moves up into the chest area, the seed point is at the center of the chest. When you take a maximum inhale, the chest expands and grows. This is the most pranic stage of the breath.

Apana vayu moves down the lower body. The seed point is in the center of the pelvic floor. Precisely as you exhale, contract your abdominal muscles while the chest is closed. Prana is like flying in the sky and apana is like a root in the earth. This is the importance of mula (root) bandha (seal). Their function is to reverse the movement of apana and ascend upward. Thus the height of the pubic bone and the prana apana are pressed into each other.

Some versions say that heat kills kundalini and releases it into the entrance of the central nadi (sushumna). Then prana can rise freely and lead Shakti (creative energy) to join the universal consciousness Shiva. There are several variations of the process, depending on different lineages, which I will not extend at this point as it is a very extensive subject.

A good way to feel the contraction that occurs in the pelvic floor when turning to prana and apana is to try exhaling completely, keeping the chest open to maintain the residual quality of inhalation (postural and energetically). During the exhale, reach the point of expelling the air until there is one final breath through the nose. Make a “puff” sound (like Richard Freeman explain in his pranayama course). At that time, if you direct your attention with great delicacy and practice, you will feel a slight contraction between the anus and genitals. Try to keep that soft and subtle tone when inhaling, maintaining residual quality of the out breath in the inhalation. Bring the attention of inhalation as a thin flame that comes from the pelvic floor and rises through Sushumna Nadi.

Other devotees offer as sacrifice the incoming breath of prana in the outgoing breath of apana, and the outgoing breath of apana in the incoming breath of prana, thus arresting the cause of inhalation and exhalation by intent practice of pranayama .

~ The Bhagavad Gita IV:29

The second stage of mula bandha, which Ashtanga Yoga is calling “uddiyana bandha” (not to be confused with uddiyana bandha kriya), is possible during full exhalation retention (bahya Kumbhaka). It is the prolongation of mula bandha. There is a slight backward retraction of the abdominal wall, but only around the pubic bone. Above the diaphragm, there should be complete freedom to go up and down. In other words, when inhaling and exhaling, the belly is steady, the lower back is lifted and the upper abdomen is soft. This mini contraction is maintained throughout the respiratory cycle. An easy way to see the proper application of the mula and uddiyana bandha is to verify the pelvic floor and abdominal area above the pubic bone because it is very difficult to contract one without the other responding.

Since the abdominal muscle tone is much easier to manipulate at first, it is very useful to start some exercises to help you feel the contraction that produces mula bandha. Sit in padmasana (this is ideal because the entire lower pelvic floor and tailbone connects with the ground) while maintaining a firm stance with your back straight. Situate some chopsticks or fingertips to the level of the pelvis and feel the inhale in the abdominal area as it is retracted backwards while the imaginary buttocks are brought downwards. Then exhale completely and expel the last “puff” of air described above. It is easy to manipulate the bandhas.

If some people cannot sit in padmasana, another exercise is to lie down and then bend the legs, bringing the fingertips to the abdominal wall. Try to feel the retraction above the pubic bone as the pelvic floor contraction synchronizes with the breath.

Another useful practice is uddiyana bandha kriya, which is when all of the muscles are sucked back and up. The strength created by the internal vacuum makes it very easy to feel like the pelvic tissue is brought up.

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 Assistant Ed: Karissa Ostheimer/Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photos via krissalee85 on Flickr}


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