October 24, 2013

I am a Yoga Astronaut! (Part 3). ~ Kirstie Bender Segarra

Read part one here and part two here.

This morning, I was reading an article on Huffington Post referencing an article from Time Magazine,“12 Shocking Sex Facts: Masters and Johnson revolutionized sex research in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Here is what we’re learning about sex now.”

The section that caught my eye was:

“Wearing high heels can negatively affect a woman’s orgasm. Certain high-end shoe brands developed the arch in their high-heeled shoes to approximate the arch in a woman’s pelvis when she is having an orgasm. The heels create a contraction in the pelvic floor, which is problematic because the pelvic floor then cannot contract further during orgasm. ‘An orgasm is usually like going from zero to 60,’ explains Fromberg. ‘If you’re already at 55 [from wearing heels], you’re not going to have a full experience.'”

Oh, I thought this is too much fun! This is getting right into the pelvic floor fascia and why we want to strengthen and lengthen it in our yoga practices.

Most yogis probably don’t run around in high heels—and if you do—now you know you are shortening your pelvic floor muscles.

The pelvic floor is a very important piece of fascia to understand. The hipbones along with the sacrum form the pelvic bowl. The base of the pelvic bowl is lined with the pelvic diaphragm, which are three muscles that form the levator aniThe Mycology of the Pelvic Floor, written in 1869, states that “the levator ani is one of those muscle which has been studied the most, and at the same time one about which we know the least.”

The pelvic floor, levator ani, provides support for the pelvic viscera. The pelvic floor is also a constrictor for the uretha, vagina and anal canal. These are the same muscles we lift up in a Mula Bandha (root lock)! When we lift up, we shift the form of the pelvic floor from a “basin” to a “dome”.  If we lift up too much through the pelvic floor, we restrict the diaphragm from heading south, which restricts our lung capacity. Thus, there is an art to how we lift through our Mula Bandha so that we don’t over engage and restrict our breath capacity. After all, maintaining our focus on our breath and breathing are essential to life and a strong asana practice.

When I teach, I take the time to describe the pelvic floor and its relationship to breathing. I teach my clients to first over engage the pelvic floor, then release it back down. I encourage them to find a happy in-between for Mula Bandha.

Toning our pelvic floors and maintaining length really can improve our sex life! It is ironic that our culture encourages women to wear high heels and shorten their pelvic floors. If they only knew they were decreasing the quality of their sex life.

I admit, I am a little obsessive on studying musculoskeletal anatomy and how it relates to asana. One might think it is not important because we practice asana so we can sit in meditation and reach Samadhi (a non-dualistic state of consciousness)—right?

Well here is the problem: the average person practicing yoga is not in it for the meditation. A survey by Yoga Site Inc. showed that “for most practitioners, yoga is about postures. More than 90% practice asanas, whereas only about half meditate and even fewer practice pranayama.” Thus, in order to be a yoga teacher, you really do need anatomy training far beyond the 20 hours required by Yoga Alliance—regardless of whether it is a 200 or 500-hour training program.

My recommendation is that all yoga teachers should increase their resources and access to anatomy and physiology so that we understand what it is we are asking our students to do. This can only improve the asana we teach and make us better teachers.

Asana is an incredible medium to shift who we are and prepare us for other pathways in yoga and meditation. With each breath and sustained hold we can create more space in our bodies, free ourselves from pain so that we have the freedom to be fascial yoga astronauts!


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Asst. Ed. Jane Henderling/ Ed. Bryonie Wise

{photo via EUSKALANATO on Flickr}

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