Mula Banda in, or between, Yin Poses?

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Jessica Powers
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Mula Banda in, or between, Yin Poses?

Post by Jessica Powers »

Namaste everyone! I've got a great question from a student of mine, and I thought it would do to have some others weigh in.

S asks: How much - if at all - do you suggest mula bandha is active during long yin poses, or in moving between poses?

She asks this not just as a woman who has given birth vaginally three times, but as a teacher concerned for her students' well-being. I will be giving her my standard answer while I'm away: do what feels best and go only as far with the pelvic awareness and attention as possible without sacrificing ease and sweetness. Basically I'm suggesting a gentle mula bandha.

What would the other teachers in our group instruct?

Thanks so much in advance!
Lorien
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Post by Lorien »

Hi, Jessica,

This is a really great question, and very timely for me, as I have been working with exactly this issue recently.

Mula Bandha is a specific technique to direct energy. I would not combine it with the meridian stimulation that yin provides. I am not sensitive enough in my energy movement to be able to safely move and direct all of that powerful chi. Also, it is a muscular contraction (at least, to me), which may interfere with connective tissue work of yin.

That said... mula bandha is necessary! Over the past year I have been healing a hip injury. My teacher recommended I practice more MB during my yang yoga and I have also added it to the beginning of my meditation practice, but I do not practice MB during yin. I like to keep my intention for my tissues clear and simple (even though the reality is a bit more fuzzy) during yin: relax muscles, breathe into CT. It is working and my hip injury is healed.

That's my perspective and experience, but I hope it helps.

Be well,
Lorien
Bernie
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Bandhas during a Yin Yoga practice?

Post by Bernie »

This is a timely question: my next newsletter will be addressing the whole topic of bandhas and whether we can or even should engage them in our yin practice. I will offer a thought here just on the Mula Bandha, but please check out the July Newsletter for more (if you are not yet subscribed, you can do so here: http://www.yinyoga.com/newsletters.php )

Lorien offers some sage advice, based on her own experience. That, in the end, your own experience must always be your final guide; how does it feel for you? Sometimes, especially for beginners, we don't know how it feels for us. Our inner awareness is not very well developed. In that case, advice from others may serve us until we do develop our inner sensitivity.

Let’s look at Mula Bandha, because it is the one valve that we can continuously engage while doing Yin Yoga. Mula bandha is performed by contracting and lifting inward and upward the muscles of the perineum. If you are not sure where your perineum is, (to borrow a quote from David Swenson) it is halfway between your anus and the vegetables. If you are still not quite sure, imagine doing a Kegel exercise; imagine you are urinating and stop the flow quickly. That is engaging your perineum.

Dr Motoyama reports that the benefits of Mula Bandha include stimulating the pelvic nerves, toning of the urogential organs and improving constipation and hemorrhoids. On an energetic level, the apana vayu (one of the ten forms of energy discussed in yoga physiology) is raised upwards to combine with the prana vayu, thus generating energy of a higher dimension, facilitating the awakening of the kundalini. It helps to maintain celibacy by acting to sublimate sexual energy and raise it to higher chakras. (See Theories of the Chakras by Dr Motoyama).

In Dr M's view, we can hold Mula Bandha for extended periods without holding the breath. Personally, I would recommend doing Mula Bandha during a yin practice, as long as the engagement is subtle. By subtle I mean, not really forced. Think 10% contraction of the perineal area. (See why I say 10% in the Newsletter coming up.)

While not a bandha, ashvini mudra (horse mudra) is similar to Mula Bandha. Dr Motoyama explains that this mudra is performed by repeatedly contracting and releasing the sphincter muscles of the anus. The contraction is held while the breath is held, and then both are released. The benefits of this action include relief from piles and reducing prolapse of the rectum or uterus (especially if performed in an inverted posture). Intestinal peristalsis is improved and constipation is eased. This, too, is something you may want to play with when you are doing your yin practice, but again, don't over do it. 5 minutes should be enough.

Personally, I find these practices are best done when I am doing forward folds or seated postures. I don't try them in back bends, twists or strong hip work. But, see what works for you.

Cheers
Bernie
Last edited by Bernie on Mon Jun 14, 2010 12:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
Steph Challis
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Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 6:29 pm

Mula Bandha

Post by Steph Challis »

Hi all

Thanks for these responses - and to Jessica for posting my original question to her. Very helpful to be able to share ideas and views. Thanks!

warm wishes from New Zealand
Stephanie
Stephanie Challis
Qi Yoga and Yin Yoga instructor
Nelson
New Zealand
Jessica Powers
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Sarah Powers' Book on Breath in Yin

Post by Jessica Powers »

Just found these passages in Sarah Powers' book, Insight Yoga, and thought I'd share them. I got silly excited when I came across them and how on topic they were to us. I should maybe go through my notes from my classes with Sarah, but I don't recall any explicit discussion about how/why to breath other than to insure it remained long and even.

In general regarding letting go/staying engaged she says: How much to activate and how much to relax in any given pose is the responsibility of each practitioner to discern and can only come from subjective experience. (page 17)

And on page 26 she more specifically speaks of the breath as a way to bring the apana and prana vayus to meet in the center, giving a practice very close to the subtle mula bandha engaging breath I was taught in Viniyoga and teach and use myself. 'As we inhale, we draw our attention from our chest, where we first feel the in-breath, to our pelvic floor, using our attention to encourage the flow from top to bottom. As we exhale, we reverse this pattern and flow from the perineum back up to the heart center.'

What strikes me in this is that this is not the mula bandha that Pattabhi Jois used to famously feel for - it's not a clench, it's not a lock even. It's an energetic lifting. So maybe we should consider that this is NOT a energy lock at all, just a magnification of the flow of energy/breath/prana and a balancing of the body's interior winds.

Maybe in Yin we need to drop the label and instead focus on the breath action and feeling? While I still use the regular names, not the Yin ones, I'm beginning to think that 'mula bandha' is indeed a loaded term for students and steering away from it in Yin classes might be of benefit.
Bernie
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Location: Vancouver

keep it subtle

Post by Bernie »

I think you are right, Jessica. The key is to keep it subtle. In the latest Newsletter, I still use the term mula bandha, but encourage it to be down in a very yin-like way.

http://www.yinyoga.com/Newsletter_volume3.php

cheers
Bernie
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