Mula Bandha - Yoga's powerful secret

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(2) Mulabandha Yoga's Powerful secret. by Kathleen Summers MD PhD.

(3) Mulabandha – Yoga’s Powerful Secret Copyright © 2012 by Kathleen Summers MD PhD All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodies in critical articles and reviews. This book is provided for informational purposes only. Transmission of the information within this book does not constitute a physician-patient relationship, and it is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner. Always seek their advice regarding your medical questions and concerns. Never delay seeking personal medical advice from your physician, or disregard it, because of something you have read in this book. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained herein.. 3. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(4) This work is dedicated to all who desire freedom, personal growth, and relief from suffering. May you be happy and healthy through the Grace of Yoga.. 4. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(5) Table of Contents Mulabandha: Yoga’s Powerful Secret ................................................................................... 6 What is Mulabandha?.............................................................................................................. 7 What Can Mulabandha Do for You?..................................................................................... 8 The Ancient Texts – What Do They Say?.............................................................................. 9 Apana and Prana.................................................................................................................... 10 Subdivisions of Prana Within the Being ..................................................................... 11 Other Energetic Effects of Mulabandha.............................................................................. 12 Anatomy of Mulabandha ...................................................................................................... 13 A Look at the Controversy ................................................................................................... 18 Benefits of Mulabandha According to the Yoga Tradition .............................................. 20 A Scientifically Proven Technique....................................................................................... 21 Performance of Kegel Exercises ................................................................................... 22 A Comparison: Mulabandha and Kegels .......................................................................... 24 Benefits of Pelvic Floor Contractions According to Medical Science ............................. 25 How to Perform Mulabandha .............................................................................................. 26 Stage 1 .............................................................................................................................. 27 Stage 2 .............................................................................................................................. 28 Stage 3 .............................................................................................................................. 32 Recommendations for Practice ............................................................................................ 33 Glossary ................................................................................................................................... 34. 5. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(6) Mulabandha: Yoga’s Powerful Secret Discover the secrets of a traditional gem from the ancient sages, an advanced Yoga technique called mulabandha. It's a remarkable practice that is essential for optimal physical health and personal evolution, and it’s an important component of every serious Yoga practitioner's toolbox. Traditionally, mulabandha was taught to advanced students who had mastered the yamas and niyamas, asanas, pranayama, and many mudras. It was taught in secret by a guru only after an aspiring yogi had worked with him for years. The student had to convince the master that he was ready for the next stage of personal and spiritual growth. This book will help you to understand just what exactly mulabandha is and how to perform it. You'll learn about the anatomical structures involved on the physical plane and how to isolate the intrinsic muscles. Esoteric energy benefits are considered and the benefits according to the Yoga tradition are revealed. We'll even take a look at the controversies surrounding the nature and performance of the technique. In addition, we'll explore mulabandha from a modern medical perspective. You'll learn the scientific evidence in support of the practice, and you'll find a list of benefits from the medical viewpoint of the 21st century. Many disorders and conditions can be helped with this simple and natural technique. It's a gift from the gurus of old, and it's one that has the power to bring you great prosperity.. 6. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(7) What is Mulabandha? The yogic practice of mulabandha in its widest interpretation essentially involves contracting the muscles at the base of the torso within the pelvis. These muscles, collectively known as the pelvic floor, are important components of the body's core structure. To get to the full meaning and a description of this classic technique, let's take a look at the name. Mula means "root." In Yoga, it is used in reference to muladhara lotus, the chakra at the base of the torso. Since it is the lotus, or chakra, most near the earth, it is the root of the esoteric energy body. The word bandha means “to bind” or “to lock”. In classic Yoga, there are three basic bandhas that are physical movements that "lock" various muscles into place. In the context of mulabandha, it refers to the contraction of the muscles surrounding muladhara lotus. Mulabandha, then, is a technique involving contractions of the muscles at the base of the torso. According to yogic theory, pelvic floor contractions hold energy within the pelvis and prevent its dissipation. Yet bandha can also mean "to redirect.” In this light, the more esoteric interpretation of the practice becomes clear. As you “lock” the muscles at the base of the torso, you “unlock” energy in the pranic body, redirecting the flow upwards and reversing the natural tendency of pranic energy within the pelvis to flow downwards. This secret aspect of the practice takes the conserved prana and channels it upwards towards higher energy centers to increase awareness and improve health.. 7. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(8) What Can Mulabandha Do for You? The benefits of practicing mulabandha are many, both from a grounded physical health perspective and from a more spiritual or esoteric viewpoint. Modern research has shown that regular repetitive contractions of the muscles of the pelvic floor can prevent the "leaky" bladder which commonly affects people as they age. Nobody wants to go back to wearing diapers, the unfortunate result of a weak pelvic floor. If you already suffer from urinary incontinence, an embarrassing and inconvenient problem, mulabandha can help you to regain control. Sadly, a number of people of both sexes suffer from chronic and frequently inexplicable pain in the pelvic region. Research suggests that mulabandha can relieve the discomfort of chronic prostatitis in men. It also helps to provide relief from chronic pain in the vaginal and vulvar areas in women. Mulabandha can spice up your sex life, no matter what your age or your gender. According to reports published in respected medical journals, pelvic floor exercises can make the female orgasm easier to achieve – and make it stronger when it occurs. For men who have difficulty getting an erection or maintaining it for sexual intercourse, mulabandha can help. There's even data indicating that workouts of the pelvic floor can treat premature ejaculation, particularly when it occurs along with erectile dysfunction. Tantric yogis like Swami Buddhananda of the Bihar School of Yoga in northern India claim that mulabandha has profound effects on a practitioner's spiritual growth and evolution. By affecting the esoteric energy layer of the human form, the technique works in holistic fashion to help realign the physical, pranic, and mental bodies for a balanced whole being with optimal health.. 8. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(9) The Ancient Texts – What Do They Say? Two of the oldest and most celebrated root texts of Hatha Yoga, writings that are essentially teaching manuals for practice, honor mulabandha as an impressive and valuable technique. These classic texts, the Siva Samhita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, provide instructions. Dr. James Mallinson, an Oxford-trained Sanskritist and ethnographer, dates the composition of the Siva Samhita to somewhere between 1300 and 1500 C.E. An earlier work, the Vivekamartanda of the 13th century, mentions mulabandha by name, and other early texts (like the Amrtasiddhi, the Dattatreyayogasastra, and the Matsyendra Samhita) prescribe essentially the same practice without calling it mulabandha. "Press the anus tightly with the heel. Forcefully pull the apana and gradually raise it. This makes mulabandha. It destroys decrepitude and death, and is sure to unite apana and prana." Siva Samhita 4:64-65 The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, circa 1450 C.E., is more explicit in its description: "Press the perineum with the heel. Contract the anus. Draw the apana upwards. This is called mulabandha. One makes the apana, which goes downward, go upward by contracting forcefully. Yogis call that mulabandha. Press the anus with the heel. Compress the breath forcefully again and again so that it goes upwards. Prana and apana, and nada and bindu, give success in Yoga after they are united by mulabandha. Here there is no doubt." Hatha Yoga Pradipika 3:61-64. 9. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(10) Apana and Prana Both of the Siva Samhita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika mention apana and prana, the energies within a human form that are controlled with mulabandha. Apana is generally translated as the "out-breath" while prana can be understood as the "in-breath." To understand these terms better, let's look to the ancient Upanishads. The Maitri Upanishad was one of the first Upanishads written. As a member of the primary series of original 13 documents, it dates to before the turn of the Common Era. In it, apana is also described as "that which passes down" while prana is "that which passes up.". "He made himself like the wind and sought to enter within. As one, he was unable. So he divided himself fivefold – he who is spoken of as the Prana breath, the Apana breath, the Samana breath, the Udana breath, and the Vyana breath." Maitri Upanishad, Second Prapathaka:6. "He" is the Creative Spirit, the Holy Spirit that flows through each of us. When He breathed life into the physical body, the vitalizing energy became prana, the word here used in a general sense. Prana is an all-encompassing word that denotes energy on a subtle level. On the physical plane it is analogous to breath, but it is much more on a deeper plane. It is the very energy that breathes life. This inclusive term, "prana," is then divided into subdivisions within the human being, one of which is also called "prana.". 10. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(11) Subdivisions of Prana Within the Being 1. Prana – that which passes up, or the in-breath, or ascending vital energy, located primarily between the navel and the heart 2. Apana – that which passes down, or the out-breath, or descending vital energy, located near the organs of excretion and generation 3. Samana – that which conducts into Apana the coarsest element of food and distributes subtle energy, or the equalizing breath, located in the abdominal region 4. Udana – that which 'belches forth and swallows down what has been drunk and eaten' and speech 5. Vyana – that which supports Prana and Apana, or the diffused breath moving through energy channels throughout the body. According to Yoga tradition, we practice mulabandha to bring balance to the outbreath and the in-breath. It unites that which passes down with that which passes up. To do so enhances the functioning of the body and its overall health. It brings the mind back to stillness and peace by harmonizing the energies of the human form.. 11. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(12) Other Energetic Effects of Mulabandha The Siva Samhita says that mulabandha awakens muladhara lotus and the kundalini energy that resides within it. Additionally, in the tantras it is written that the 72,000 nadis (energy channels) originate in a place just above muladhara known as “medhra.” Given their proximity, it is believed that mulabandha stimulates all 72,000 nadis at their source, an effect which makes it very powerful. Mulabandha is also reputed to resolve one of the three major energy blocks, or granthis. Yoga teachings describe granthis, or psychic knots, as blockages of awareness manifesting as tensions, anxieties, and unresolved conflicts. Brahma granthi, located near muladhara lotus, is said to be pierced and then untied by an aspirant’s practice of this technique. Emotions and prior traumatic experiences can be preserved within a mind-body meld. Our thought patterns and unconscious tendencies place them in a holding pattern as a protective mechanism, one that gets distorted beyond the acute phase of an injury resulting in chronic muscle activity patterns. This is best understood with acute back pain that turns into chronic pain, the body turning short-term compensations into long-standing imbalances of contraction. Mulabandha may help to release such traumas expressed as chronic muscular patterns within the pelvis. A practitioner can experience old memories, feelings, and experiences that bubble to the surface of consciousness and burst, releasing them from their structural binding and freeing the practitioner from their depressive effects.. 12. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(13) Anatomy of Mulabandha When it comes to the physical anatomy of the pelvic region, academic books and reports can be confusing. Occasionally authors use different names when referring to the same muscles. Sometimes reports contradict each other in their descriptions. The anatomy of the pelvic musculature is confusing on its own. It’s an area that’s not readily seen or palpated, and it’s not easy to picture in its 3-D form, which is necessary to fully understand its functions. To begin with a mental exercise that helps to simplify a key concept, think of a trampoline, one that’s stretched between points along its circumference. That trampoline is a layer of muscle that should be strong and taut. On it rest the uterus, urinary bladder, and rectum. You can visualize the uterus and bladder as two sacks and the rectum as a tube. Now, rather than picturing those organs simply resting on the trampoline, see that when you look underneath the taut structure, it appears that the organs are actually going through it so that their lowest portions hang below. They are embedded within the trampoline. The tube from the bladder, the urethra, pierces it to come out the lower side. The tube from the uterus, the vagina, also pierces it to hang underneath. And so it is with the rectum, which pierces the trampolinelike muscle to expel its contents through the anus. The muscles that make up the trampoline are collectively called the pelvic floor, or the pelvic diaphragm. They hold everything inside – at least that’s what they’re designed to do. When they get weak and thin, all of those pelvic organs can slide right on through. The "holes" through which they pierce the pelvic floor widen as its muscles become lax and disintegrate. The organs "prolapse," or partially fall through the weakened muscular layer. It’s as if the trampoline got saggy, threadbare and worn out. (It’s more common than you think. Some experts believe that up to one in eight women will experience some degree of uterine prolapse.) Below is a side view of the pelvis. It’s as if you cut the body straight up from between the legs and then looked at the opened half in cross-section. You can see that the pelvic floor isn’t exactly flat like a typical trampoline. Its edges follow the contours of the bony pelvis. 13. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(14) Figure 1: Simple Cross Section of the Pelvis. That trampoline, the pelvic floor, is composed of two main muscle groups, the levator ani and the more posterior coccygeus. The levator ani group is made of two muscles, the pubococcygeus and the ileococcygeus. The former is the middle of the trampoline, and the latter is found along the outer edges. Now the anatomy gets more fun. Men and women are a bit different here, as you are well aware. Let’s talk first about women..  Women The pubococcygeus is itself divided into portions, reflecting where various parts of it attach within the pelvis. There’s a urethral portion that forms around the urethra, known as the pubourethralis. That’s the part of the pubococcygeus that allows you to stop the urine stream. There’s a vaginal portion that attaches to the vaginal walls, the pubovaginalis. Another portion, the puboanalis, also attaches to the vaginal wall. The latter two are the parts you feel clamp down on a finger placed in the vagina. There’s also a puborectalis portion that passes around the 14. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(15) rectum to form a sling. And finally, there are other portions more posterior that attach to the coccyx, or tailbone. Below the levator ani lies another thin layer of muscles. They are more superficial, meaning that they are closer to the skin of the genital region. There’s controversy over whether a part of this layer is one solid sheet or composed of three separate muscles, the compressor urethra, sphincter urethra, and urethravaginalis. In addition, the bulbospongiosus, ischiocavernosus, and superficial transverse perinea muscles are part of this more superficial layer below the levator ani. This layer can have an almost sphincter-like effect on the vaginal opening, and it helps to prevent urine leakage from the bladder. The last structure to discuss is the perineal body, an important part of the pelvic floor. This fibromuscular component is shaped like a pyramid with its base sitting between the vagina and the rectum and its tip pointing up towards the head. Some parts of the muscles of the pelvic floor merge and end in this structure. The rectum attaches to it, as does the anal sphincter. It also contains smooth muscle, elastic fibers, and nerve endings. Extreme weakness of the perineal body results in prolapse of the rectum, or rectocele. Now let’s briefly talk about the vagina. There are no vaginal muscles under voluntary control, as the muscles within the walls of the vagina proper are smooth muscles. When a woman says she’s contracting her vagina, what she’s really doing is primarily contracting the striated levator ani muscles that surround, attach to, and support the thin vaginal wall a little less than midway to the uterus. There’s also some conscious control of the more superficial layer of muscles that act a bit like a vaginal sphincter just at the introitus. For more than you could ever want to know about the anatomy of the vagina, including some detailed photos, click here. For more detail about the female pelvic floor in general, click here.. 15. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(16) Figure 2: Cross section of the pelvis showing the superficial muscle layer, the anal sphincter, and the perineal body..  Men The male anatomy is essentially the same. The difference is that there are only two openings through the pelvic floor, and there is no pubovaginalis portion of the pubococcygeus muscle. Within the penis, the urethra serves as a tube for both urine and sexual fluids. Because there is one less opening through the muscle layer, and as that opening doesn’t split far and wide to release a baby, it tends to be more stable in men. That doesn’t mean there won’t be pathology. Like women, men can suffer from urinary incontinence as they age, especially if they’ve had prostate problems. Pelvic floor exercises aid treatment of incontinence. Keeping the pelvic floor muscles strong is great prevention. 16. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(17) For men with erectile dysfunction and some with premature ejaculation, particularly those with concomitant erectile dysfunction, pelvic floor exercises are great therapy. Chronic prostatitis, a painful and frustrating condition, can be relieved by a work-out of the pelvic floor in combination with Yoga asanas that stretch muscles in the pelvic area. Contractions of the more superficial layer of pelvic muscles compress the large vein on the dorsal surface preventing the outflow of blood from an engorged penis, thereby enlarging and facilitating maintenance of an erection. This layer is also involved in pumping ejaculate, so mastery of its movement aids in semen retention for tantric practitioners who abstain from ejaculation during sexual intercourse..  The Pudendal Nerve In both sexes, the levator ani muscles are innervated by the third and forth nerve roots emanating from the sacrum. They become the pudendal nerve, piercing the levator ani on its cranial surface.. 17. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(18) A Look at the Controversy In his book, Moola Bandha: The Master Key, Swami Buddhananda refers to unspecified tantric textual sources when stating that during the performance of mulabandha, there is no movement of the anus. Also, for men, the penis should not move. Essentially that means a practitioner needs to isolate the pubococcygeus for contraction without contracting the more superficial layer of muscles or the anal sphincter. It also means that the puborectalis portion of the pubococcygeus, the anal sling, should not be activated. An advanced practitioner can isolate and contract only the puboanalis (and pubovaginalis in women) without activating the pubourethralis or puborectalis. Regarding the involvement of these various muscles, there is some debate. The revered classic text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, clearly states that the anus should be forcefully contracted during the performance of mulabandha. In other words, the anal sphincter in the superficial layer of muscles needs to be squeezed along with a forced contraction of the puborectalis. Dr. Gore of the G.S. College of Yoga in Kaivalyadham states in his book, Anatomy and Physiology of Yogic Practices, that a contraction of the anal sphincter should accompany contractions of the entire pelvic floor during the practice of mulabandha. His justification is that urination and defecation are both excretory functions of apana. To prohibit its downward flow, the whole pelvic floor must be contracted, and that includes the anal sphincter and puborectalis as well as all of the muscles controlling urination. The Gheranda Samhita describes full pelvic floor contraction with the additional contraction of lower abdominal muscles. In its directives on how to perform mulabandha, it states, "pressing the navel against the spine with great effort…" Practically speaking, all of these interpretations are correct. At first, full contraction of the entire pelvic floor is warranted to strengthen the muscles so that one may begin to isolate them. Adding lower abdominal muscles strengthens the body's core and adds value to mulabandha's physical health benefits. This initial forceful stage of mulabandha contracts the anal sphincter inhibiting. 18. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(19) defecation and squeezes the urethra as if to shut off urine flow. It strengthens, shapes, and defines the entire structure of the pelvic floor. As a practitioner progresses with the technique, an ability to isolate the various muscles and components of the muscles begins to develop until only the central portion of the pubococcygeus is contracted during mulabandha. With the ability to discriminately activate each muscle component, one is able to contract only the puborectalis along with the external anal sphincter during a technique referred to by the yogis as ashwini mudra. Contracting the pubourethralis surrounding the urethra in conjunction with contraction of the superficial muscles that inhibit urination is referred to as vajroli mudra. According to the tantrics, in the most advanced stage of mulabandha, muscle contraction does not necessarily occur at all. It becomes primarily a pranic and psychic technique.. 19. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(20) Benefits of Mulabandha According to the Yoga Tradition  Realigns the physical, mental, and pranic bodies  Increases the digestive fire  Destroys decay and decrepitude  Wards off old age  Acts as a trigger for the awakening of muladhara lotus  Arouses kundalini energy, the potential energy within muladhara lotus  Helps to pierce brahma granthi, the psychic knot near muladhara lotus  Prepares an aspirant for spiritual awakening. 20. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(21) A Scientifically Proven Technique In the 1940s, a gynecologist in California noticed that there were marked differences in his patients in the tone of muscles surrounding the vagina. While in some women the muscles exhibited firmness and thickness, in others there was thinning with a tendency for the vaginal walls to collapse upon themselves. It was in the latter women that leaky urinary bladders, the ones difficult or even impossible to control, were found. Those women with thin muscles in the pelvic floor were also noted to have a higher incidence of uterine prolapse, a condition in which the uterus slides down through the vaginal canal and even hangs out of the pelvis in extreme cases. A similar “falling” of the bladder and the rectum can also occur, disorders known as cystoceles and rectoceles. Given the known physiology of muscles, that those in disuse become smaller and thinner resulting in weakness, a condition known as atrophy, Dr. Kegel hypothesized that, as with biceps, working out the pelvic floor muscles will bulk them up and make them stronger. He hoped that by building up the muscle fibers and strengthening them, urinary incontinence and uterine prolapse could be treated. Over the next decade he proved his theory to be correct. After developing a set of exercises designed to specifically strengthen the pubococcygeus muscle, he found that women with leaky bladders who consistently preformed the exercises no longer had that embarrassing problem. He discovered that exercising the pubococcygeus also helped to treat uterine prolapse as well as cystoceles and rectoceles. He advocated that all women be taught to work out the pubococcygeus muscle to maintain a healthy tone and thereby prevent disease. Subsequent studies over the years have repeatedly backed him up. Kegel exercises are now the first-line therapy for stress urinary incontinence, the leaky bladder that primarily comes from aging, childbirth, and excess weight. They've also been found to be effective in men undergoing prostate surgery.. 21. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(22) Prolapsed organs have shown a reduction in the degree of protrusion following the practice of Kegel exercises in combination with an intra-vaginal device. An ultrasound study documented the morphological changes occurring after 6months of Kegel exercises, results which included an elevation in the resting position of the bladder and the rectum. There’s evidence that regular performance of Kegel exercises intensifies women’s orgasms and make them easier to achieve. Some women who have pain in the vaginal or vulvar area, particularly during intercourse, have been shown to get relief by doing pelvic floor exercises in combination with psychotherapy. Regarding prevention, there is a lack of controlled, prospective studies, but it is firmly believed that habitually working out the pelvic floor keeps it healthy and is a good way to stave off the development of incontinence and various forms of prolapse as we age. In a recent consensus statement, the National Institutes of Health noted their support for pelvic floor exercises in the prevention of incontinence in women and also in men undergoing prostate surgery. Performance of Kegel Exercises A Kegel exercise contracts all components of the pelvic floor musculature, so there will be a sensation of a tightening of the muscles around the anus as if you are trying to stop a bowel movement and also a sensation as if stopping the urine stream. 1. Insert a finger into the vagina, or for men, place a fingertip between the scrotum and the anus. 2. Pull up the perineum by contracting the entire pelvic floor. You’ll feel this as a tightening of the muscles around your finger or, in men, as the perineum moving up towards the trunk. Once you’ve acquired an understanding of the movement, the finger is no longer needed. 3. Hold this contraction of the pelvic muscles for five seconds, then release for 5 seconds.. 22. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(23) 4. Repeat, performing the muscle contraction and release 10 times per session. 5. Do three sessions every day, at different times. 6. Work your way up to holding the contraction continuously for 10 seconds each time you contract.. There are also vaginal “cones” and “eggs” on the market that act as weights. A woman can increase pelvic floor muscle strength by holding in and moving the device while standing.. Figure 3: Vaginal "eggs" of different sizes. 23. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(24) A Comparison: Mulabandha and Kegels So, are mulabandha and Kegel exercises the same thing? That depends on whom you ask. If you follow Dr. Gore’s line of teaching, mulabandha contracts the pelvic floor musculature indiscriminately just like Kegel exercises. The entire pelvic floor gets a workout from repeated contractions. The classic texts, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Siva Samhita, and the Gheranda Samita appear to back him up, at least regarding the contraction of muscles surrounding the rectum. What Swami Buddhananda and other tantrics describe is something different. Ultimately, there may be no muscle contraction at all. That’s definitely not a Kegel. In the tantric lineage, the focus is on mental and energetic effects. Still, in the beginning stages of the tantric practice, one must learn to distinguish the various muscles of the pelvis, isolating and contracting the portions that specifically pull up the perineal body. First the entire pelvic floor needs to be strengthened and defined, and then the work of isolation can begin. According to tantric theory, as one isolates the central portion of the pelvic floor, an awareness of muladhara lotus develops. Eventually, its energy can be directed without any muscle activity. It makes sense to understand mulabandha as a continuum of gradually refined practice. For effects on the physical body, the annamayakosha, the full Kegel exercise is important. It indiscriminately works out and tones all portions of the pelvic floor including the layer of superficial muscles and the segments of the pubococcygeus that are involved with closing of the anus and urethra. With advanced practice, it’s possible to isolate muscles, eventually controlling and lifting only the central portions of the pubococcygeus muscle. According to tantric theory, this initiates mulabandha’s effects on the energy body, the pranamayakosha.. 24. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(25) Benefits of Pelvic Floor Contractions According to Medical Science  Treats urinary incontinence, commonly called "a leaky bladder"  Treats uterine prolapse  Treats cystoceles and rectoceles  Makes female orgasm easier to achieve  Intensifies the female orgasm  Treats vulvodynia and vaginal pain  Prevents age-related urinary incontinence  Treats erectile dysfunction  Treats premature ejaculation, particularly when occurring with concomitant erectile dysfunction  Treats chronic prostatitis. 25. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(26) How to Perform Mulabandha Mastering the most advanced performance of mulabandha takes considerable time and persistent daily practice. The technique is perfected in three stages. In the first stage, it's best to focus completely on the physical aspects of the technique, the contraction of all the pelvic muscles indiscriminately, inclusive of the superficial muscle layer. This will strengthen the pelvic floor and bring awareness and increased blood flow to the region. Before beginning, experiment with the pelvic floor muscles in the nude. Men can sit and place a finger on the perineum located between the anus and the scrotum. When the pelvic floor muscles are contracted, there is a lifting of the perineum. It is pulled upwards into the body. Women can place one finger inside the vagina. When the pelvic floor muscles are contracted, there is a squeezing sensation around the finger. To contract the pelvic floor, pull up on the muscles of the lower pelvis as if trying to stop both defecation and urination. While mulabandha may be added to the performance of several asanas in their advanced stages, it is best to initially practice this technique in the traditional manner – seated on the floor in siddhasana (accomplished pose). If you find this asana uncomfortable, vajrasana (diamond pose), sukhasana (easy pose), and ardha padmasana (half-lotus) are suitable alternatives. You can also sit on a chair with the back straight and the feet firmly planted on the ground. The benefit of siddhasana is that the heel of one foot is pressed firmly against the perineum. It brings awareness to the region and guides the practice. One may alternate which heel is placed on the perineum with each session, and the hands are generally placed in jnana or chin mudra on the knees.. 26. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(27) Stage 1 1. Find a comfortable seated position. For siddhasana, sit on the floor and fold one leg and place the heel of the foot onto the perineum. Fold the other leg and place its foot on top of the other calf so that the heel is pressing the pelvic bone directly above the genitals. Push the toes and the edge of the top foot down into the space between the calf and thigh muscles. Then grasp the toes of the bottom foot and bring them up between the calf and thigh of the other leg. Make the spine steady, straightened, and fully erect as though the base were planted on the ground and the vertex of the head were pulled upwards by a delicate string. 2. Place the hands on the knees in chin mudra by joining the tips of the thumbs and index fingers lightly together with the palms facing downward. 3. Close the eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. 4. Now, with an inhalation, pull up on the entire pelvic floor, contracting all the muscles in a manner that would stop defecation and urination. Be sure there is a feeling of pulling up into the body rather than pushing out. Squeeze tightly and hold for 5 seconds, exhaling whenever it feels comfortable to do so. Breathe normally while maintaining the contraction for the desired duration. 5. Let the muscles relax for 5 seconds. Then repeat this exercise 9 more times. For best results, practice 10 repetitions 3 times each day. 6. When you feel the muscles have sufficiently strengthened and you are ready for the next step, gradually increase the holding time to 10 seconds. Then relax for 5 seconds. Again, it’s best to repeat the exercises 10 times per session with 3 sessions each day.. 27. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(28) Stage 2 Once all the muscles of the pelvic floor have been strengthened and defined, it will be time to take the practice a step further. At this point, the goal is to contract only the center muscles of the pubococcygeus so that there is no movement of the anus, the urethra, the penis, or the clitoris. According to the tantrics, when this is accomplished, the muladhara trigger point has been successfully isolated. At this stage, there is a refinement of the pelvic floor contractions. A practitioner can choose to activate only the portions of the pelvic floor controlling the anus and defecation (ashwini mudra), to activate only the portions of the pelvic floor controlling the urethra and its urination and ejaculation (vajroli mudra), or to activate only the central portion that is the physical essence of mulabandha. This requires keen awareness and considerable practice.. Refined Muscle Contractions of Stage 2. Aswini mudra – contractions of anal sphincter and puborectalis sling Vajroli mudra – contractions of the superficial muscles of the pelvic floor and the pubourethralis component of the pubococcygeus muscle Mulabandha – contractions of the center portion of the pubococcygeus muscle that elevates the perineum without contraction of the muscles surrounding the anus, rectum, and urethra.. 28. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(29) A Beneficial Asana. Marjaryasana, the cat pose, can help a practitioner learn to isolate the proper muscles for Stage 2 of mulabandha. To perform the modified version that leads to a new awareness of pelvic floor muscle activity: 1. Kneel on the mat and then lower the torso, coming forward to a position supported by the hands and knees. 2. Bring your chin to the floor, pointing the elbows out to the sides. 3. Lower the chest to the floor as much as possible, arching the back to elevate the buttocks. 4. Contract the pelvic floor muscles. Notice that with the rear-end in this position, the sensation of contraction moves towards the front of the perineum. It's difficult to contract the more posterior muscles, and even the gluteal muscles remain relaxed. Practice this pose several times to get used to the feeling of contracting the central perineal muscles without the more posterior ones. Once you are accustomed to the sensation, try to produce the same result when you try mulabandha in a classical seated position.. 29. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(30) A Beneficial Meditation. Sit in siddhasana with one heel pressed against the perineum. In men, this area is between the anus and the scrotum. In women, it is the small area between the anus and the vagina, and the heel will feel as if it is mostly at the opening of the vagina. (Full instructions for siddhasana are given above.) If this is an uncomfortable position, try any seated position you do find comfortable in which the heel is at the perineum. Keep the back straight and the head in line with the torso, chin slightly down with the vertex of the head lifted as if being pulled by a tiny invisible string. 1. Take a deep breath in, close the eyes, and then allow the body to relax with exhalation. 2. Become aware of the sounds in your environment. Stay in the now for a few seconds, simply acknowledging and accepting their presence. 3. Shift your awareness within to the sensations of the physical body. Make slight readjustments to your posture if necessary, and then resolve to remain still. 4. For a few seconds, watch the breath without changing it. Simply bring your awareness to the feeling of inhalation followed by the feelings of exhalation. 5. Move the mind to focus on the perineum, guided by the sensation of the heel pressing against this spot. 6. Now feel as if you are breathing in through this location, pulling up grounding energy from the earth. On the out-breaths, release any negative, stale or stagnant energy out through the legs and back down into the Earth's molten core for purification. 7. As you breathe in, you will begin to note a point at which the prana localizes just inside the body at the area where the heel is resting at the perineum. Note that it becomes stronger and more energized with each breath. 30. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(31) 8. As you breathe, visualize the area as a diffuse, almost circular area of red energy. Then realize the red is actually a flower with four blood-red petals. Inside it rests a yellow square that smells like fertile dirt. 9. Merge the mind with this red muladhara lotus flower. Note how the energizing of this vital center makes you feel grounded, stable, and strong. 10. Become of aware of your body, especially the muscles surrounding the muladhara lotus. Subtly contract only those muscles without movement of the anus or the sexual organs. Relax them again and then repeat a few times. 11. After some time, relax and let the images fade away and move the awareness of breathing back to the areas of the nasal passageways and chest. 12. Eventually return to your awareness to sounds in the environment. 13. If you choose, offer feelings of gratitude to the Divine for the vitalizing and stabilizing energy of muladhara lotus that has been received. 14. Slowly open the eyes.. 31. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(32) 15.. Stage 3. Swami Buddhananda, a long-time tantric practitioner from the Bihar School of Yoga in India, writes that there is a third and final stage to the practice of mulabandha. He notes that in its final form, the practice is a mental and energetic one without any physical component at all. Rather, one is able to mentally activate and raise the energy of muladhara lotus with only the power of the mind. No muscular contraction occurs. The classic Hatha Yoga texts clearly state that mulabandha is a physical practice of muscle contraction, one that helps to unite apana with prana energy in the abdomen. Swami Buddhananda, on the other hand, describes the non-physical arousal of kundalini energy. In fact, he states that complete mastery of the technique results in "an overwhelming sensation of 'mental orgasm' in the eyebrow center" that is one of indescribable bliss. Even if one practices this tantric third stage to arouse kundalini energy, the traditional Hatha Yoga texts indicate that the uniting of apana with prana requires muscular contractions. Continue to perform the first two stages of mulabandha during some practice sessions, and focus on the mental control of the energies of muladhara lotus at other practice times.. 32. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(33) Recommendations for Practice Whether or not one believes in esoteric energy, mulabandha as a physical practice of contracting the pelvic floor muscles has myriad health benefits for the physical body. It's a great addition to daily practice on the mat. With busy lives, a 15-minute portion of practice dedicated to mulabandha may not always be possible, but it can easily be integrated with pranayama exercises and even with certain non-seated asanas. Once comfortable with the above specific instructions for mulabandha in a seated asana, work with a yoga teacher or yoga therapist to incorporate the technique within a more dynamic Yoga routine. For those who wish to explore the energetic aspects of the technique, the most advanced stage of mulabandha is a goal that must be gradually worked towards over a significant period of time with considerable effort and awareness. Conquer the physical aspects of this valuable Hatha Yoga practice first, toning the muscles and developing control over their isolation and individual contractions. Then find a trained tantric practitioner to guide you in the development and redirection of its more refined energy.. 33. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(34) Glossary anal sphincter – the two sphincter muscles of the anus, the external anal sphincter and the internal anal sphincter annamayakosha – outermost layer of the human being, the physical body or food body anus – opening at the lower end of the digestive tract through which feces is excreted apana – that which passes down, or the out-breath, or descending vital energy, located near the organs of excretion and generation asanas – the physical postures of Yoga ashwini mudra – contractions of the anal sphincter and the puborectalis muscle bandha – "to bind", "to lock", "to redirect", a contraction designed to hold pranic energy so that it may be redirected brahma granthi – psychic knot located near muladhara lotus bulbospongiosus – a superficial muscle surrounding the base of the urethra in males and the vaginal opening in females chakra – esoteric energy center, traditionally referred to as a lotus flower coccygeus – one of the muscles of the pelvic floor along with the levator ani coccyx – the tailbone cystocele – prolapsed urinary bladder granthis – psychic knots guru – a spiritual guide or leader. 34. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(35) ileococcygeus – one of the muscles of the levator ani incontinence – inability to restrain evacuation of urine or feces, may also refer to loss of semen for tantric practitioners ischiocavernosus – one of the pelvic superficial muscles, it forces blood into the erect penis or clitoris levator ani - a muscle group of the pelvic floor lotus – a flower, in early Yoga was used to denote a pranic energy center, chakra medhra – origination site of the nadis in the pelvis mudras – a practice that helps to control pranic energy mula – root muladhara – the root lotus (chakra) at the base of the torso, the lowest pranic energy center nadis – energy channels for the flow of prana niyamas – observances in Yoga pelvic diaphragm – another name for the pelvic floor pelvic floor – muscle layer at the base of the pelvis perineal body – a pyramidal structure between the vagina or scrotum and the rectum that is composed of fibrous tissue and muscle and serves as an insertion point for some muscles of the pelvic floor prana – esoteric vitalizing energy pranamayakosha – pranic energy layer of the human being that fills the physical body like air filling a bellows. 35. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(36) pranayama – breathing exercise, exercises to control the pranic energy prolapse – a falling down of an organ or part from its normal position, often used when referring to the uterus puboanalis – a division of the pubococcygeus muscle pubococcygeus – one of the muscles of the levator ani forming the pelvic floor puborectalis – a division of the pubococcygeus muscle, forms a sling around the anus pubourethralis – a division of the pubococcygeus muscle, surround the urethra rectocele – a prolapse of the rectum down through the pelvic floor rectum – terminal section of the large intestine that ends at the anus samana – that which conducts into apana the coarsest element of food and distributes subtle energy, or the equalizing breath, located in the abdominal region superficial transverse perinea – a superficial muscle of the pelvis tantras – any of several texts of esoteric doctrine regarding rituals, disciplines, meditations, etc, composed in the form of a dialogue between Shiva and Shakti, an Agama udana – that which "belches forth and swallows down what has been drunk and eaten" and speech urethra – tube leading externally from the urinary bladder for the excretion of urine urinary bladder – a muscular bag for holding urine inside the physical body. 36. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(37) uterus – muscular portion of the female reproductive tract in which a fertilized ovum implants and develops, the womb of certain mammals vagina – canal in most female mammals that extends from the cervix of the uterus to an external opening between the labia minora vajroli mudra – contractions of the superficial muscles of the pelvic floor and the pubourethralis, a tantric practice that redirects sexual energy vulvodynia – chronic, unexplained pain in the external genitals of females or the introitus of the vagina vyana – that which supports prana and apana, or the diffused breath moving through the energy channels throughout the body yamas – a series of ethical rules for a Yoga, the first limb of traditional Yoga practice. 37. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(38) References. 1. Mallinson, James. The Shiva Samhita: a critical edition and an English translation. Woodstock, NY, 2007. 2. Mallinson, James. Saktism and Hathayoga. 2012 March 6. Accessed on 2012-08-17 from http://www.khecari.com/resources/SaktismHathayogaFinal.pdf. 3. Akers, Brian Dana. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika: the original Sanskrit Svatmarama, an English translation. Woodstock, NY, 2002. 4. Hume, Robert Ernest. The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, translated from the Sanskrit with an outline of the philosophy of the Upanishads and an annotated bibliography. Oxford University Press, 1921. Accessed on 2012-08-09 from http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/2058/154784. 5. Buddhananda, Chela. Moola Bandha: the master key. Yoga Publications Trust, Bihar, India, 1996. 6. Gore, MM. Anatomy and Physiology of Yogic Practices. New Delhi, 2005. 7. Digambarji, S and Gharote ML, eds. Gheranda Samhita. Lonavla, India, 1978. 8. Hagen, S and Stark, D. Conservative prevention and management of pelvic organ prolapse in women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2011 Dec 7;(12):CD003882 9. NIH state of the science conference statement on prevention of fecal and urinary incontinence in adults. Consens State Sci Statements, 2007 Dec 12-14;24(1):1-37. 10. Backman, H et al. Combined physical and psychosexual therapy for provoked vestibulodynia-an evaluation of a multidisciplinary treatment model. J Sex Res. 2008 Oct-Dec;45(4):378-85. 11. Rosenbaum, TY. Pelvic floor involvement in male and female sexual dysfunction and the role of pelvic floor rehabilitation in treatment: A literature review. J. Sex Med. Jan 2007. 4(1):4-13.. 38. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(39) 12. Dorey, G et al. Randomised controlled trial of pelvic floor muscle exercises and manometric biofeedback for erectile dysfunction. Br J Gen Pract. 2004 November 1; 54(508): 819–825. 13. Hoff Braekken I, Majida M, Engh ME, Bø K. Morphological changes after pelvic floor muscle training measured by 3-dimensional ultrasonography: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Feb;115(2 Pt 1):317-24. 14. Kegel, AH. Active Exercise of the Pubococcygeus Muscle. Meigs, J.V., and Sturgis, S .H., editors: Progress in Gynecology, vol. II, New York: Grune & Stratton, 1950, pp. 778-792. 15. Nickel, JC. Prostatis. Wein: Campbell-Walsh Urology, 9th ed. 2007 16. Herschom, S. Female pelvic floor anatomy: the pelvic floor, supporting structures, and pelvic organs. Rev Urol. 2004:6 Suppl 5:S2-S10. 17. Baggish, MS and Karram, MM. Section B: the anatomy of the vagina. Acessed on 201208-10 from www.urmc.rochester.edu/smd/gme/prospective/obgyn/documents/wk11dAnatomyoftheVagina.pdf. 39. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

(40) About the Author Dr. Summers is a board-certified internist specializing in natural, Yoga-based care. She is a graduate of Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago and holds a second doctorate in neuro-pharmacology from Southern Illinois University. Currently, she is an adjunct clinical instructor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, and she is a member of the American College of Physicians, the American Society of Nutrition, and the International Association of Yoga Therapists. During her frequent travels to India, Dr. Summers researches Yoga and its therapies. She enjoys uniting her two passions, Yoga and medicine, and is continually exploring Yoga's healing concepts and integrating them with modern, evidence-based care.. 40. To learn more about Yoga and health, visit Dr. Summers at www.theYogadr.com.

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