embodiment etudes

short somatic studies applied to yoga

mula bandha

by julee snyder

Mula bandha is the bandha of the pelvic floor.  It draws the energy from the legs up into the torso.  To better understand this bandha, it is helpful to revisit the anatomy of the pelvis and the pelvic floor.  Once you have a clear sense of the boney pelvis and then the four points of the pelvic floor, bring your attention to the center of the pelvic diaphragm, where the muscle that runs from pubic bone to tail crosses with the muscle that runs between the sitting bones.  This is the perineal body or the central tendon of the perineum.

Most of us are familiar with Kegel exercises, a general lifting of the pelvic floor up.  A common description of how to feel the Kegel muscles is to stop urination midstream.  Let’s take the concept a bit further.  One of the ways I teach students to feel their pelvic floor is to have them lie on their back in preparation for a bridge pose.  I then put a block between their legs and ask them to lightly squeeze the block with their inner thighs.  This activates their adductors.  Then I tell them to keep me from taking the block without squeezing any more with their thighs, as I pull the block on a diagonal away from them.  Usually, the pelvic floor will lift in opposition to my pull.  This is a great exercise to generally tone the muscle and warm it for other exercises.

The above exercise allows us to tone the pelvic floor as a whole.  Once you become aware of your pelvic floor, you can do this in sitting.  Find a comfortable position and become aware of the four points of your pelvic floor: pubic bone, tail bone, and the two sitting bones.  Allow all four points to move toward one another and feel a generalized even lift.  This can be done in a slow sustained rhythm, a pulsing rhythm, in layers of lift, and more.

Then we can begin to isolate the front and back of the pelvic floor.  Begin to feel a toning and lifting in the back of the pelvic floor around the anus.  Feel free to add the glutes or leave them out.  After a few rounds, shift your work to the front of the pelvic floor and feel a general toning and lifting there.  For women, this may feel like a gathering and lifting of the walls of the vagina.  You can also isolate sensation of the left and right halves of the pelvic floor.  It’s not unusual to note a difference in strength and use between the two sides.  Notice if you have an imbalance and begin to work, over time, to balance the two sides.

Lastly we come to mula bandha.  Bring your attention to the perineal body, that place between your genitals and your anus.  Begin to softly lift from this place.  For women you will draw the energy of this place up to the cervix; and for men, you will draw it up toward the prostate.  You can play with whether this a strong muscular lift or a soft energetic lift.  Once you become aware of it, you may notice that it naturally engages many times throughout a day.

Let’s return to tadasana and stack our two diaphragms. Come to standing with the feet under the hips. Ground into the four points of the feet and feel the energy lift up the center line of the leg, pass through the center of the knee into the hip socket. As you root the tail bone downwards and softly gather the four points of the pelvic floor toward each other, feel a lift up from the perineal body. Allow that sense of lift to travel to the crown. Now let’s take it into chair pose. Bend the knees reaching the sitting bones back. Begin to imagine the hammock of your pelvic floor and invite that jellyfish quality. Play with how you aim your sitting bones and how you tone or open your pelvic floor to find the perfect amount of support at the base of your pose. Notice if your mula bandha naturally engages to support you. Continue to notice as you move through your practice. Be sure to try balance poses and inversions, too.

Next time you are sitting in meditation, try engaging a soft version of your mula bandha and imagine drawing the energy all the way to your crown.  Enjoy the sense of bliss!

Happy practicing!

pada bandha

by jsbodywork

pada2

Pada bandha is the bandha of the foot.  It typically draws the energy from the earth, up the center of the foot, and into the foreleg.  Review the blog entries on the foot and the foreleg.  Let’s explore it in tadasana, mountain pose.  Come to standing with the feet under the hip sockets and begin to notice how the weight is distributed over the feet.  For a moment, lift the toes.  This heightens awareness of the box of the foot.  Feel the four points of the foot actively root into the floor and then lower the toes so that they are active, but long.  As the four points root, the four arches naturally begin to lift.  This is pada bandha.  Remember that the weight bearing bone of the lower leg is the tibia and the steering bone is the fibula.  Allow the forces coming up from the earth to travel up the foreleg between the bones all the way to your hip sockets.  Continue to play with that action in other standing poses so that it is clear.

As you move into poses where the legs are reaching, allow space to take the place of the floor.  The activity in the foot and foreleg is the same and you will continue to feel as though you were sipping energy in, as if through a straw along what gyrotonics calls the 5th line of the leg, that line that runs through the center of the leg.  Activating pada bandha gives the leg levity and length.

Don’t become static with your bandhas.  Remember the jellyfish image.  Keep your bandhas live, active, and pulsating.  Open your range of choices.

Also check out Mark Stevens’ post..  Happy practicing!