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Old 03-22-2011, 09:36 AM   #1
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The Secrets and Science of Mula Bhanda

One of the best kept secrets of esoteric Yoga is the advanced practice of mula bhanda (sometimes spelled moola bandha). For centuries it was considered so sacred and so important that it was kept quiet and taught only to elite students who had mastered asanas, pranayamas, and mudras.

References to mula bhanda are found in the Upanishads. The Siva Samhita lists it as one of the top ten best Yoga practices (4:12-15). According the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (9:62-68),

“By contracting the perineum the downward moving apana vayu is forced to go upward. Yogis call this mula bandha. Press the heel firmly against the rectum and contract forcefully and repeatedly, so that the vital energy rises. There is no doubt that by practicing mula bandha, prana and apana, and nada and bindu, are united, and total perfection is attained. Through this, the sleeping kundalini is aroused by the extreme heat and it straightens itself just as a serpent beaten with a stick straightens and hisses.”

The Energetic Effects of Mula Bhanda


The word “bandha” means “to bind” or “to lock”. With mula bandha, this is in reference to the locking of the muscles of the perineum. Bandha can also mean “to redirect,” and here the esoteric meaning of the practice becomes clear. As you “lock” the muscles of the perineum, you “unlock” energy in the pranic body, redirecting the flow upwards and reversing the natural tendency of apana to flow downwards.

At the level of the pranic body, the pranamayakosha, this revered technique is said to awaken muladhara chakra and the kundalini that resides within. Additionally, in the tantras it is written that the 72,000 nadis originate in a place just above muladhara chakra known as “medhra.” Given their proximity, it is believed that mula bandha stimulates all 72,000 nadis at their source, an effect which makes it very powerful.

Beyond the annamayakosha and the pranamayakosha, the physical and pranic bodies, mula bandha is also said to affect the manomayakosha, the mental body. The yogic scriptures describe granthis, or psychic knots, which represent blockages of awareness manifesting as tensions, anxieties, and unresolved conflicts. Brahma granthi, located near muladhara chakra, is believed to be pierced and then untied by an aspirant’s practice of mula bandha.

Mula bandha is believed to affect the manomayakosha by helping to release stored emotional conflicts in perineal and pelvic floor musculature. Accordingly, while performing this practice, one 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 aspirant from their depressive effects.


The Technique

In his book, Moola Bandha: The Master Key, Swami Buddhananda describes the technique in more detail. He recommends using one of several seated asanas, the best of which is siddhasana. The back must be straight, and external pressure should be applied to the perineum with a heel simply to enhance awareness of the correct point of mental concentration.

In the beginning, to better understand the practice, remove the heel and replace it with a finger midway between the anus and the scrotum or the vagina. When you contract the right muscles, you can then feel a lifting up of this area, the perineum, towards the body.

According to Swami Buddhananda, who refers to unspecified ancient tantric texts, when done correctly there should be no movement of the anus, and for men, the penis should not move. Regarding the involvement of the anus, there is some debate. 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 that of the perineum. His justification is that urination and defecation are both excretory functions of apana vayu. To prohibit its downward flow, the full pelvic floor must be contracted, and that includes the anal sphincter as well as the muscles controlling urination.

According to practitioners of tantric Yoga, in the advanced stages of practice of mula bhanda, no physical muscular contraction occurs at all. It is primarily a pranic and psychic technique. The initial stages of muscular contraction are to teach awareness. Eventually, with complete mastery of the pranic flow, an overwhelming sensation of mental orgasm in the eyebrow center confers a state of indescribable bliss that lasts up to 15 minutes.


The Science of Mula Bhanda

Many years ago a gynecologist in California noticed that there were marked differences in patients in the tone of the muscles surrounding the vagina and in the perineum. While in some women, the muscles exhibited firmness and thickness, in others there was thinning and weakness 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 vagina and even hangs out of it 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 in a condition known as atrophy, Dr. Kegel hypothesized that as with biceps, working out those 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 preformed those exercises consistently no longer had that embarrassing problem. He discovered that exercising this muscle 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 comes from aging, childbirth, and excess weight. Prolapsed organs have also shown a reduction in the degree of protrusion in a study with Kegel exercises in combination with an intra-vaginal device, and an ultrasound study documented the morphological changes occurring after 6-months of Kegels, results which included an elevation in the resting position of the bladder and the rectum.

There’s evidence that regular Kegel exercises intensify women’s orgasms and make them easier to achieve. Some women who have pain in the vagina or vulvar area during intercourse have gotten great relief by doing pelvic floor exercises in combination with psychotherapy.

Regarding prevention, there is a paucity 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 with age. In a recent consensus statement, the National Institutes of Health notes their support for pelvic floor exercises in the prevention of incontinence in women and also in men undergoing prostate surgery.


Dr. Kegel’s Instructions:

Basically, to begin, insert a finger either into the vagina or between the scrotum and anus. Pull up the perineum by contracting the entire pelvic floor. You’ll feel this as a tightening of the muscles around your finger or as the perineum moving towards the trunk. With Kegel’s you want to contract 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 there will also be a stopping of the urine stream or an inability to urinate. Initially, hold this contraction for three seconds, then release for 10. Repeat 10 times per session, and do three sessions every day at different times. Eventually work your way up to holding the contraction continuously for 10 seconds each time you contract.


Conclusion

If you follow Dr. Gore’s line of teaching, then as with Kegel exercises, mula bandha contracts the pelvic floor musculature indiscriminately. A full work out of all of the muscles of the pelvic floor leads to many physical health benefits.

What Swami Buddhananda describes is something different. Ultimately, in his teaching there is no muscle contraction at all, and that’s definitely not a Kegel. His tantric lineage focuses on the pranamayakoshic and manomayakoshic effects.

Still, in the beginning stages one must indiscriminately contract all the muscles of the pelvic floor, and then with time learn to distinguish the various muscles isolating and contracting the portions that specifically pull up the perineum without contracting the anus or the urethra. Eventually, with faithful and arduous practice, advanced Yogis can perform mula bhanda without any muscular contraction.

Rather than subscribing to one version of mula bandha or the other, it makes sense to practice both. For the effects of the physical body, the annamayakosha, the full Kegel exercise is key. It indiscriminately works out all portions of the pelvic floor including those muscles involved with closing of the anus and urethra. At least one set of 10 contractions for 10 seconds daily during asana or pranayama practice will stave off disorders of the pelvic floor. Pregnant women and those who already have a disorder such as incontinence or erectile dysfunction would benefit greatly from doing at least three sets per day.

With advanced practice, it’s possible to isolate specific muscles controlling the lifting of the perineum without contraction of the anus or urethra, theoretically initiating mula bandha’s effects on the pranamayakosha. This can be done without abandoning the full pelvic floor contractions during another portion of a daily routine. In this way, mula bandha can function holistically to maintain health.


Kathleen Summers, MD, PhD loves to sit in half-lotus while she blogs her heart out for her Seva Yoga on theYogadr.com.




References:

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.

Gore, Makarand Madhukar. Anatomy and Physiology of Yogic Practices. New Age Books, Delhi, India. 2005

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(50: 819–825.

Hay-Smith EJ, Dumoulin C (2006). "Pelvic floor muscle training versus no treatment, or inactive control treatments, for urinary incontinence in women". Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)

Herschorn, S. Female Pelvic Floor Anatomy: The pelvic floor, supporting structure, and Pelvic Organs. Rev Urol. 2004;6(Suppl 5):S2-S10.

Hoff Braekken I, Majida M, Engh ME, Bř 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.

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

Kegel, AH. Progressive Resistance Exercise in the Functional Restoration of the Perineal Muscles. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1948 Aug;56(2):238-48.

Kegel, AH. Stress Incontinence and Genital Relaxation. CIBA Clinical Symposia, Feb-Mar 1952, Vol. 4, No. 2, pages 35-52.

Kegel, AH. The Nonsurgical Treatment of Genital Relaxation; Use of the Perineometer as an Aid in Restoring Anatomic and Functional Structure. Ann West Med Surg. 1948 May;2(5):213-6.

Lawson JO. Pelvic Anatomy. I. Pelvic floor muscles. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 1974 May;54(5):244-52.

Nickel, JC. Prostatis. Wein: Campbell-Walsh Urology, 9th ed. 2007

NIH state-of-the-science conference statement on prevention of fecal and urinary incontinence in adults. NIH Consens State Sci Statements. 2007 Dec 12-14;24(1):1-37.

Romanzi, L. Sexercise. Urogynics.org/blog. 2007

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.
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Old 03-24-2011, 01:35 AM   #2
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WOW ! thats a very insightful article. In fact as a part of our practices we teach mula Banda asana in our advance courses.

Thanks for such a detailed article

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Old 03-24-2011, 12:43 PM   #3
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Mulabandha rocks!
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Old 03-30-2011, 06:35 PM   #4
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This is the first that I heard of mula bhanda. Thanks, as well, for the very informative pieces. It never ceases to be a positive learning journey.
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Old 04-01-2011, 01:35 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by theYogadr. View Post
One of the best kept secrets of esoteric Yoga is the advanced practice of mula bhanda (sometimes spelled moola bandha). For centuries it was considered so sacred and so important that it was kept quiet and taught only to elite students who had mastered asanas, pranayamas, and mudras.
Dear Yoga Dr.,

This is a very nice article and really an eye-opener and the first step for advanced yogic practice.

There are two more basic bandhas:

Uddiyan Bandha (for harmonizing solar plexus)
Jalandhar Bandha (for harmonizing endocrine system)

all applied together with breath control to achieve

Maha Bandha.

Other than these, there are six more adjunctive bandhas.

May be you should initiate a new thread on Yoga Bhandhas
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Old 04-10-2011, 11:36 AM   #6
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Nice article. Do you also use ashwini mudra?
One point i would like to make :

The term bandha means seal or closed and is spelt and pronounced in exactly one way - bandha and not bhanda or bhandha or any other way.
http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdic...ctionary/bandh

Even though the line above defines the term as general strike, the word bandha means closed or ealed or shut down.
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Old 04-19-2011, 09:44 PM   #7
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I have bought and shared the book Moola Bandha, The Master Key by Swami Buddhananda. I am so grateful that one of my teachers very early on taught me about this. I notice in some of the classes I go to here in Scottsdale a teacher may say the words, but I have yet (in four years) to hear one explain it. I'll stop them from time to time and suggest that many of the people in the room may not be familiar with this amazing aspect of practice. Thank you for sharing this article, I really enjoyed it!
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Old 04-20-2011, 08:30 AM   #8
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In Ashtanga Vinyasa the three bandas are emphasized essential while practicing the asana: mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, and jalandhara bandha.
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Old 07-06-2011, 04:51 PM   #9
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Kegel’s are wonderful exercises but are kegel's mulah bandha?
I've heard that is not so much a constriction but more of an uplifting effort and affect. (affect the verb effect the noun right?)
Not so much the urinary or anal or vaginal contraction but the lift one gets when entering a cool pool to one's nether region or the sudden ascent of an elevator. Seems to me that the heel technique might be more up the right ally if you'll excuse the pun.
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Old 07-06-2011, 10:26 PM   #10
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Now on the other side of the coin it might be premature to write off the Kegals entirely.

Some squatting and sitting poses spread the pelvic floor and anal opening so obviously that without a prop such as a foot heel or bolster facilitate the stimulation and support of the muscles of the pelvis and the perinium tendon might be very difficult.
So what if a prop or heel isn’t available for the pose proper?

In these situations and especially when just beginning to explore the concept the Kegal’s and other contraction efforts might also build awareness and control within the region through the phenomenon of recuruitment and synergy and help heighten Mula Bandha.
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Old 08-28-2011, 08:10 AM   #11
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I have been doing suggested postures for relief of cervical spondilitis . But the situation is not better. So can u suggest ?
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Old 09-16-2011, 11:16 PM   #12
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An interesting fact that is left out of this article is that men can completely stop the flow of seminal fluid during orgasm by contraction of the perineum or by using the fingers to press in that area. It is easiest to start by using the fingers to notice this. You really can't fail - you will orgasm and nothing will come out, and you may feel energy sweeping upward in your spine/body. Move with it, let it move you. Using the fingers trains the body regarding feeling and using the right muscles/area... and transitioning to using the muscles only can come with practice of the Mula Bandha.

This is important information because the physical release outward of the seminal fluid during orgasm is what is transformed into the upward release, up the spine to the brain in advanced yogic & kundalini awakening practice.

The release upward, ultimately the activation of Brahma-Rendra is the Kundalini energy awakening/evolving your new life within the body rather than create a new life outside of it. Evolution is a biological reality. Being born again is a biological reality. These are not concept or mental changes only.

See the importance of mentioning this physical connection with the semen? Avoiding it leaves this a fairly distant nebulous philosophy for many, while telling the whole story on *all levels of body* including the physical, brings it down to earth, drawing a congruence from the bottom to the top.
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Old 04-04-2012, 01:18 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Sahasrara View Post
Dear Yoga Dr.,

This is a very nice article and really an eye-opener and the first step for advanced yogic practice.

There are two more basic bandhas:

Uddiyan Bandha (for harmonizing solar plexus)
Jalandhar Bandha (for harmonizing endocrine system)

all applied together with breath control to achieve

Maha Bandha.

Other than these, there are six more adjunctive bandhas.

May be you should initiate a new thread on Yoga Bhandhas
I think Uddiyan Bandh can be performed only in Exhale and jalandhar during Inhale so how to perform three Bandhs at one time ?
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