Pelvic floor exericse

Moolabandha – not just pelvic floor exercise

According to yogic physiology, one of the fastest ways of quickly bringing about yoga, which really is balance of breath, body and mind, in the present moment, is through moolabandha – tightening of the pelvic floor muscles. By contracting or pulling up on the pelvic floor muscles you bring about a realignment of the physical, mental and psychic bodies. It is also found to be useful for treating mental disorders.

Moolabandha is both a physical and psychic/mental practice. On a physical level, Moolabandha increases the nervous stimulation to the lower abdominal organs and so it is good for digestive and reproductive disorders. In women, it is useful for treating prolapse and also is wonderful during pregnancy. In men, it aids in the prevention of prostate cancer.

Moolabandha activates the peripheral nervous system, which in turn influences the parasympathetic nervous system. This reduces heart rate and breathing rate and is therefore a quick way to reduce feelings of stress and tension. This promotes relaxation and a more balanced state of mind, making it a useful pre-meditation exercise.

Yogically, Moolabandha increases energy levels in the body, yet calms the mind and body, and balances the hormonal system. 

On a physical level Moolabanhda is similar to pelvic floor exercise taught in pregnancy classes. Yet Moolabanhda can be performed on a psychic level whereby it is the actual contraction of Mooladhara chakra (the seat of Kundalini or primal energy), thus making it a very powerful practice.

Location

The muscles of the pelvic floor form a sling that runs from the pubic bone to the tailbone. There are actually 3 sets of muscles down at the pelvic floor. When we perform Moolabanhda classically, the actual location of the muscles that need to be tightened is:

For women: on the posterior side of the cervix.

For men: inside the perineum, midway between the scrotum and the anus.

Location of moolabandha

At first you may find it hard to isolate Moolabanhda and will that you are also contracting the anus and the urogenital muscles. But over time you will be able to do that. Try to keep the abdomen relaxed as you practice Moolabanhda.

Moolabanhda is an advanced practice and not easy to practice. It is fine to contract all the muscles of the pelvic floor (if you cannot isolate the correct muscles) – you will still benefit from the practice!

How to practice

In Yogahealth classes we often incorporate awareness of tightening the pelvic floor into movements (it makes it easier to practice this way).

We also perform Moolabanhda on the out breath (rather than classically on the in breath). This is because on the in-breath, the downward action of the diaphragm causes an increase in pressure in the abdominal cavity, thus exerting a downward force on the pelvic floor muscles, which can weaken them further. Since a lot of people suffer from incontinence (especially women after giving birth), we practice strengthening pelvic floor muscles, which is more effective when done on the out breath.

 Applying Moolabandha with pressing lower back down

 Knees pointing up

  • Lie on the floor, on your back. Draw your knees up so that your feet are flat on the floor in semi-supine, adjust your spine and do whatever you need to do. Tune into your breath. Bring your hands onto your lower abdomen, somewhere above your pubic bone and below your navel. Breathe in and make your belly bigger so that it is rising, and breathe out and pull your lower tummy in. Breathing in, expanding the lower abdomen and breathing out, sucking it in….
  • See if you can feel that subtle movement in the curve of your lower spine as you breathe in and out each time. As you breathe out and pull your tummy in, press your lower back down slightly. As you breathe in, allow your back to arch slightly and as you breathe out let it come down towards the floor………………
  • Stay with this, but as you breathe out, tighten the pelvic floor muscles (pulling inwards and upwards for women and contracting perineal muscles for men). So as you breathe out, pull the tummy in, press the lower back down and draw the pelvic floor muscles in and up. Inhaling relaxing and making your belly bigger, arching the lower back slightly…. A few times like this. This practice has quite a dramatic effect on the mind when you’ve done it for a little while………………… Leave that.
Tree 3

How good is your balance?

We start to lose balance as we age. It is one of the first motor functions that we start losing. Yoga helps to improve balance, thus keeping you younger for longer. Here are 3 balancing poses you can practice. When you practice balancing movements, notice that you tend to lose the breath before you lose the balance, so focus on breathing. It is also easier to stay balanced if you focus your eyes on something not moving in front of you.

 

Balancing on one leg

Stand with your feet together. Bring the arms out to either side. Keeping your right foot off the floor start to trace semi circles with your right foot in the air – from the outside of the left foot, across to the right, and to the outside of the left foot. This is where you give yourself permission to totter as you explore how balanced you are. Pay attention to your breath.  Swap sides.

Balance

Tree pose

Have the arms out to the sides for balance. Bring the right foot on to the left foot. If that is easy, then place the right foot higher up – perhaps, all the way up to the left knee. Then bring the hands together into a prayer position, in front of your chest. Hold and breathe. Notice what happens to your mind, your consciousness.

Tree 1

If you feel quite balanced here, then you can take the arms up above your head. Swap sides.

Tree 2

 

Classic Natarajasana (Lord Shiva’s Pose)

To help you balance in this position, you can use a chair or wall for support (holding onto the chair or wall with the hand).

Bend the left leg, and lift the left foot off the floor behind you. Hold onto the left foot with the right hand (opposite hand), and stretch the left arm up. Press the left foot into the hand, creating some space between the foot and the buttock, hold for a few seconds. The balance here comes from pushing the foot into the hand – it is the tension of the foot pressing into the hand.

Lord Shiva's pose

If you find it easy, you could lean forward, keeping the back straight and the arm in front of you. Swap sides. Then roll the shoulders a few times to release the tension there.

Natarajasana 2