Archive for Health

Ashtanga During Pregnancy – Surrendering to Grace

[Here is an article submitted by Mariela Cruz, authorized Ashtnaga Yoga teacher in Costa Rica. You can read more about Ashtanga and Pregnancy with Wendy's article here and the follow up article here - Ed.]

As I start to write, I can feel, and start to count, the contractions that are now coming every ten minutes. We are almost there, my baby and I, ready to meet and finally embrace! During the past nine and a half months, he has become my teacher, my guru and my salvation.

I am 38 weeks and almost there. This article is an attempt to capture the magnificent experience”yoga-wise” that this baby has meant for me and my practice.

The level of letting go that I have experienced, I never, ever anticipated. Just when I was enjoying a peak in my practice, very strong and committed, this baby chose me. Third Series was blowing my mind and my body seemed to answer to all the extreme demands this beautiful practice asks.

mariela-cruz-adjusting-preg.jpg

Mariela Cruz adjusting 9 months pregnant in Costa Rica

I was gifted with a very bendy body that started practicing yoga at a rare young age. My mother was one of those “weird” beings (in a good sense, I realize now) who was always searching. Back then, to practice yoga in Costa Rica, a traditional catholic country, was considered a mortal sin. Anyways, she found a way to take me with her to class when I was about 10 years old. My only memory is watching these beautiful tall, white bright
beings moving in the shala’ s corridors -angels I guess- and since then, I could feel the blessings of yoga.

Life kept moving; I had my four children and I became a lawyer. Although very successful as a lawyer, I found to be absolutely miserable in a career that was not for me.

mariela-cruz-6months-scorpi.jpg

Mariela 6 months pregnant in scorpion: don’t try this at home!

My first visit to Mysore was 7 years ago. Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore is hard to describe: I can only say that the energy around Guruji and Sharath made me return six more times and always crave for India while I was home. Practicing on my own (since I had no teachers in San Jose where I live) was a small price to pay, compared to the promise of returning every year to see my beloved Guru.

Life started changing very fast. We built the studio and people started coming. Life shifted and I happily gave up my law practice and started teaching full time.

When the news came last June that I was pregnant again, there was a mixture of profound joy and overwhelming worry… “and what about my practice?”

One thing is to theorize about how beautiful having a baby is, especially if you are in love and with the right partner by your side. But then there is the reality of what your body will go through! The first three months were pure hell! Besides that, I decided to go back to India and finish the process of getting authorized by Guruji and Sharath: it was not a very good idea! But my desire to be close to my teachers and finish this first stage was too strong to let go.

mariela-adjusting-pregnant.jpg

I arrived in Mysore last August on my own, being 12 weeks pregnant and after 26 hours of non-stop flights and delays. Pregnancy is such a delicate time. You are as open and vulnerable as ever and flying across the world from Costa Rica through Germany to finally arrive to Bangalore and then Mysore was the biggest challenge I have faced. Constant nausea, vomiting and loneliness made this the hardest trip. Arriving by myself, longing for my husband and children was also very hard.

A dear friend rented me his place, a very cozy little apartment with all the facilities. Mr. and Mrs. Chinnappa, the landlords, were always so kind and respectful. So I felt cared for in the middle of everything. I would stay awake all night, still very jet-lagged, thinking of my loved ones and crying and directly go to the shala at 6 am for practice.

I was assigned to practice with Saraswati. A part inside of me craved for the 5 am practice with Sharath as always, for my teacher friends and the whole gang.

Practicing with all the beginners requested a big dose of humility. But Saraswati’ s gentle approach and daily concern made everything easier for me, even though during practice I had to leave and go vomit every ten minutes. My body was refusing to adapt to so many changes at the same time: baby, food, time zone and broken heart.

Being used to having my body do whatever I asked of it, this felt very confusing. I felt as if I was possessed and couldn’t get it to obey my mind. This started upsetting me deeply, to a point where I started regretting what was actually happening and many doubts started clouding my mind.

Yoga teaches us the art of acceptance. It’s easy to accept things when they happen “your way”; but how about when they completely go upside down?

From a three-hour daily practice, I had to cut short to half Primary Series with a lot of modifications. It was very interesting how Saraswati immediately removed all the twists (Marichyasana C and D). My practice used to give me lots of energy for all the challenges of motherhood and full time yoga teacher, but now I was feeling depleted and above all, profoundly depressed.

mariela-pinchamayurasana.jpg

My husband made it to India for his first time, probably intuiting I needed support. The trip ended with my authorization being granted and us returning to Costa Rica. Though things were not easier once we got home.

Normally the nausea and vomiting stop after the third month and Guruji and Saraswati advised against practice during the first three months. However, this was not the case with me. I came back and things got worse. I could barely stand up from my bed. Everything was foggy and couldn’t get the grip of the practice again. Teaching was very hard, but I kept going.

My body felt terrible and I wasn’t able to apply the only medicine I know for body and heart aches: practice. What to do?

I realize this pregnancy has taught me what my regular practice would have never taught me. Suddenly, everything I loved the most was taken away from me. When I say “I loved and love my practice above everything else”, it is because I appreciate so much the perspective it has brought to my human experience.

Giving up such love is no easy task. I had to start from scratch, doing one Surya Namaskar and then collapsing into Child pose for 20 minutes while the room kept turning and turning.

mariela-adjusting.jpg

I realize my profound love for practice was definitely a very heavy attachment. My body was used to the chemicals produced by it and I had to go through heavy “detox” with all its consequences: mood swings, sadness, intolerance almost to the verge of depression.

Then slowly, things started shifting. My only option was to surrender. And from that surrender to this tiny teacher inside of me came a second wind. My practice completely changed, even more as I started growing bigger. But as I faced my mat everyday, scared to find I was not able to perform anymore, I started getting real. I found new joy and gratitude in the blessing of knowing there was a life growing inside of me and that somehow he was helping me understand new things. My only sadhana was to become a clean channel for this soul and stop interfering and asking something for myself. Instead, to just be there for whatever he needed from me, beyond my likes and dislikes.

Yoga gives us so much power and there are many ways to use that power. We can use it for our own benefit or we can use it to give and help each other. Even though I always thought that my job as a yoga teacher and my mission as a mother was fulfilling all this, I know there was a part inside that still wanted something for myself.

As Krishna tells Arjuna: surrender the fruits of your actions. This is what I have learned during this last 38 weeks. I can now happily say that I will go back to my practice, after Gael is born, from a different space inside. A space that simply wants to serve and give in a sincere way and use practice as an instrument to prepare body and mind for that.

I feel very blessed by the presence of this little-huge being in my life. He was already in India with me and I plan to take him back next year to Mysore. Gael will always be a constant reminder that yoga is not about achieving anything, but about being grateful for what life offers us. As we all, in our family, embark in this new adventure with baby, I thank all of my children for teaching me how to let go of selfishness.

UPDATE 17th FEB 2008: Gael was born on Friday February 15th at 1:26 pm – baby and mom are doing well.

Comments (17)

17 Comments »

  1. Marco Amador Jimenez said,

    February 16, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Is amazing how Yoga can really take the best part of you. Yoga is not only the asana, it’s how you live in this world. Mariela is an inspiring teacher for many people, not only in Costa Rica, but in the world. She is an example of determination, courage and loveliness. Our love and gratitude for Mariela (our teacher) reaches the higest!

  2. Adriana Gonzalez Cruz said,

    February 17, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    the strength my mother posesses is an inspiration to all.
    As she gives thanks to us for teaching her how to let go of selfishness,i
    thank her for teaching me how to continously evolve as a person….

    …Baby Gael is a beautiful ray of light whom now shines brightly in our home.

  3. wendy spies said,

    February 18, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    thank you so much for sharing your practice and your deep understandings with us. :)

  4. Hazel said,

    February 18, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    When I learned that Gael was born this last Friday I felt very happy for Mariela and her loved ones. She is truly an inspiring teacher, and during this time we have all witnessed how devoted she is to both the practice and her 5 children, Gael included.

    Mariela mentioned in her article that sometimes I was hard to teach…. boy! I never noticed it…. even though I kept watching Mariela’s big, ever growing abdomen. In hindsight, I believe the smile on her face during practice worked its magic…..another lesson learned. I guess this baby has taught not only Mariela but also her forever grateful students!

    Hazel

  5. Lula said,

    February 19, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    First of all, welcome to the smallest member of our kula, Gael!!!
    I’ve been very close to Mariela for many years and have always admired her level of commitment with the practice, but with Gael’s pregnancy she thought us no only the commitment but the love for us (her students) being there even when she wasn’t feeling good, always willing to transmit her knowledge. I feel grateful for having her as a teacher.

    Lula

  6. carolina sevilla said,

    March 24, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Mariela has been a bench mark in my life, not only as a yoga teacher but in the small details, my every day’s “big decisions”.
    I would like to have her and her family (*including Hugo) close, but my conditions don’t let me for the moment. It doesn’t matter, she is with me wherever I go, as my beloved teacher. Mariela, you will ALWAYS be in my heart and in my practice.
    in the dharma
    carolina

  7. larry g hobbs said,

    April 29, 2008 at 7:13 am

    That was a wonderful well descript article.I was recently in Mysore and there was a young woman there who was about 28 weeks into her term and it was wonderful to see her practice every morning and just taking her time and doing what her body needed and Sharath and Saraswati were very kind and giving.Its amazing how once you leave Mysore you want to jump and the next plane back.It was my first trip and my wife Dale’s third.

  8. antonia said,

    May 8, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    dear mariela,

    i only just now bumped into your article. thank you for sharing! i was touched by your thoughts & candidness.

    antonia

  9. Heather Liebe said,

    July 29, 2008 at 10:47 am

    I just read you posting. It brings tears to my eyes as yours is so close to mine. I recently had a boy, Jan 23rd, 08. He was due feb 20th. My water broke at 28 weeks and my practice and all movement was taken away in one day. I am a practitioner of six years and had just began third series. I have a small studio in New Mexico were my best friend/yoga partner and I hold morning mysore. We are without a teacher were we live. We both have children and often sacrifice sleep to practice at 5am. We travel to workshops and trainings when we can to deepen our practice. We have each other and our students that help us continue our practice.
    Now that I am rebuilding my practice I am grateful of the perspective that starting over has given me. I know now the great struggle that people have with their bodies. I feel as a teacher that I am closer to my students and more able to help them then I ever was.
    I loved reading your posting, It is nice to know that others have similar struggles.
    I hope you and your family are doing well. Perhaps I will get to practice under you one day.

    I honor the light with in.

  10. kampe said,

    October 9, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Mariella, Thank you for the great exposee. I have seen others forsake their health and family to be drawn to only “the practice.” Glad that you were able to leave the cultic and narcissistic side-effects of yoga exercises to return to a normal life! Best Wishes!

  11. April said,

    January 15, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Your writing has brought me such relief and moved me to tears! I just found out I’m pregnant and I’m feeling really depressed about what I have perceived to be a suffering practice. But I realise you are right. It’s the first thing I’ve read that has brought me any comfort. Thank you so much for writing and sharing.

  12. baguette said,

    April 9, 2009 at 2:52 am

    I understand the experience but I have found Mariela was just irresponsible by wanting to do yoga at all cost even pregnant. I am wondering how she did not understand with her 4 first children what pregnancy and motherhood is about. I hope the baby is fine and wont suffer later in his life because of the experiences he had to have in the uterus of his mother. But if he does, at least he can consult this post and show it to his therapist

  13. Mariela said,

    April 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    I would like to let you know that Baby Gael is doing great…the delivery was in water and he was born healthy and strong. He is one year and two months now, a happy baby!

    i don’t recommend doing intense asana during pregnancy unless you already have a steady practice before becoming pregnant. Also, i didn’t practice during the first trimester. It’s better to wait. I know my body pretty well, but i do recommend a teacher to guide asana practice while pregnant.

    Thanks for your concern about the baby, but as a mother of 5, i would never risk them for anything…i know yoga helps me everyday, but yoga is also about discernment and common sense. My pregnancy had no incidents, so that’s why i could keep going.

    Namaste
    Mariela

  14. P said,

    November 10, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Hi

    I found your post very interesting and moving. I am currently trying to conceive and I do moderate iyengar or ashtanga yoga at home.

    Tadasana, Trikonasana, Warrier I and II, Adhomukha Swanasana, camel pose(ushtrasana), Ardh Chandrasana, Kandhrasana, badhakonasana(bending in front), upasavita konasana(bend in front), paschimottasana etc.

    Could you please tell me if I should do these asanas after I probably have conceived during the two week wait before I find out if I’ve conceived. I am in great anxiety to find this out. I have some hormonal issues and these asanas actually help me, but in case I do , I dont want to lose out any option.

    Thanks so much

  15. D said,

    December 8, 2009 at 3:06 am

    Hey Baguette,

    Pretty judgmental – I can’t believe you are a yoga practitioner. No one who’s ever set foot on a mat would even think of stating the following:

    “I hope the baby is fine and wont suffer later in his life because of the experiences he had to have in the uterus of his mother. ”

    Tell you one thing – I’d rather be born from Mariela’ uterus than yours. All that negativity you seem to have has got to be bad for a child.

  16. D said,

    December 8, 2009 at 3:23 am

    First, Mariela, congratulations on the birth of Gael. And thank you – you’re sharing of this wonderful and life-altering experience, and your candor and honesty about it all, are inspirational. Reading it made me realize it’s very similar to the “loss” I felt after getting injured last year and was unable to practice at all. I too had to start from scratch and am returning slowly. But it was a great lesson to let go of the asana and just be with what “is”. Very humbling, but it’s made me a better student and teacher.

    Second – a word for “Baguette” – Why write something so judgemental and obviously meant to harm? “I hope the baby is fine and wont suffer later in his life because of the experiences he had to have in the uterus of his mother. ” Based on what both of you wrote, I think I’d rather be born from Mariela’ uterus than yours, given the choice. Find yourself a good yoga teacher and learn about ahimsa.

  17. nikki timmermans said,

    August 24, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    HI Mariele,
    I am 25 weeks pregnant with my third. I am really enjoying the gentle approach to my ashtanga practice. Tha day I found out I was pregnant was the only day I have completed every asana in the primary series unassisted and beautifully. Wow. I live in Guatemala on a boat for six months of the year and am interested in coming to Costa Rica to practice with you.
    Congratulations on the birth of you baby and I hope you are enjoying the journey.
    I look forward to hearing from you
    Namaste
    Nikki

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Are you Engaging your Mula Bandha Correctly?

Ruth Jones, MCSP, PhD student Southampton University UK, and Stanford University California USA, has been conducting cutting edge research on the Pelvic Floor Muscles (PFM), also know as Mula Bandha in the context of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. She also happens to practice regularly at the studio where I practice so we were thrilled when she offered to contribute her latest findings! – Ed]

You will know the importance in your Yoga practice to engage your Pelvic Floor Muscles (PFM) or mula bandha, but did you know that the PFM have other functions such as contributing to spinal stability, pelvic organ support, urinary and faecal continence, sexual function and performance? What a great group of muscles to keep working well! And how do you know that you are contracting the PFM effectively when over 30% of the female population contracts incorrectly at their first attempt? We do not have the statistics for men, yet it would not be far fetched to suggest that the percentage could be higher. Or am I just biased?

Here is what I will cover with this article:

  • The basics of Pelvic Floor Muscle anatomy and physiology
  • How to correctly engage the PFM
  • How to incorporate it into and outside your Yoga and Pilates practice

Pelvic Floor Anatomy

It’s not just all about the muscles: the Pelvic Floor is actually a complex structure made up of muscle and fascia. It can be divided into three sections: the fascia, the levator ani muscles (PFM) and the superficial sphincters/perineal muscles.

The fascia gives attachment to the PFM and surrounds the muscles and pelvic organs. Sometimes there can be a tearing of this fascia and the supporting ligaments which gives rise to Pelvic Floor disorders such as incontinence. It won’t matter then if the PFM are strong and contract at the right time, someone may still have incontinence because the bladder or urethra (figure 1) is not supported in the correct anatomical position.

figure-1.gif

Figure 1. Schematic Diagram of the PFM and organs.

The levator ani is the collective name given to the PFM (figure 1 and 2) and is sometimes divided into the Pubococcygeus, Puborectalis, Pubovaginalis and Iliococcygeus. The Pubococcygeus arises from each side of the front of the pubic symphysis (midline joint), and passes around the urethra, vagina (in women) and anus to insert onto the coccyx. As you can tell from their names, the Puborectalis is the name given to those muscle fibres that loop from the pubic bone around the rectum and Pubovaginalis from the pubis around the vagina. The Iliococcygeus originates from the right or left Ilium on the pelvis and attaches to the coccyx.

figure-2.jpg

Figure 2. 3D MRI reconstruction of Female PFM
Reprinted with kind permission of Lennox Hoyte

The Superficial Perineal muscles are as their name suggests superficial or less deep than the levator Ani and are thought to have an important role in sexual activity. They all insert and meet at the perineal body, which is almost like a central tendon between the anus and scrotum in men and anus and vagina in women. The external anal sphincter encircles the anus, attaches in the front to the perineal body and behind to the coccyx.

The nerve supply to the Pelvic Floor is mainly through the Pudendal nerve originating from the 2nd to 4th sacral nerve roots. Have you ever noticed little girls or boys walking/bouncing on their tip toes when they want to go to the toilet? This is because the nerve supply to the calf muscles has a similar origin as the PFM, and by contracting the calf muscles, there is a reflex response of the PFM and the bladder contraction is quietened down. So if you ever find yourself caught short, go up and down on your toes vigorously and it’ll give you a few minutes grace. On that note, have you ever been sitting down for a long time, for example on a car journey, get up or out of the car and are suddenly desperate to go to the loo? Again, the skin at the back of your legs has been stimulated whilst you have been sitting down, and this stops the bladder from contracting too strongly. Once you stand up, that reflex inhibition is lost! So if you don’t want to be caught short gain, try contracting your PFM (see below) before you get out of the car.

The muscles of the PF have both slow (type 1) and fast (type 2) twitch muscle fibres, but since the role of the PFM is mainly to provide support over a sustained period of time, they are predominantly type 1. This is important to remember within your yoga (or Pilates) practice. Towards the end of your practice, especially if you have been contracting them too hard, they are going to be more fatigued. So if you develop awareness of these muscles, feel when they can no longer lift and hold, and perhaps call it a day with your practice…until the next time!

Guidelines for activating the PFM

These are the guidelines I use to assist people to activate their PFM (or Mula Bandha):

  • Imagine your PFM as a sling that attaches from your tail bone at the back (sacrum and coccyx) to your pubic bone at the front.
  • Now take a breath in, and as you breathe out, gently squeeze the muscles around your back passage, as if you were trying to prevent wind (gas/flatulence) escaping.
  • Bring this feeling forward (remembering the muscular sling) towards your pubic bone as if you were trying to stop yourself from urinating (having a pee).
  • Keep holding this contraction as you imagine that you are on the ground floor of an elevator, you want to lift your PFM as if you were going to the 1st, then 2nd 3rd etc floor.
  • Keep breathing as normally as you can, whilst holding onto your PFM. Aim to hold for 10 seconds, before releasing your PFM.
  • Repeat up to 10 times, breathing normally.
  • Remember to release all the way back to the ground floor, as holding on too much may be as much of a problem as not being able to hold onto them at all.

Also, you may have noticed that your abdominal muscles were also engaged as you pulled in your PFM. This is perfectly normal as long as you do not tilt your pelvis or hold your breath as you do so. In yoga the abdominal muscles activating is part of the Uddiyana Bandha (the abdominal lock), and the Mula Bandha is almost always activated at the same time as that lock.

As I said earlier, many people do not activate their PFM correctly when first asked to do so. Without being examined, we cannot tell for sure whether you’ve got it “right”. Having said that, below are some tips to make sure that you are not activating too much of the incorrect muscle groups:

  • Many people bear or push down when they try to activate their PFM, as if they were straining to go to the toilet. Remember to squeeze and lift, as described above, rather than pushing down.
  • Keep your buttock cheeks (bottom muscles/butt), inner thigh, and leg muscles relaxed.
  • There should be no movement of your spine or pelvis as you engage your PF or abdominal muscles.

Timing of Contraction: It seems that the timing of contraction is as important as strength of PFM contraction. In women who do not have a Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, there is a small PFM contraction before they cough, or raise their intra abdominal pressure. It appears that this pre-contraction is lost in women who have Stress Urinary Incontinence. It maybe the case that this loss of pre-contraction is also lost in other women with prolapse of the pelvic organs, so encouraging them to also do a pre-contraction seems logical. There also seems to be a correlation between Pelvic Floor disorders and back pain, although we have a good idea why this is. So if you get back pain, or if you have noticed that your PFM are not as they used to be, whether due to childbirth, high impact sports such as trampolining, or just aging, its a good habit to contract your PFM just before you cough or sneeze, lift anything heavy, or even just bending over, as well as contracting your PFM as described above twice a day.

Tips from the clinic to bring your PFM into your Yoga practice

As I have previously said, it’s not all about strength: letting go fully, timing of contraction, endurance and anatomical position of your pelvic organs are all important aspects of good PFM function. So what to do in your Yoga practice? From what we know about PFM physiology to date, these muscles are mainly designed for endurance. There is evidence that the end of a workout, these muscles are as fatigued as the rest of your body. So, if you contract them too hard, they are going to tire and it will be difficult to maintain throughout your practice, potentially leaving your spine and pelvic organs vulnerable to strain. We don’t know how quickly they recover either, so just after your practice, especially if you know that you have a PFM disorder, it maybe well worth contracting your muscles before you lift or bend over, as extra protection.

Back to your practice, as a good rule of thumb, I would suggest contracting around a quarter of your maximum effort. Try this now. Contract your PFM, as detailed above, as hard as you can. Let go of that contraction by half, then by half again. You should still be able to feel the lift, but be able to breathe easily from your diaphragm. Frequently people find it hard to do both!

Over time your awareness, the endurance, coordination and strength of your PFM will improve, allowing you to work harder for longer…should you wish! Yoga is a great way to maintain and improve the health of your Pelvic Floor. Imagine looking and feeling as good on the inside as you do on the out!

Ruth Jones February 2008

Comments (21)

21 Comments »

  1. stroumfaki said,

    February 11, 2008 at 7:10 am

    I don’t look or feel so hot on the outside.
    Should I stop working on my PFM before it penetrates inside?

  2. adarsh said,

    February 11, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Great article! Very useful tips in finding and activating the pelvic floor.

    I found the suggestion to contract the pelvic floor at about a “quarter of maximum effort” to be especially helpful-this will help reduce the “bulging bandhas” that we occasionally see around the shala!

  3. Joy Nieda said,

    February 22, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Anyone know why the images from this article are no longer displayed? Images from other postings do appear.

  4. Joy Nieda said,

    February 22, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Images just now appeared! Still puzzled, however, as to why they disappear and reappear.

  5. Free Day, First List « driste said,

    February 29, 2008 at 8:51 am

    [...] and voila. Instant floatage. Well, not completely. But much more controlled than before reading this article. Everything seems easier, from standing poses to jumpbacks. And I can jump into a handstand before [...]

  6. dan said,

    December 17, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    does anyone have Ruth Jones email? I would like to get in contact with her

  7. ruth lovegrove/jones said,

    December 18, 2008 at 3:28 am

    Ruth here

    My email is ruthlovegrove@gmail.com

  8. rocio said,

    January 26, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    thanks a lot, it was really usefull!

  9. ellie said,

    May 20, 2009 at 1:04 am

    Hi, just read this article as I’m trying to find my way around piriformis muscle pain that came on through anxiety. The Master Practice healing system suggests the root lock as a way of relieving stress related back region pain. I am off now to a yoga class for the first time in 10 years and on a journey of stress reduction. This is the best article I have read describing how to do pelvic floor exercises. The inclusion of diagrams shows they are not the mythical process described in Pilates!

  10. cera said,

    October 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Great article! I am confused though about the perineum. Most yoga teachers say you should contract the perineum and don’t mention the levator ani. Am I correct in thinking the perineum just the more superficial muscle to the levator ani, and we should contract both of them in Mula Bandha?

  11. Ruth Lovegrove Jones said,

    October 11, 2009 at 3:59 am

    Thankyou. Yes exactly right, the levator ani are the muscles you “should” be trying to engage. Indeed you should see/ feel a lift of the perineum when you engage your Levator ani muscles correctly. The perineum is part of the superficial neuro-muscular unit of the pelvic floor.
    Hope that helps :-)

  12. Dianne said,

    March 22, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Does anyone have any exercies they can recommend to avoid having tailbone extraction surgery?

  13. ann said,

    October 28, 2010 at 11:30 am

    I have been practicing yoga for 12 Years and stiil can’t do the root lock.
    tired so many times. You think I should buy the kegal excercise device to find these musles.

  14. neil keleher said,

    September 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Hi, nicely written. Like the fact that you talk about resting too.

    For myself I was thinking that the main muscle to focus on is the pubococygeous.

    Since it attaches between the coccyx and the pubic bone its really easy (or relatively easy) to think of a it directly connecting the two. And since the sacrum (to which the coccyx attaches) can move a little with respect to the pelvis, another way of activating might be to focus on pulling the coccyx towards the pubic bone.

    Since you are pulling in line with the muscle fibers, this will have the same affect as “lifting” but it might also be easier to mentally grasp.

    If you pull the coccyx towards the pubic bone you can think of this action causing the sacrum to tilt back relative to the pelvis, perhaps “wedging it in place.”

  15. Ruth Lovegrove said,

    September 23, 2011 at 1:11 am

    Hi Neil

    Now you can have a technical answer and a practical answer :-)
    Throughout the literature, there still remains lack of consensus regarding the description and terminology of the Pelvic Floor Muscles (PFM). A recent review of the literature revealed over 16 different overlapping terms for different parts of the muscle, (yet the anatomy was found
    to be very consistent amongst different studies). Pubococcygeus itself actually only comprises a small proportion of the levator complex, although clinicians have often referred to the entire pubovisceral muscle as pubococcygeus.

    So if you just concentrate on the coccyx to pubic component, it maybe more tricky to engage the whole muscle and perhaps wont engage the displacement forwards and up. A physio on a recent course I was teaching came up with a great analogy that has been helpful for some of her patients in the way of thinking as the displacement of the PFM like an escalator, …so your starting point could be the coccyx (or back passage) imagine then that PFM contraction starting at the bottom of the escalator, then as you contract the muscle, the pubic bone would be the top of the escalator. The journey between the two positions is one of forwards and up. Try it…see what you think! But yes, really really important to let go too & breathe….

    If youre interested theres a technical (academic) book coming out next month that I’ve co-edited with Leon Chaitow and theres fab section on the PFM….the book is called Chronic Pelvic Pain and Dysfunction: Practical Physical Medicine (Elseveier)

    Thanks for your interest

    Ruth

  16. SPIROS CHRIS said,

    August 31, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Hi!
    my problem is the timing. During Ashtanga practice when is the appropriate time in breathing to engage mula bandha? Inhalation or exhalation?

    Thank you in advance!

  17. ruth said,

    September 11, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Hi Chris
    Sorry for the delay….Change in email address!
    Clinically I get people to contract the pelvic floor on the out breath ie get them to breathe in, breathe out, not breathe then contract the PF then continue to breathe normally (or as long as there is some diaphragmatic movement). This in my experience minimises cheating ie using inappropriate muscle substitutions. Hope that helps

  18. Kathleen Summers MD PhD said,

    September 11, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Great article! For sure, the terminology on this is confusing – even the experts can’t agree.

    I’ve written about mulabandha’s wonderful effects on health here:

    http://theyogadr.com/mula-bandha/

    In the article, I take a look at the original textual sources of this technique in the Yoga literature – there’s confusion there, too! Some yogis think it is one thing and others describe it as something else!

  19. Bandha Pants | Yoga for Unicorns said,

    March 4, 2013 at 7:49 pm

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  20. yisforyogini.com | friday the 13th + freaky, strange, odd yoga { wtf yoga } said,

    May 5, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    [...] See photo above for Inappropriate Yoga Adjustment. Creeper! Do you suppose he told them this was the best way to engage their Mula Bandha? [...]

  21. yisforyogini.com | primal power { 40-day kundalini meditation } said,

    May 6, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    [...] slowly. At the top of the inhale, contract your Mula Bandha (rectum + sex organs). Pull in your navel center. Hold for a [...]

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