The theme for my face to face classes in November is balance and stillness. So we are exploring the notion of balance in body and mind. Stillness is for me an essential part of balance and can be found at the point at which we find equilabrium – physical or mental balance. The route to this place and state is through yoga asana and pranayama., reflection and relaxation. If you know me I also add in, curiousity and fun.
Because if you are curious you will discover amazing new things about yourself and the practice, and if you have fun, you will relax and open up the sphere of exploration for your curious self too. Being kind to yourself is an ever present suggestion. If you can be kind and gentle to yourself you will find it easier to be curious and have fun.
There is an inner set of practices that we can explore as part of this journey too. Did you know that in yoga there is the idea of of locks and seals? Locks enable us to find a greater sense of stillness and balance if applied well. The locks are called Bandhas. There are four principle bandhas. Three primary ones, and one in which all three are applied. They are are a method in which the physical body is locked into place, and as such the energy we create through our practice of asana and pranayama is also contained and locked into place.
The three principle locks are known as Mula bandha, Uddiyana bandha and Jalandara bandha. Maha bhanda is the combination of all three and is also known as the great seal. This is because it is purported to be very powerful.
- Mula bandha: the Root lock, is practiced by drawing in the pelvic floor muscles
- Uddiyana bandha: the Abdominal lock, draws the upper abdomen upwards, towards the chest cavity.
- Jalandara bandha: the Throat lock, is done, as the name implies, with the throat.
- Maha bandha: the combination of the above three locks, done in unison, along with breath retention
This month as part of our practice we will be exploring these in a gentle way.
A good start is to practice pelvic floor exercises for mula bandha. I recommned kegel exercises for men and women. They are superb for strengthening your pelvic floor, core and associated musculature. They are great for urinary and sexual functioning too. Infact the benefits of kegels are so great that I would always include them as part of your routine anyway.
A good start for preparing for uddiyana bandha is to introduce the abdominal bracing and hollowing exercises to your practice or routine. Tim Ferris has popularised the hollowing exercise which he has called the cat vomit move. You can experience this in full by exploring the cat /cow vinyasa and vacuum sealing your drawn in abs as you breath out in the cat (hump back bridge) part of the movement. You can experience abdominal bracing in the plank pose as one example.
For jalandaara bandha the preparation is to faciliate movement in the neck. Yes/Nos and clock circle gazing as well as showing off your double chin are nice preparations for this.
These are all parts of our body that seldom receive such movement treats and the result is that we find we become limited or experience problems in these areas. The beauty of these movement treats is that with a little time spent on them we can begin to experience benefits – particularly when it comes to our pelvic floor. I am convinced Kegel was a yogi.