In short: Practice mula bandha to generate bliss, inner power and an expanded state of mind.
And here’s the explanation:
The maps we’re given, in the form of various disciplines, spiritual paths, religions, etc, are the result of a reverse engineering, or a retracing of the steps of those who have made the journey to self realisation before us. I know this seems obvious, but when you think about it, it’s really quite ingenius.
When the mind begins to expand, and the inner and outer realities of the yogin begin to merge, many changes take place in the brain, changes that initiate a new level of functioning in the nervouse system. This has the knock on effect of making the body operate in a way that promotes awakening and self realisation, a type of evolution.
When yogins of the past went through their awakening process they became aware of physical changes happening in their body as their mind began to expand. Understanding that the body and mind are locked into a two way process, in which changes in the mind effect the body and changes in the body effect the mind, many of these yogins categorised the physical manifestations of the enlightenment process which later became a road map of their journey for others to follow. We can see many of these road maps to enlightenment as we read through the ancient texts of the east and west, with a large concentration of them found within the texts of the yogic traditions.
Over the next while I’ll try to dilineate the techniques I’ve found particularly useful while walking my path, which is a synergy of martial and yogic disciplines. These techniques, in yogic terminology, consist of Bandhas (energy seals), Pranayama (breathing methods), and, to a lesser degree, asana (postures). So lets begin with mula bandha, a technique used in both yoga and the martial arts, a technique that acts as a key to unlock the door leading to bliss and inner power.
Mula Bandha – Seal of the base
Mula bandha, on a purely physical level, involves a contraction and drawing up of the perineal muscles (located between the anus and genitals). When first attempting to apply this muscle contraction it can be difficult to isolate the perineum from the other muscles in the area, but with regular practice it becomes a simple task. The idea is to practice it regularly throughout your day.
As with many yogic practices, over time, mula bandha becomes very subtle. In fact, there will come a time when you will be able to simply hold your concentration on the area of the perineum, and this alone will cause the muscles to contract and go into a light spasm. Once we have reached this level, a type of inner bliss begins to arise from within the body. I feel it as a mild orgasmic sensation that radiates outwards, flowing down the legs and up into the abdomen. It’s like a warm, tingling excitement spreading throughout the body.
A simple practice
Here’s a simple practice I like to use. Sitting in a comfortable position. Begin by establishing a slow and steady breathing pattern. Don’t try too hard. The idea is to relax, not get stressed. So just take a deep breath, let out a nice long sigh, and let your breathing settle on its own. Once you’ve done this, bring your attention to the inward and outward flow of the breath. As you breathe in, lightly apply mula bandha, and as you breathe out, release mula bandha. And that’s it. Practice in this way for as long as you like, it will bring you many physical and mental benefits.
Deepening the meditative state
As well as the sense of vitality and energy mula bandha is capable of bringing into our lives, it also has a deeper purpose. When related to the process of awakening and expanding consciousness, mula bandha has a special connection with the medulla, the hind brain. As we begin to use mula bandha on a more regular basis, something interesting begins to happen. We start to gain control over areas of the body science tells us we shouldn’t be able to control. One of the first manifestations of this that I noticed in my earlier years of practice was the calming effect mula bandha had upon the breathing* cycle and heart rate.
*Just as a point of interest, in the healing aspect of the martial arts, it is said that strong sudden pressure applied to the perineum is capable of restarting the lungs after they have gone into respiratory arrest.
Because the mind is so intimately connected with the breathing cycle (we’ll look at this in much more detail when discussing pranayama), the effect of a calm steady breathing cycle is a calm and undisturbed mind, which, in this state, begins to expand.
The martial connection
In the martial arts, we are taught an interesting technique that involves a stronger contraction of the perineum. Basically, as we are executing a physical technique, whether it’s a strike, throw, block, etc., we are taught to breathe out. And while breathing out we are taught to push down and expand the lower abdomen as we apply mula bandha. Although this feels counter intuitive at first, its effects are truly amazing. When we breathe and contract our muscles in this way, there is a kind of knitting together of the muscles in the lower and upper body. This knitting together allows the entire body to move as one unit, all in the same direction. The effects of this are a tremendous increase in physical power. So, as a result, you get these old, frail looking masters of the martial arts (who have perfected this technique) making what look like effortless flicks of the wrist, in defence to an attacker who ends up being flung through the air.
What’s even more interesting than the almost superhuman power these guys are capable of issuing is the remarkable sense of calm and serenity that they radiate. I often wonder if they’ve realised the connection to mula bandha.
In terms of awakening the brain, and subsequently the mind, mula bandha awakens the hind brain. In the next post I’ll look at two closely related practices, those being agni sara (fire cleansing) and uddiyana bandha (flying upwards seal). Both of which deeply affect the emotional centres of the brain.