30 November 2010
29 November 2010
Mulha Bandha anatomically speaking by David Keil © 2010
The bandhas are perhaps the most difficult aspect to grasp in the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. For me personally, I think I know what they are. But then I look back at my little life as an Ashtangi, amazingly at 11 years now, and realize, I thought I knew what they were 10 years ago. Then just 5 years ago I understand them even more differently than I do today. My experience of them has changed over the years and will continue to as I'm guessing your experience of them will.
As an anatomy teacher I do try to bridge the gap between the subtle esoteric aspects of the energetic system and the practice of yoga and put it into western terms of anatomy. In the area of bandhas, I am careful to not too strongly make it into a physical anatomical thing. Instead, I acknowledge that bandhas are both, energetic and physical as is our entire body. We are not just energy, not just emotions, not just spiritual, not just thoughts, not just physical, but all of these at once.
To discuss mulha bandha we talk about the pelvic floor, some people say perineum and others use the term PC muscles which stands for pubo-coccygeal muscles. This web of tissue at the base of our torso container is actually a diaphragm - defined as a ring of tissue. The opening at the base of our bowl shaped pelvis is more or less circular and filled with thin layers of muscles and fascia, creating a trampoline of tissues. Like many other places in the body, the pelvic floor is layered. Technically the perineum lies under the pubo-coccygeal muscles with a layer of fascia between.
Contraction of these muscles is often associated with the mulha bandha. Great debate comes from whether you should be contracting the middle or the back portion of these tissues and far be it from me to jump into this one too deeply, other than to say, Guruji (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois) always talked about controlling your anus. The translations that I've seen of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which has an entire chapter on Bandhas and Mudras, often say the same thing. That is, mulha bandha is a contraction of the anus.
As it turns out the PC muscles are actually part of the levator ani... which means elevator of the anus. Technically this would be more closely related to what we're after. Therefore to this anatomist, it makes more technical sense to use PC. But that's just me, in the end, what matters is that you have the experience of what is created, not the technical details.
If the bandha is an energetic component of who we are, what part does the actual muscle have to do with the bandha anyway? Personally I describe the pelvic floor and contraction of it as the pathway toward mulha bandha. In other words, it's the physical contraction that does two things. First, it creates a conscious mental relationship with mulha bandha and it seems that prana follows thoughts, so if you're thinking of a part of your body, you are in essence sending energy there. Second, is the contraction of the PC muscles which stimulates the energetic center. Hence, creating the mulha bandha.
There are of course physical changes that occur when performing a contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. They often fit into the descriptions given of the core muscles. There are debates about what the core muscles are, which ones should be included etc... but the pelvic floor is almost always part of that conversation. Remember that the pelvic floor muscles are at the base of the spine filling the circular like hole at the bottom of our pelvic bowl. The back portion of the bowl is created by the sacrum which links to either side of the pelvis at what we call the SI (sacroiliac) joint. Just off to either side of the sacrum, in essence filling in the sides toward the back or the bowl are the piriformis muscles.
Think of the spine rising up out of the back of the pelvic bowl, towering above its foundation at the pelvis. Almost like balancing a broom upside down in the palm of your hand. Certainly there are other muscles that help stabilize this column as it rises, but at its base, its foundation, are the PC muscles. To see the effect of these muscles in helping balance the spine, imagine for a moment that you tightened your PC muscles so much that it started to make your coccyx touch your pubic bone (not possible by the way). If the coccyx, and therefore sacrum are moving toward the pubic bone it means that there is movement at the SI joint and the spine is falling backwards above the SI joint.
If the muscles let go completely then the opposite would happen. No tension to hold the sacrum in place and the towering column of the spine would start to fall forward and the coccyx would be moving away from the pubis. The point is that the PC muscles help to create stability of the pelvic bowl and the spine that rises from it. Of course, no muscle, or in this case group of muscles, lives in a vacuum. There are other muscles (and ligaments) that help maintain the integrity of the pelvic bowl and the stability of the spine, it's just that these muscles are at the foundation of it. Therefore physically these muscles are about stability and support of pelvis and spine, and perhaps, root the spine, or are at the root of the spine. Mulha = Root.
There is another effect that happens when contracting these muscles. You should be able to feel this yourself quite easily especially on a strong contraction of the PC muscles. This effect is that you should also find that lowest part of your abdomen also changes in tension. You may want to close your eyes for a moment and do a few contraction of these muscles to see what other parts around the area contract. People may experience it slightly differently. Some may even feel a contraction in their lower back as well between the top of the pelvis and ribs which would most likely be a result of the transverse abdominus (the deepest of the oblique muscles) as it connects to the vertebrae in the lumbar.
There is still one more direction to go with this interlinking of subtle and gross aspects of mulha bandha and the pelvic floor. What better force to interlink them with than breath. You might say that breath is the ultimate link between subtle and gross. It's most subtle aspect as Prana or life force animates our physical bodies. This feeds us both energetically and then if we take just the smallest of steps toward gross, prana presents itself in the form of oxygen molecules which nourish and sustain all of our more gross tissues, be they nervous, muscular, or skeletal. Everything in the body relies upon it.
When the diaphragm contracts it compresses the abdominal contents and puts a downward pressure on the pelvic floor and if unrestricted, also pushes the abdomen out. You can give it a go yourself by closing your eyes and take a big breath or two. You should feel the further you go to the edges of your inhalation that there is more and more abdomen moving and pressure into the pelvic floor.
The diaphragm above is putting pressure on the diaphragm below (PC). The energetic purpose of mulha bandha is to prevent the escape of energy, specifically prana vayu or downward flowing energy. By contracting the pelvic floor muscles you prevent the downward movement of these muscles when breathing. You are literally stopping a downward physical force. The gross side of the subtle purpose of mulha bandha.
I'd love to follow this thread and tell you all about the muscle that is most likely associated with uddhiyana bandha and the effects on breathing there but it would be off topic. You'll just have to demand another guest post from this yogi bent on anatomy.
28 November 2010
27 November 2010
26 November 2010
My food for the day has magically appeared from Raw Fairies - it looks delicious, and I have already had my berry smoothie....here is todays menu
Berry Smoothie with Goji Berries, Ginger and Purple Corn
(blueberries, rasperries, cherries, blackberries, banana, goji berries, fresh ginger, purple corn powder)
•Green Smoothie with Chlorella and Spirulina
(kiwi, banana, spinach, chlorella and spirulina)
•Mock Tuna Salad with Cashew Mayo
(sunflower seeds, walnuts, celery, carrot, black olives,red pepper, red onion, garlic, tomato, cashews, nutritional yeast, salt, mustard powder)
•Beetroot and Carrot Cakes with Red Pepper Dill Sauce
(walnuts, sunflower seeds, carrot, beetroot, red onion, garlic, red pepper, cashews, fresh dill, cumin, harrissa, Himalayan pink salt)
•Oriental Mushroom, Wakame, Red Cabbage and Mung Bean Sprout Salad with Brown Rice Vinegar Dressing
(oriental mushroom: shiitake, oyster; red cabbage, wakame, broccoli, carrot, mung bean sprouts, brown rice vinegar, nama shoyu, sesame oil, agave syrup, chilli, ginger, garlic, salad leaves)
Ingredients (serves 4-6 people)
- 500g minced beef or 500g mushrooms, finely chopped like mince
- A few splashes of olive oil
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 2 onions and/or leeks, finely diced
- 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 large carrots, finely diced
- 2 sticks of celery, finely diced (optional, but good)
- A large glass of red wine
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 2 tins of tomatoes
- A few bay leaves (if you like)
- A few sprigs of rosemary and/or thyme, leaves finely chopped
- Place a large frying pan or pot over medium heat. Add a glug of oil and brown the meat and/or mushrooms until they're nicely coloured up. Toss in a bit of salt and pepper as you cook.
- Add all the diced veggies (onions/leek, carrots, garlic and celery or any other veg, if using). Fry them with the meat and mushrooms until they're glossy and softened.
- Give the mix a nice drink of wine and let it guzzle it up until it's slurped up about half. Stir in the tomato puree. Mix well. Add the tinned tomatoes. Fold them through. Add the bay leaf and let the whole thing bubble away happily while you set the table and get the water on for the pasta.
- After a 15-30 minute simmer, the sauce should be ready. Add the fresh herbs and fold the pasta through. Plate up with a handful of leafy greens and/or cheese, a drizzle of olive oil... Grubs up. Get your fork.
- Cooked spaghetti noodles
- A good handful of fresh rocket or other leafy greens
- A hunk of Parmesan cheese to grate (optional)
Recipe courtesy of Abel & Cole
25 November 2010
For more information, visit the Raw Fairies website
24 November 2010
Does she look like a violent protester? I think not!
Check out the police behind her though. The media has a lot to answer for in the way they portray these demonstrations.
23 November 2010
Crow Pose on Sunder Peak, Mount Everest, Nepal
Eric Lon, French masseur and physiotherapist - along with his Nepali spiritual son, Janga - went to the Everest base camp in order to prepare the first Everest - yoga - massage - trek in April 2011. The trek will take them to Gorak Shep, with an altitude of 5,180 metres. Will this become the highest yoga camp in the world?
To view Eric's photos, visit: Eric Lon's Flickr photostream
22 November 2010
About the seminar
This seminar will cover the following topics:
- What is Mindful Eating?
- Why we eat what we eat?
- Conscious Eating – Listening to your body
- Ways to eat mindfully : The 20 minute rule
- Know yourself – identifying trigger foods
- Giving appreciation + gratitude
The price of this seminar is £15 per person. To register, please call evolve reception on 0207 581 4090 or visit www.evolvewellnesscentre.com
Hala El-Shafie is Health Editor and Director of Nutrition Rocks and is an expert nutritionist and state registered dietician with more than 10 years experience in this field. She has a unique and exceptional understanding of the emotional and psychological issues often associated with food and has created a successful holistic client-centred approach that has brought her an extensive and loyal following, including a number of high-profile and celebrity clients.
Hala is also a health writer and consultant. She writes a nutrition column for an international medical journal and is regularly asked to contribute to some of the UK’s leading lifestyle publications. Her work has been featured in Grazia, Red and YOU Magazine and she has also been in The Times and The Daily Mail. Her dynamic approach and professional ethos has led to media recognition and, most recently, she was enlisted as resident Nutritionist on ITV1's flagship show This Morning. Hala is a member of the Health Care Professional Council (HPC), British Dietetic Association. For more information, visit www.nutrition-rocks.co.uk.
Evolve is a vibrant new wellness centre in the heart of South Kensington. It offers yoga and pilates classes, holistic treatments, sustainable-living seminars and a variety of courses and workshops on the body, mind and spirit.
Evolve Wellness Centre
10 Kendrick Mews
London SW7 3HG
Tel: 020 7581 4090
21 November 2010
20 November 2010
19 November 2010
Ingredients (serves 4 people):
- 10 plums, halved and stoned
- 2cm cube of ginger, peeled and grated
- 200g soft, dark brown sugar
- 2 small cinnamon sticks, or 1 large stick broken in half
- 2 star anise
- Juice of 1 lime
- Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5.
- Put the plums in a bowl with the ginger, sugar and lime juice.
- Mix together to coat the plums, then place cut-side up in an ovenproof dish where the plums can lie in a single layer.
- Arrange cinnamon and star anise in dish, around the plums.
- Pour 75ml cold water around the fruit and bake for 30-40 minutes (cooking time depends on how ripe the fruit is. The harder the plums, the longer you will need to cook them for).
- Toward the end of cooking, spoon syrup mix over the plums to baste them.
- Remove from oven, allow to stand for 10 minutes.
- Spoon into wine glasses and serve warm or at room temperature (or cold, if you like), with a dollop of soya cream (or vegan ice cream) and plenty of juices from the pan.
- You can also finish the cream garnished plums with a handful of toasted almond flakes and a pinch of freshly ground cinnamon.
Recipe courtesy of Abel and Cole Organic Food Boxes: www.abelandcole.co.uk
18 November 2010
17 November 2010
16 November 2010
15 November 2010
14 November 2010
13 November 2010
12 November 2010
- 225 g (1/2 lb) potatoes
- 2 medium leeks
- 250 ml single cream
- 2 medium eggs
- One large handful of grated cheese and/or breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Peel and slice the potatoes.
- Clean the leeks (by slicing then lengthways and fan them out under running water) and slice them.
- Layer the potatoes and leeks in a greased baking dish, sprinkling a little salt and pepper over each layer.
- In a separate bowl, mix the cream and eggs together.
- Pour the mixture over the potatoes and leeks.
- Sprinkle some cheese and/or breadcrumbs on top.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and the top is browned.
Recipe courtesy of Abel and Cole Organic Food Boxes: www.abelandcole.co.uk
11 November 2010
10 November 2010
with Liz Lark in Surrey
Friday, 19th November 2010
Autumnal Cleansing Vinyasas, Warrior Vinyasas & Slow Flow' to warm the body/mind for Winter.
Liz’s classes are always fun and dynamic. She has many years of teaching experience and her performing arts and ashtanga yoga background go hand-in-hand. Liz's passion for yoga developed in 1990 and she later studied to become a teacher with the British Wheel of Yoga (1992), and exploring Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (a dynamic, dance-like style), which took her to India and Crete during the 1990's. A Board Member for The Life Centre's Teachers Training Course, Liz is involved in training safe, competent, creative yoga teachers committed to maintaining a high calibre of yoga teaching in the UK and beyond.
Liz Lark is holding a number of workshop and retreats in the UK. For more information, visit: www.lizlark.com
09 November 2010
08 November 2010
Purple Valley yoga retreat is a beautiful peaceful retreat set off the beaten track in Assagao, Northern Goa, where you can practice yoga with some of the world’s most highly respected Ashtanga yoga teachers. It is situated close enough to be able to venture into other parts of Goa, but feels like a cocoon if you wish to stay put on the retreat.
The beautiful shala (studio) is very peaceful and is situated at the far end of the retreat. The amazing birdsong you hear while practising yoga is just wonderful.
The accommodation is within two main houses or in small cottages located in the gardens. You can share rooms or pay a nominal fee to have your own room, if there is space available. I personally choose to take my own room, as I share my life with a family on a daily basis and Purple Valley is a bit of “time out” for me.
It is a very safe environment for women travelling on their own in India. You can sip post-yoga-practice fruit juices beside the pool or enjoy an ayervirdic massage or treatment on-site. The food is delicious and vegetarian; with copious amounts of fresh fruit available.
The teachers, as already mentioned, come from all around the globe; as do the students. Teachers in the forthcoming season include: David Swenson, Kino MacGregor, John Scott, Phillipa Asher, Dena Kingsberg, Petri Raisanen; to name but a few. My own favourite yoga teacher Nancy Gilgoff will not be in Goa this year, but will hopefully return next season.
I have visited other retreats around the world but Purple Valley has what I’m looking for: fantastic yoga teachers, great food, comfortable accommodation, sunshine... all set in the beautiful country that is India.
For a full list of teachers and prices: www.yogagoa.com
For reviews: www.yogagoa.com/reviews/
07 November 2010
06 November 2010
05 November 2010
04 November 2010
03 November 2010
Nancy was one of the first Western women to practice Ashtanga yoga with Sri Pattabhi Jois in India back in the 70s. She arrived at his shala with a lot of physical pain and, with the help of Pattabhi Jois, she was able to begin her wonderful Ashtanga yoga journey, which has now continued for more than 30 years. She was able to work through her physical pain using this physical form of yoga.
Nancy has also studied with the "silent sadhu", Baba Hari Dass, and will sometimes refer to his teachings. She says that what she learnt from him has also helped her as a teacher.
I missed the Friday evening led class, but I could tell immediately when I joined the Saturday intermediate class that there had been a few “add ons” in the Friday night practice. Nancy is very traditional in her teaching and made it very clear that some of the “add ons” were not Ashtanga and had no place in her class; all said in her usual calm caring way.
Having missed the first session I went straight into intermediate (2nd series). This brought up a lot of fear for me. In the previous few days, I had had some really bad news; that an old friend of mine had taken his own life and I had been grief stricken. When practising the primary series, in those few days prior to the workshop, I cried throughout the seated postures. My fear of back bending (heart opening) was that I might be overwhelmed, this thankfully was not the case.
Nancy is a very intuitive hands-on yoga teacher. Like her own teacher Patthabi Jois, she is able to feel what a student needs in their yoga practice and is able to assist them in a kind and compassionate way. I trust her adjustments and her experience; to know when to back off or to move forward in the yoga practice.
I had mentioned to Nancy when I arrived at the workshop that I had had a” difficult week” this was enough information for her to let me be. I worked through the back bending sequence and my personal grief in that workshop, allowing myself to stop where appropriate for me.
In Urdhva Dhanurasana I felt a a slight pain in my left upper chest (pectoral muscle) and I thought perhaps I had a minor injury, but it disappeared as quickly as it arrived. I think it was my body moving through and letting go of some of the grief.
I enjoy Nancy’s off-the-mat time as much as the practice. She has a lot of wisdom and is a householder yogi. She has a grown up daughter and has lived life, whilst continuing her dedication to her own practice and teaching; something I aspire to in my own life.
02 November 2010
01 November 2010
Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.
I have never worn fur and never will. This is a personal choice and I don’t feel the need to attack those who have different opinions to mine. I do, however, have an opinion, should anyone wish to ask me; but I’m not about to roam the streets of London, butt-naked, in order to prove my point.
I choose to lead by example. This has filtered through to my grown up children and they are able to make conscious choices, at to whether they wear fur or not. They too choose not to. My daughter is about to embark on a career in fashion and textiles, where hopefully she will be able to bring about some change; however small it might be.
Taking the moral high road, as this man did, is not for me. There is far too much traffic on it already. As Leo Tolstoy said “man always thinks about changing the world, but never himself”.
Kapotasana Adjustment from the Ashtanga yoga intermediate series. This picture was taken at the Nancy Gilgoff workshop I attended recently. I love to see adjustments being made in yoga poses.