There are lots of elusive metaphors in yoga class. I still have no idea what breathe into your left side means, or what melting my heart really is, or even what a request to make my thighs smile has anything to do with my yoga practice. But there was one elusive request that really puzzled me because contrary to these other metaphors, it came up often and seemed to be a common jargon yoga teachers would use: "Find your Mula Bandha!" "Mula whaaaaaat?" I thought every time this bandha was mentioned... But, since none of the students inquired about it, and none of the teachers explained its meaning, I pretended like I too knew what it was, even when I had not a clue what it really meant. In fact, the closest I ever came to knowing what was mula bandha, was by imagining an Indian version of finding waldo... Finding Mula Bandha...
After many years of being ignorant about my mula bandha (or any of my bandhas), I attended a workshop by Kino Mcgregor that would change my yoga practice forever. For those of you who live under a stone and don't know who Kino is, she is the yoga goddess who was the youngest certified Ashtanga teacher by Guruji himself. Kino taught an Ashtanga weekend here at Moksha Chicago. During that weekend I had the priviledge of taking two classes with her: One was a workshop on Bakasana, and the other was a guided Ashtanga yoga practice. In the first workshop, 5 minutes into the class, Kino told us a funny little story about how yoginis will use capri pants in 100 degree weather because they rely on friction to hold their Bakasanas. Right then and there, I thought that Kino had some creepy super powers... Awkwardly, I was wearing capri pants, it was the middle of Summer, and my wardrobe choice was made under consideration of friction helping me hold Bakasana... Creeppy... Anyhow, the little tidbit that would come to change my practice was that the capri pant trick I had pulled would become obsolete, if we squeezed our mula bandhas, Kino said.
What in the world was a mula bandha after all???? Obviously it was not the Indian version of waldo, if I had to squeeze it to hold a pose. Maybe it was a muscle in my arm or in my core... But it turned out to be neither. Kino clarified that squeezing your mula bandha meant squeezing your anus, your pelvic floor! After 5 years of yoga practice, I had finally understood what mula bandha was... I tried it out for the first time, and it worked like a charm! I held my first bakasana since having a c-section 6 weeks ago!!! I had been dreading this workshopin the weeks prior to it as I have had a really hard time using my core in my practice since having the baby. But, guess what? Mula bandha unlocked the kind of core strength I did not know I had. But how can your anus have anything to do with holding an arm balance? Turns out it has everything to do with it.
When we squeeze our anus, as Kino put it, the perineal floor is lifted and it stimulates our core abdominal muscles to also lift and hold, it helps our body align, and our chest and back are able to lengthen. It has a butterfly effect of sorts impacting our whole body during class. By squeezing my mula bandha I was able to get into bakasana, titibasana, kukkutasana.... All poses that I thought my arms were too weak to perform, but guess what? I was not too weak, I wasn't unleashing the power of my anus!
Yoga teaches me everyday that things I don't expect to be interrelated, in fact, are very much so. It teaches me that everything affects everything else in my body. For example, who knew that stretching your butt muscles (your piriformis), makes all the difference to do the splits? Or that squeezing your anus would help you hold an arm balance? I certainly had no idea. So yoga has made me notice these little unexpected connections in my body, and in that I am also learning to look outwards into my life and find the same type of unexpected connections. What about you? What has your yoga practice taught you?