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Yoga's Powerful secret


Kathleen Summers MD PhD

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Mulabandha Yogas Powerful Secret
Copyright 2012 by Kathleen Summers MD PhD

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever
without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodies in
critical articles and reviews.
This book is provided for informational purposes only. Transmission of the information within
this book does not constitute a physician-patient relationship, and it is not intended to serve as
a substitute for professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare
practitioner. Always seek their advice regarding your medical questions and concerns. Never
delay seeking personal medical advice from your physician, or disregard it, because of
something you have read in this book. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability
arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained herein.
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This work is dedicated to all who desire freedom,
personal growth, and relief from suffering. May
you be happy and healthy through the Grace of
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Table of Contents

Mulabandha: Yogas Powerful Secret ................................................................................... 6
What is Mulabandha? .............................................................................................................. 7
What Can Mulabandha Do for You? ..................................................................................... 8
The Ancient Texts What Do They Say? .............................................................................. 9
Apana and Prana .................................................................................................................... 10
Subdivisions of Prana Within the Being ..................................................................... 11
Other Energetic Effects of Mulabandha .............................................................................. 12
Anatomy of Mulabandha ...................................................................................................... 13
A Look at the Controversy ................................................................................................... 18
Benefits of Mulabandha According to the Yoga Tradition .............................................. 20
A Scientifically Proven Technique ....................................................................................... 21
Performance of Kegel Exercises ................................................................................... 22
A Comparison: Mulabandha and Kegels .......................................................................... 24
Benefits of Pelvic Floor Contractions According to Medical Science ............................. 25
How to Perform Mulabandha .............................................................................................. 26
Stage 1 .............................................................................................................................. 27
Stage 2 .............................................................................................................................. 28
Stage 3 .............................................................................................................................. 32
Recommendations for Practice ............................................................................................ 33
Glossary ................................................................................................................................... 34
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Mulabandha: Yogas Powerful Secret
Discover the secrets of a traditional gem from the ancient sages, an advanced
Yoga technique called mulabandha. It's a remarkable practice that is essential for
optimal physical health and personal evolution, and its an important component
of every serious Yoga practitioner's toolbox.

Traditionally, mulabandha was taught to advanced students who had mastered
the yamas and niyamas, asanas, pranayama, and many mudras. It was taught in
secret by a guru only after an aspiring yogi had worked with him for years. The
student had to convince the master that he was ready for the next stage of
personal and spiritual growth.

This book will help you to understand just what exactly mulabandha is and how
to perform it. You'll learn about the anatomical structures involved on the
physical plane and how to isolate the intrinsic muscles. Esoteric energy benefits
are considered and the benefits according to the Yoga tradition are revealed.
We'll even take a look at the controversies surrounding the nature and
performance of the technique.

In addition, we'll explore mulabandha from a modern medical perspective. You'll
learn the scientific evidence in support of the practice, and you'll find a list of
benefits from the medical viewpoint of the 21
century. Many disorders and
conditions can be helped with this simple and natural technique. It's a gift from
the gurus of old, and it's one that has the power to bring you great prosperity.

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What is Mulabandha?
The yogic practice of mulabandha in its widest interpretation essentially involves
contracting the muscles at the base of the torso within the pelvis. These muscles,
collectively known as the pelvic floor, are important components of the body's
core structure.

To get to the full meaning and a description of this classic technique, let's take a
look at the name. Mula means "root." In Yoga, it is used in reference to
muladhara lotus, the chakra at the base of the torso. Since it is the lotus, or
chakra, most near the earth, it is the root of the esoteric energy body.

The word bandha means to bind or to lock. In classic Yoga, there are three
basic bandhas that are physical movements that "lock" various muscles into
place. In the context of mulabandha, it refers to the contraction of the muscles
surrounding muladhara lotus.

Mulabandha, then, is a technique involving contractions of the muscles at the
base of the torso. According to yogic theory, pelvic floor contractions hold energy
within the pelvis and prevent its dissipation.

Yet bandha can also mean "to redirect. In this light, the more esoteric
interpretation of the practice becomes clear. As you lock the muscles at the
base of the torso, you unlock energy in the pranic body, redirecting the flow
upwards and reversing the natural tendency of pranic energy within the pelvis to
flow downwards. This secret aspect of the practice takes the conserved prana and
channels it upwards towards higher energy centers to increase awareness and
improve health.

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What Can Mulabandha Do for You?
The benefits of practicing mulabandha are many, both from a grounded physical
health perspective and from a more spiritual or esoteric viewpoint.

Modern research has shown that regular repetitive contractions of the muscles of
the pelvic floor can prevent the "leaky" bladder which commonly affects people
as they age. Nobody wants to go back to wearing diapers, the unfortunate result
of a weak pelvic floor. If you already suffer from urinary incontinence, an
embarrassing and inconvenient problem, mulabandha can help you to regain

Sadly, a number of people of both sexes suffer from chronic and frequently
inexplicable pain in the pelvic region. Research suggests that mulabandha can
relieve the discomfort of chronic prostatitis in men. It also helps to provide relief
from chronic pain in the vaginal and vulvar areas in women.

Mulabandha can spice up your sex life, no matter what your age or your gender.
According to reports published in respected medical journals, pelvic floor
exercises can make the female orgasm easier to achieve and make it stronger
when it occurs. For men who have difficulty getting an erection or maintaining it
for sexual intercourse, mulabandha can help. There's even data indicating that
workouts of the pelvic floor can treat premature ejaculation, particularly when it
occurs along with erectile dysfunction.

Tantric yogis like Swami Buddhananda of the Bihar School of Yoga in northern
India claim that mulabandha has profound effects on a practitioner's spiritual
growth and evolution. By affecting the esoteric energy layer of the human form,
the technique works in holistic fashion to help realign the physical, pranic, and
mental bodies for a balanced whole being with optimal health.
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The Ancient Texts What Do They Say?
Two of the oldest and most celebrated root texts of Hatha Yoga, writings that are
essentially teaching manuals for practice, honor mulabandha as an impressive
and valuable technique. These classic texts, the Siva Samhita and the Hatha Yoga
Pradipika, provide instructions.

Dr. James Mallinson, an Oxford-trained Sanskritist and ethnographer, dates the
composition of the Siva Samhita to somewhere between 1300 and 1500 C.E. An
earlier work, the Vivekamartanda of the 13
century, mentions mulabandha by
name, and other early texts (like the Amrtasiddhi, the Dattatreyayogasastra, and
the Matsyendra Samhita) prescribe essentially the same practice without calling it

"Press the anus tightly with the heel. Forcefully pull the apana and gradually
raise it. This makes mulabandha. It destroys decrepitude and death, and is
sure to unite apana and prana." Siva Samhita 4:64-65

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, circa 1450 C.E., is more explicit in its description:

"Press the perineum with the heel. Contract the anus. Draw the apana
upwards. This is called mulabandha. One makes the apana, which goes
downward, go upward by contracting forcefully. Yogis call that
mulabandha. Press the anus with the heel. Compress the breath forcefully
again and again so that it goes upwards. Prana and apana, and nada and
bindu, give success in Yoga after they are united by mulabandha. Here there
is no doubt." Hatha Yoga Pradipika 3:61-64

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Apana and Prana
Both of the Siva Samhita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika mention apana and prana,
the energies within a human form that are controlled with mulabandha. Apana is
generally translated as the "out-breath" while prana can be understood as the

To understand these terms better, let's look to the ancient Upanishads. The Maitri
Upanishad was one of the first Upanishads written. As a member of the primary
series of original 13 documents, it dates to before the turn of the Common Era. In
it, apana is also described as "that which passes down" while prana is "that which
passes up."

"He made himself like the wind and sought to enter within. As one, he was
unable. So he divided himself fivefold he who is spoken of as the Prana
breath, the Apana breath, the Samana breath, the Udana breath, and the
Vyana breath." Maitri Upanishad, Second Prapathaka:6

"He" is the Creative Spirit, the Holy Spirit that flows through each of us. When He
breathed life into the physical body, the vitalizing energy became prana, the word
here used in a general sense. Prana is an all-encompassing word that denotes
energy on a subtle level. On the physical plane it is analogous to breath, but it is
much more on a deeper plane. It is the very energy that breathes life.

This inclusive term, "prana," is then divided into subdivisions within the human
being, one of which is also called "prana."

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Subdivisions of Prana Within the Being

1. Prana that which passes up, or the in-breath, or ascending vital energy,
located primarily between the navel and the heart

2. Apana that which passes down, or the out-breath, or descending vital
energy, located near the organs of excretion and generation

3. Samana that which conducts into Apana the coarsest element of food
and distributes subtle energy, or the equalizing breath, located in the
abdominal region

4. Udana that which 'belches forth and swallows down what has been drunk
and eaten' and speech

5. Vyana that which supports Prana and Apana, or the diffused breath
moving through energy channels throughout the body

According to Yoga tradition, we practice mulabandha to bring balance to the out-
breath and the in-breath. It unites that which passes down with that which passes
up. To do so enhances the functioning of the body and its overall health. It brings
the mind back to stillness and peace by harmonizing the energies of the human
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Other Energetic Effects of Mulabandha
The Siva Samhita says that mulabandha awakens muladhara lotus and the
kundalini energy that resides within it. Additionally, in the tantras it is written that
the 72,000 nadis (energy channels) originate in a place just above muladhara
known as medhra. Given their proximity, it is believed
that mulabandha stimulates all 72,000 nadis at their source, an effect which
makes it very powerful.

Mulabandha is also reputed to resolve one of the three major energy blocks, or
granthis. Yoga teachings describe granthis, or psychic knots, as blockages of
awareness manifesting as tensions, anxieties, and unresolved conflicts. Brahma
granthi, located near muladhara lotus, is said to be pierced and then untied by an
aspirants practice of this technique.

Emotions and prior traumatic experiences can be preserved within a mind-body
meld. Our thought patterns and unconscious tendencies place them in a holding
pattern as a protective mechanism, one that gets distorted beyond the acute
phase of an injury resulting in chronic muscle activity patterns. This is best
understood with acute back pain that turns into chronic pain, the body turning
short-term compensations into long-standing imbalances of contraction.
Mulabandha may help to release such traumas expressed as chronic muscular
patterns within the pelvis. A practitioner can experience old memories, feelings,
and experiences that bubble to the surface of consciousness and burst, releasing
them from their structural binding and freeing the practitioner from their
depressive effects.

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Anatomy of Mulabandha
When it comes to the physical anatomy of the pelvic region, academic books and
reports can be confusing. Occasionally authors use different names when
referring to the same muscles. Sometimes reports contradict each other in their
descriptions. The anatomy of the pelvic musculature is confusing on its own. Its
an area thats not readily seen or palpated, and its not easy to picture in its 3-D
form, which is necessary to fully understand its functions.

To begin with a mental exercise that helps to simplify a key concept, think of a
trampoline, one thats stretched between points along its circumference. That
trampoline is a layer of muscle that should be strong and taut. On it rest the
uterus, urinary bladder, and rectum. You can visualize the uterus and bladder as
two sacks and the rectum as a tube.

Now, rather than picturing those organs simply resting on the trampoline, see
that when you look underneath the taut structure, it appears that the organs are
actually going through it so that their lowest portions hang below. They are
embedded within the trampoline. The tube from the bladder, the urethra, pierces
it to come out the lower side. The tube from the uterus, the vagina, also pierces it
to hang underneath. And so it is with the rectum, which pierces the trampoline-
like muscle to expel its contents through the anus.

The muscles that make up the trampoline are collectively called the pelvic floor,
or the pelvic diaphragm. They hold everything inside at least thats what theyre
designed to do. When they get weak and thin, all of those pelvic organs can slide
right on through. The "holes" through which they pierce the pelvic floor widen as
its muscles become lax and disintegrate. The organs "prolapse," or partially fall
through the weakened muscular layer. Its as if the trampoline got saggy, thread-
bare and worn out. (Its more common than you think. Some experts believe that
up to one in eight women will experience some degree of uterine prolapse.)

Below is a side view of the pelvis. Its as if you cut the body straight up from
between the legs and then looked at the opened half in cross-section. You can
see that the pelvic floor isnt exactly flat like a typical trampoline. Its edges follow
the contours of the bony pelvis.
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Figure 1: Simple Cross Section of the Pelvis

That trampoline, the pelvic floor, is composed of two main muscle groups, the
levator ani and the more posterior coccygeus. The levator ani group is made of
two muscles, the pubococcygeus and the ileococcygeus. The former is the middle
of the trampoline, and the latter is found along the outer edges.

Now the anatomy gets more fun. Men and women are a bit different here, as you
are well aware. Lets talk first about women.


The pubococcygeus is itself divided into portions, reflecting where various parts
of it attach within the pelvis. Theres a urethral portion that forms around the
urethra, known as the pubourethralis. Thats the part of the pubococcygeus that
allows you to stop the urine stream. Theres a vaginal portion that attaches to the
vaginal walls, the pubovaginalis. Another portion, the puboanalis, also attaches to
the vaginal wall. The latter two are the parts you feel clamp down on a finger
placed in the vagina. Theres also a puborectalis portion that passes around the
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rectum to form a sling. And finally, there are other portions more posterior that
attach to the coccyx, or tailbone.

Below the levator ani lies another thin layer of muscles. They are more
superficial, meaning that they are closer to the skin of the genital region. Theres
controversy over whether a part of this layer is one solid sheet or composed of
three separate muscles, the compressor urethra, sphincter urethra, and urethra-
vaginalis. In addition, the bulbospongiosus, ischiocavernosus, and superficial
transverse perinea muscles are part of this more superficial layer below the
levator ani. This layer can have an almost sphincter-like effect on the vaginal
opening, and it helps to prevent urine leakage from the bladder.

The last structure to discuss is the perineal body, an important part of the pelvic
floor. This fibromuscular component is shaped like a pyramid with its base sitting
between the vagina and the rectum and its tip pointing up towards the head.
Some parts of the muscles of the pelvic floor merge and end in this structure. The
rectum attaches to it, as does the anal sphincter. It also contains smooth muscle,
elastic fibers, and nerve endings. Extreme weakness of the perineal body results
in prolapse of the rectum, or rectocele.

Now lets briefly talk about the vagina. There are no vaginal muscles under
voluntary control, as the muscles within the walls of the vagina proper are
smooth muscles. When a woman says shes contracting her vagina, what shes
really doing is primarily contracting the striated levator ani muscles that
surround, attach to, and support the thin vaginal wall a little less than midway to
the uterus. Theres also some conscious control of the more superficial layer of
muscles that act a bit like a vaginal sphincter just at the introitus.

For more than you could ever want to know about the anatomy of the vagina,
including some detailed photos, click here. For more detail about the female
pelvic floor in general, click here.

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Figure 2: Cross section of the pelvis showing the superficial muscle layer, the anal
sphincter, and the perineal body.


The male anatomy is essentially the same. The difference is that there are only
two openings through the pelvic floor, and there is no pubovaginalis portion of
the pubococcygeus muscle. Within the penis, the urethra serves as a tube for
both urine and sexual fluids. Because there is one less opening through the
muscle layer, and as that opening doesnt split far and wide to release a baby, it
tends to be more stable in men.

That doesnt mean there wont be pathology. Like women, men can suffer from
urinary incontinence as they age, especially if theyve had prostate problems.
Pelvic floor exercises aid treatment of incontinence. Keeping the pelvic floor
muscles strong is great prevention.

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For men with erectile dysfunction and some with premature ejaculation,
particularly those with concomitant erectile dysfunction, pelvic floor exercises are
great therapy. Chronic prostatitis, a painful and frustrating condition, can be
relieved by a work-out of the pelvic floor in combination with Yoga asanas that
stretch muscles in the pelvic area.

Contractions of the more superficial layer of pelvic muscles compress the large
vein on the dorsal surface preventing the outflow of blood from an engorged
penis, thereby enlarging and facilitating maintenance of an erection. This layer is
also involved in pumping ejaculate, so mastery of its movement aids in semen
retention for tantric practitioners who abstain from ejaculation during sexual

The Pudendal Nerve

In both sexes, the levator ani muscles are innervated by the third and forth nerve
roots emanating from the sacrum. They become the pudendal nerve, piercing the
levator ani on its cranial surface.

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A Look at the Controversy
In his book, Moola Bandha: The Master Key, Swami Buddhananda refers to
unspecified tantric textual sources when stating that during the performance of
mulabandha, there is no movement of the anus. Also, for men, the penis should
not move. Essentially that means a practitioner needs to isolate the
pubococcygeus for contraction without contracting the more superficial layer of
muscles or the anal sphincter. It also means that the puborectalis portion of the
pubococcygeus, the anal sling, should not be activated. An advanced practitioner
can isolate and contract only the puboanalis (and pubovaginalis in women)
without activating the pubourethralis or puborectalis.

Regarding the involvement of these various muscles, there is some debate. The
revered classic text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, clearly states that the anus should
be forcefully contracted during the performance of mulabandha. In other words,
the anal sphincter in the superficial layer of muscles needs to be squeezed along
with a forced contraction of the puborectalis.

Dr. Gore of the G.S. College of Yoga in Kaivalyadham states in his book, Anatomy
and Physiology of Yogic Practices, that a contraction of the anal sphincter should
accompany contractions of the entire pelvic floor during the practice of
mulabandha. His justification is that urination and defecation are both excretory
functions of apana. To prohibit its downward flow, the whole pelvic floor must be
contracted, and that includes the anal sphincter and puborectalis as well as all of
the muscles controlling urination.

The Gheranda Samhita describes full pelvic floor contraction with the additional
contraction of lower abdominal muscles. In its directives on how to perform
mulabandha, it states, "pressing the navel against the spine with great effort"

Practically speaking, all of these interpretations are correct. At first, full
contraction of the entire pelvic floor is warranted to strengthen the muscles so
that one may begin to isolate them. Adding lower abdominal muscles strengthens
the body's core and adds value to mulabandha's physical health benefits. This
initial forceful stage of mulabandha contracts the anal sphincter inhibiting
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defecation and squeezes the urethra as if to shut off urine flow. It strengthens,
shapes, and defines the entire structure of the pelvic floor.

As a practitioner progresses with the technique, an ability to isolate the various
muscles and components of the muscles begins to develop until only the central
portion of the pubococcygeus is contracted during mulabandha. With the ability
to discriminately activate each muscle component, one is able to contract only
the puborectalis along with the external anal sphincter during a technique
referred to by the yogis as ashwini mudra. Contracting the pubourethralis
surrounding the urethra in conjunction with contraction of the superficial muscles
that inhibit urination is referred to as vajroli mudra.

According to the tantrics, in the most advanced stage of mulabandha, muscle
contraction does not necessarily occur at all. It becomes primarily a pranic and
psychic technique.
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Benefits of Mulabandha According to the Yoga Tradition

Realigns the physical, mental, and pranic bodies

Increases the digestive fire

Destroys decay and decrepitude

Wards off old age

Acts as a trigger for the awakening of muladhara lotus

Arouses kundalini energy, the potential energy within
muladhara lotus

Helps to pierce brahma granthi, the psychic knot near muladhara

Prepares an aspirant for spiritual awakening

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A Scientifically Proven Technique
In the 1940s, a gynecologist in California noticed that there were marked
differences in his patients in the tone of muscles surrounding the vagina. While in
some women the muscles exhibited firmness and thickness, in others there was
thinning with a tendency for the vaginal walls to collapse upon themselves. It was
in the latter women that leaky urinary bladders, the ones difficult or even
impossible to control, were found.

Those women with thin muscles in the pelvic floor were also noted to have a
higher incidence of uterine prolapse, a condition in which the uterus slides down
through the vaginal canal and even hangs out of the pelvis in extreme cases. A
similar falling of the bladder and the rectum can also occur, disorders known as
cystoceles and rectoceles.

Given the known physiology of muscles, that those in disuse become smaller and
thinner resulting in weakness, a condition known as atrophy, Dr. Kegel
hypothesized that, as with biceps, working out the pelvic floor muscles will bulk
them up and make them stronger. He hoped that by building up the muscle fibers
and strengthening them, urinary incontinence and uterine prolapse could be

Over the next decade he proved his theory to be correct. After developing a set of
exercises designed to specifically strengthen the pubococcygeus muscle, he found
that women with leaky bladders who consistently preformed the exercises no
longer had that embarrassing problem. He discovered that exercising the
pubococcygeus also helped to treat uterine prolapse as well as cystoceles and
rectoceles. He advocated that all women be taught to work out the
pubococcygeus muscle to maintain a healthy tone and thereby prevent disease.

Subsequent studies over the years have repeatedly backed him up. Kegel
exercises are now the first-line therapy for stress urinary incontinence, the leaky
bladder that primarily comes from aging, childbirth, and excess weight. They've
also been found to be effective in men undergoing prostate surgery.

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Prolapsed organs have shown a reduction in the degree of protrusion following
the practice of Kegel exercises in combination with an intra-vaginal device. An
ultrasound study documented the morphological changes occurring after 6-
months of Kegel exercises, results which included an elevation in the resting
position of the bladder and the rectum.

Theres evidence that regular performance of Kegel exercises intensifies womens
orgasms and make them easier to achieve. Some women who have pain in the
vaginal or vulvar area, particularly during intercourse, have been shown to get
relief by doing pelvic floor exercises in combination with psychotherapy.

Regarding prevention, there is a lack of controlled, prospective studies, but it is
firmly believed that habitually working out the pelvic floor keeps it healthy and is
a good way to stave off the development of incontinence and various forms of
prolapse as we age. In a recent consensus statement, the National Institutes of
Health noted their support for pelvic floor exercises in the prevention of
incontinence in women and also in men undergoing prostate surgery.

Performance of Kegel Exercises
A Kegel exercise contracts all components of the pelvic floor musculature,
so there will be a sensation of a tightening of the muscles around the anus
as if you are trying to stop a bowel movement and also a sensation as if
stopping the urine stream.

1. Insert a finger into the vagina, or for men, place a fingertip between
the scrotum and the anus.

2. Pull up the perineum by contracting the entire pelvic floor. Youll feel
this as a tightening of the muscles around your finger or, in men, as
the perineum moving up towards the trunk. Once youve acquired an
understanding of the movement, the finger is no longer needed.

3. Hold this contraction of the pelvic muscles for five seconds, then
release for 5 seconds.

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4. Repeat, performing the muscle contraction and release 10 times per

5. Do three sessions every day, at different times.

6. Work your way up to holding the contraction continuously for 10
seconds each time you contract.

There are also vaginal cones and eggs on the market that act as weights. A
woman can increase pelvic floor muscle strength by holding in and moving the
device while standing.

Figure 3: Vaginal "eggs" of different sizes

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A Comparison: Mulabandha and Kegels
So, are mulabandha and Kegel exercises the same thing? That depends on whom
you ask.

If you follow Dr. Gores line of teaching, mulabandha contracts the pelvic floor
musculature indiscriminately just like Kegel exercises. The entire pelvic floor gets
a workout from repeated contractions. The classic texts, the Hatha Yoga
Pradipika, the Siva Samhita, and the Gheranda Samita appear to back him up, at
least regarding the contraction of muscles surrounding the rectum.

What Swami Buddhananda and other tantrics describe is something different.
Ultimately, there may be no muscle contraction at all. Thats definitely not a
Kegel. In the tantric lineage, the focus is on mental and energetic effects.

Still, in the beginning stages of the tantric practice, one must learn to distinguish
the various muscles of the pelvis, isolating and contracting the portions that
specifically pull up the perineal body. First the entire pelvic floor needs to be
strengthened and defined, and then the work of isolation can begin. According to
tantric theory, as one isolates the central portion of the pelvic floor, an awareness
of muladhara lotus develops. Eventually, its energy can be directed without any
muscle activity.

It makes sense to understand mulabandha as a continuum of gradually refined
practice. For effects on the physical body, the annamayakosha, the full Kegel
exercise is important. It indiscriminately works out and tones all portions of the
pelvic floor including the layer of superficial muscles and the segments of the
pubococcygeus that are involved with closing of the anus and urethra.

With advanced practice, its possible to isolate muscles, eventually controlling
and lifting only the central portions of the pubococcygeus muscle. According to
tantric theory, this initiates mulabandhas effects on the energy body, the

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Benefits of Pelvic Floor Contractions According to Medical

Treats urinary incontinence, commonly called "a leaky bladder"

Treats uterine prolapse

Treats cystoceles and rectoceles

Makes female orgasm easier to achieve

Intensifies the female orgasm

Treats vulvodynia and vaginal pain

Prevents age-related urinary incontinence

Treats erectile dysfunction

Treats premature ejaculation, particularly when occurring with
concomitant erectile dysfunction

Treats chronic prostatitis

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How to Perform Mulabandha
Mastering the most advanced performance of mulabandha takes considerable
time and persistent daily practice. The technique is perfected in three stages. In
the first stage, it's best to focus completely on the physical aspects of the
technique, the contraction of all the pelvic muscles indiscriminately, inclusive of
the superficial muscle layer. This will strengthen the pelvic floor and bring
awareness and increased blood flow to the region.

Before beginning, experiment with the pelvic floor muscles in the nude. Men can
sit and place a finger on the perineum located between the anus and the
scrotum. When the pelvic floor muscles are contracted, there is a lifting of the
perineum. It is pulled upwards into the body. Women can place one finger inside
the vagina. When the pelvic floor muscles are contracted, there is a squeezing
sensation around the finger. To contract the pelvic floor, pull up on the muscles
of the lower pelvis as if trying to stop both defecation and urination.

While mulabandha may be added to the performance of several asanas in their
advanced stages, it is best to initially practice this technique in the traditional
manner seated on the floor in siddhasana (accomplished pose). If you find this
asana uncomfortable, vajrasana (diamond pose), sukhasana (easy pose), and
ardha padmasana (half-lotus) are suitable alternatives. You can also sit on a chair
with the back straight and the feet firmly planted on the ground.

The benefit of siddhasana is that the heel of one foot is pressed firmly against the
perineum. It brings awareness to the region and guides the practice. One may
alternate which heel is placed on the perineum with each session, and the hands
are generally placed in jnana or chin mudra on the knees.
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Stage 1

1. Find a comfortable seated position. For siddhasana, sit on the floor and fold
one leg and place the heel of the foot onto the perineum. Fold the other
leg and place its foot on top of the other calf so that the heel is pressing the
pelvic bone directly above the genitals. Push the toes and the edge of the
top foot down into the space between the calf and thigh muscles. Then
grasp the toes of the bottom foot and bring them up between the calf and
thigh of the other leg. Make the spine steady, straightened, and fully erect
as though the base were planted on the ground and the vertex of the head
were pulled upwards by a delicate string.

2. Place the hands on the knees in chin mudra by joining the tips of the
thumbs and index fingers lightly together with the palms facing downward.

3. Close the eyes, take a deep breath, and relax.

4. Now, with an inhalation, pull up on the entire pelvic floor, contracting all
the muscles in a manner that would stop defecation and urination. Be sure
there is a feeling of pulling up into the body rather than pushing out.
Squeeze tightly and hold for 5 seconds, exhaling whenever it feels
comfortable to do so. Breathe normally while maintaining the contraction
for the desired duration.

5. Let the muscles relax for 5 seconds. Then repeat this exercise 9 more times.
For best results, practice 10 repetitions 3 times each day.

6. When you feel the muscles have sufficiently strengthened and you are
ready for the next step, gradually increase the holding time to 10 seconds.
Then relax for 5 seconds. Again, its best to repeat the exercises 10 times
per session with 3 sessions each day.
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Stage 2

Once all the muscles of the pelvic floor have been strengthened and defined, it
will be time to take the practice a step further. At this point, the goal is to
contract only the center muscles of the pubococcygeus so that there is no
movement of the anus, the urethra, the penis, or the clitoris. According to the
tantrics, when this is accomplished, the muladhara trigger point has been
successfully isolated.

At this stage, there is a refinement of the pelvic floor contractions. A
practitioner can choose to activate only the portions of the pelvic floor
controlling the anus and defecation (ashwini mudra), to activate only the
portions of the pelvic floor controlling the urethra and its urination and
ejaculation (vajroli mudra), or to activate only the central portion that is the
physical essence of mulabandha. This requires keen awareness and
considerable practice.

Refined Muscle Contractions of Stage 2
Aswini mudra contractions of anal sphincter and puborectalis sling

Vajroli mudra contractions of the superficial muscles of the pelvic floor
and the pubourethralis component of the pubococcygeus muscle

Mulabandha contractions of the center portion of the pubococcygeus
muscle that elevates the perineum without contraction of the muscles
surrounding the anus, rectum, and urethra.

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A Beneficial Asana
Marjaryasana, the cat pose, can help a practitioner learn to isolate the proper
muscles for Stage 2 of mulabandha. To perform the modified version that leads to
a new awareness of pelvic floor muscle activity:

1. Kneel on the mat and then lower the torso, coming forward to a position
supported by the hands and knees.

2. Bring your chin to the floor, pointing the elbows out to the sides.

3. Lower the chest to the floor as much as possible, arching the back to
elevate the buttocks.

4. Contract the pelvic floor muscles.

Notice that with the rear-end in this position, the sensation of contraction
moves towards the front of the perineum. It's difficult to contract the more
posterior muscles, and even the gluteal muscles remain relaxed.

Practice this pose several times to get used to the feeling of contracting the
central perineal muscles without the more posterior ones. Once you are
accustomed to the sensation, try to produce the same result when you try
mulabandha in a classical seated position.

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A Beneficial Meditation
Sit in siddhasana with one heel pressed against the perineum. In men, this area is
between the anus and the scrotum. In women, it is the small area between the
anus and the vagina, and the heel will feel as if it is mostly at the opening of the
vagina. (Full instructions for siddhasana are given above.) If this is an
uncomfortable position, try any seated position you do find comfortable in which
the heel is at the perineum. Keep the back straight and the head in line with the
torso, chin slightly down with the vertex of the head lifted as if being pulled by a
tiny invisible string.

1. Take a deep breath in, close the eyes, and then allow the body to relax with

2. Become aware of the sounds in your environment. Stay in the now for a
few seconds, simply acknowledging and accepting their presence.

3. Shift your awareness within to the sensations of the physical body. Make
slight readjustments to your posture if necessary, and then resolve to
remain still.

4. For a few seconds, watch the breath without changing it. Simply bring your
awareness to the feeling of inhalation followed by the feelings of

5. Move the mind to focus on the perineum, guided by the sensation of the
heel pressing against this spot.

6. Now feel as if you are breathing in through this location, pulling up
grounding energy from the earth. On the out-breaths, release any negative,
stale or stagnant energy out through the legs and back down into the
Earth's molten core for purification.

7. As you breathe in, you will begin to note a point at which the prana
localizes just inside the body at the area where the heel is resting at the
perineum. Note that it becomes stronger and more energized with each
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8. As you breathe, visualize the area as a diffuse, almost circular area of red
energy. Then realize the red is actually a flower with four blood-red petals.
Inside it rests a yellow square that smells like fertile dirt.

9. Merge the mind with this red muladhara lotus flower. Note how the
energizing of this vital center makes you feel grounded, stable, and strong.

10. Become of aware of your body, especially the muscles surrounding the
muladhara lotus. Subtly contract only those muscles without movement of
the anus or the sexual organs. Relax them again and then repeat a few

11. After some time, relax and let the images fade away and move the
awareness of breathing back to the areas of the nasal passageways and

12. Eventually return to your awareness to sounds in the environment.

13. If you choose, offer feelings of gratitude to the Divine for the vitalizing and
stabilizing energy of muladhara lotus that has been received.

14. Slowly open the eyes.

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15. Stage 3

Swami Buddhananda, a long-time tantric practitioner from the Bihar School of
Yoga in India, writes that there is a third and final stage to the practice of
mulabandha. He notes that in its final form, the practice is a mental and
energetic one without any physical component at all. Rather, one is able to
mentally activate and raise the energy of muladhara lotus with only the power
of the mind. No muscular contraction occurs.

The classic Hatha Yoga texts clearly state that mulabandha is a physical
practice of muscle contraction, one that helps to unite apana with prana
energy in the abdomen. Swami Buddhananda, on the other hand, describes
the non-physical arousal of kundalini energy. In fact, he states that complete
mastery of the technique results in "an overwhelming sensation of 'mental
orgasm' in the eyebrow center" that is one of indescribable bliss.

Even if one practices this tantric third stage to arouse kundalini energy, the
traditional Hatha Yoga texts indicate that the uniting of apana with prana
requires muscular contractions. Continue to perform the first two stages of
mulabandha during some practice sessions, and focus on the mental control of
the energies of muladhara lotus at other practice times.

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Recommendations for Practice
Whether or not one believes in esoteric energy, mulabandha as a physical
practice of contracting the pelvic floor muscles has myriad health benefits for the
physical body. It's a great addition to daily practice on the mat.

With busy lives, a 15-minute portion of practice dedicated to mulabandha may
not always be possible, but it can easily be integrated with pranayama exercises
and even with certain non-seated asanas.

Once comfortable with the above specific instructions for mulabandha in a seated
asana, work with a yoga teacher or yoga therapist to incorporate the technique
within a more dynamic Yoga routine.

For those who wish to explore the energetic aspects of the technique, the most
advanced stage of mulabandha is a goal that must be gradually worked towards
over a significant period of time with considerable effort and awareness. Conquer
the physical aspects of this valuable Hatha Yoga practice first, toning the muscles
and developing control over their isolation and individual contractions. Then find
a trained tantric practitioner to guide you in the development and redirection of
its more refined energy.

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anal sphincter the two sphincter muscles of the anus, the external anal
sphincter and the internal anal sphincter
annamayakosha outermost layer of the human being, the physical body or food
anus opening at the lower end of the digestive tract through which feces is
apana that which passes down, or the out-breath, or descending vital energy,
located near the organs of excretion and generation
asanas the physical postures of Yoga
ashwini mudra contractions of the anal sphincter and the puborectalis muscle
bandha "to bind", "to lock", "to redirect", a contraction designed to hold pranic
energy so that it may be redirected
brahma granthi psychic knot located near muladhara lotus
bulbospongiosus a superficial muscle surrounding the base of the urethra in
males and the vaginal opening in females
chakra esoteric energy center, traditionally referred to as a lotus flower
coccygeus one of the muscles of the pelvic floor along with the levator ani
coccyx the tailbone
cystocele prolapsed urinary bladder
granthis psychic knots
guru a spiritual guide or leader
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ileococcygeus one of the muscles of the levator ani
incontinence inability to restrain evacuation of urine or feces, may also refer to
loss of semen for tantric practitioners
ischiocavernosus one of the pelvic superficial muscles, it forces blood into the
erect penis or clitoris
levator ani - a muscle group of the pelvic floor
lotus a flower, in early Yoga was used to denote a pranic energy center, chakra
medhra origination site of the nadis in the pelvis
mudras a practice that helps to control pranic energy
mula root
muladhara the root lotus (chakra) at the base of the torso, the lowest pranic
energy center
nadis energy channels for the flow of prana
niyamas observances in Yoga
pelvic diaphragm another name for the pelvic floor
pelvic floor muscle layer at the base of the pelvis
perineal body a pyramidal structure between the vagina or scrotum and the
rectum that is composed of fibrous tissue and muscle and serves as an
insertion point for some muscles of the pelvic floor
prana esoteric vitalizing energy
pranamayakosha pranic energy layer of the human being that fills the physical
body like air filling a bellows
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pranayama breathing exercise, exercises to control the pranic energy
prolapse a falling down of an organ or part from its normal position, often used
when referring to the uterus
puboanalis a division of the pubococcygeus muscle
pubococcygeus one of the muscles of the levator ani forming the pelvic floor
puborectalis a division of the pubococcygeus muscle, forms a sling around the
pubourethralis a division of the pubococcygeus muscle, surround the urethra
rectocele a prolapse of the rectum down through the pelvic floor
rectum terminal section of the large intestine that ends at the anus
samana that which conducts into apana the coarsest element of food and
distributes subtle energy, or the equalizing breath, located in the
abdominal region
superficial transverse perinea a superficial muscle of the pelvis
tantras any of several texts of esoteric doctrine regarding rituals, disciplines,
meditations, etc, composed in the form of a dialogue between Shiva and
Shakti, an Agama
udana that which "belches forth and swallows down what has been drunk and
eaten" and speech
urethra tube leading externally from the urinary bladder for the excretion of
urinary bladder a muscular bag for holding urine inside the physical body
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uterus muscular portion of the female reproductive tract in which a fertilized
ovum implants and develops, the womb of certain mammals
vagina canal in most female mammals that extends from the cervix of the
uterus to an external opening between the labia minora
vajroli mudra contractions of the superficial muscles of the pelvic floor and the
pubourethralis, a tantric practice that redirects sexual energy
vulvodynia chronic, unexplained pain in the external genitals of females or the
introitus of the vagina
vyana that which supports prana and apana, or the diffused breath moving
through the energy channels throughout the body
yamas a series of ethical rules for a Yoga, the first limb of traditional Yoga

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About the Author
Dr. Summers is a board-certified internist specializing in natural, Yoga-based care.
She is a graduate of Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago and holds
a second doctorate in neuro-pharmacology from Southern Illinois University.
Currently, she is an adjunct clinical instructor at Southern Illinois University School
of Medicine, and she is a member of the American College of Physicians, the
American Society of Nutrition, and the International Association of Yoga
During her frequent travels to India, Dr. Summers researches Yoga and its
therapies. She enjoys uniting her two passions, Yoga and medicine, and is
continually exploring Yoga's healing concepts and integrating them with modern,
evidence-based care.