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Season 2 - Episode 13

Pelvic Floor & Bandhas

5 min - Talk
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We dive deeper into the muscles of the pelvic floor and explore their relationship to the bandhas in hopes of offering support both in the digestive system, as well as in our yoga postures.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Sep 03, 2018
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We often don't talk about what my teacher calls the plumbing department in class because it's a sensitive region and we might be a little shy to venture into exploring some of the muscles in the pelvic floor. I think it's worth our time because it offers support to not just our urogenital functions and our digestive system but also support to many of our postures and a lot of the energetic practices that we do in yoga like pandas will involve this region so it is worth us taking a little deeper dive. The pelvic floor or pelvic diaphragm forms the bottom of the bowl of the pelvis muscularly and it's really a multi-layered sling of muscles that move from the pubic bone to the tail bone to the two sitting bones forming kind of three layers of hammocks down below. Now in a more towards a gynecoid pelvis because of our wider bowls and our wider pubic arch our pelvic floor or sometimes termed the pelvic diaphragm tends to be wider. As women we then also have three openings to the external world.

We have the urinary opening, the vagina and the anal opening. Now in a android pelvis, an android pelvic floor or closer to the male pelvic floor, they have a more narrow pubic arch, a narrower bowl, they usually have a less wide or narrow more narrow pelvic floor, pelvic diaphragm and they have two openings to the external world, their urinary and anal openings. Now if you think of having a sheet of muscles with three openings and a sheet of muscles with two openings, which is going to be inherently stronger? The one with two openings, right? What's going to be inherently more pliable or flexible, the one with three openings, the female pelvic floor?

So where you have a little bit more pliability or flexibility you often lack a little bit of stability, where you have more stability you usually lack a little bit of mobility or flexibility and just kind of that yin-yang balance. Now because you have three slings, each one is in control of a different region. So the front sling more in control of the urinary opening, the urinary sphincter. The back sling more in control of the anal opening, the anal sphincter. And the one in the middle, the perineum, the area between the scrotum and the anus for the men or the walls of the vagina and the opening of the vagina for the females.

Now we can usually, we're so disconnected from this plumbing department as Alan says that we, if we're told things like engage the pelvic floor or contract moolabunda, we just squeeze everything we can think of. It's usually an eyebrow, a hip, a finger, who knows, everything's just going to squish and lift up. And then as we learn, we can begin to refine it, that we can actually utilize those three slings independently of one another. The front sling, the urinary sphincter, when we're contracting that, almost like if we're going to the bathroom and we hear someone come in and we stop the flow of urine, that's actually what's called vedrolimudra in yoga language, just the contraction or drawing up of the front part of the pelvic floor. And then if we're, oh, this is so gross, I'm sorry, but if we're trying to hold in a toot, we're squeezing our anal sphincter, that's called the ashwini mudra in yoga language.

And then just in that middle region, if we're drawing the upper inner walls of the vagina up or the area between the scrotum and the anus for the fellas up, this is the act more refined of moolabunda. According to the readings, at its most refined, it's just a direction of energy upwards, which may or may not come with a physical engagement of those muscles. As a whole, they form support for not just the functionings of the urogenital region, but also support of all of the organs, which gravity is pulling down towards the earth. And support, it adds its support into the lower back and sacroiliac region. So really vital for us as humans and us as yoga practitioners to begin to look at this region and explore not just strengthening it and contracting it, which a lot of yoga will focus on, but also being able to relax and move this pelvic diaphragm down and out.

So both actions, a healthy muscle should be able to contract when needed, but also relax and soften when desirable. A balanced muscle will be able to do both actions. So this also forms this pelvic floor, what I call the pelvic diaphragm, and it also has movement with breath. Just like our thoracic diaphragm, when you inhale, it draws down towards the earth to bring in the breath, and on the exhale, it domes back in and up towards the crown to move the breath out to facilitate that movement. The pelvic diaphragm is sympathetic to that.

So as you breathe in, especially in these exaggerated breaths, the pelvic diaphragm will draw down towards the earth to allow the organs to get squished by the thoracic diaphragm moving outward, and it has a little bit of a give to it. On the exhale, we could rev up the muscles, drawing them, contracting them in and up to help facilitate a very full exhale. Mula Bandha can be more fully felt on the exhale phase of breath, especially at the end of the exhale. That's why all the fancy parts of yoga where you're hopping forward or stepping forward or kicking up, those usually happen on the exhale or exhale retention, when the belly can be at its most firm, where you're empty of air, and that pelvic diaphragm can be drawn in and up to give you the most bang for your buck.


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