“One of my goals in life is to do the slowest Primary Series anywhere… rather than the quickest”. Richard Freeman

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

BANDHAS.... forgetaboutit

So much about the bandhas at the moment, core too (what is that exactly) couple of times I've started to comment but deleted, backed away, know this is something people feel strongly about, can't hold it in any longer.

Bandhas, FORGETABOUTIT!!

Forget em, don't worry about em, don't lose any sleep worrying what when where or how.

Will they help you get the jump back, Bhuja, utpluthi, kapo, bakasana, Tittibhasana, KARANDAVASANA, that slinky lift to Sirsasana, urdhava kukkutasana...........Viranchyasana, Punga, Parsva dandasana, Omakrasana, Oh or the Viparita chakrasana, the tictac?

Probably not .

One of my favourite saying of Grandaddy Jois is 'bandhas, pull up your anus'....or something like that.

Hardly subtle is it, not what we're used to from the Mula bandha key, but I figure Guruji ( don't use that often but I'm fond of him here) knew that it really didn't matter because by the time you'd gained any facility with bandhas you were probably half way through 2nd or 3rd series anyway. Pulling up your anus in Primary? Probably not going to make much difference. It's not going to get you any of those poses above but eventually, it'll give you a little more control perhaps, a little more finesse.

That said focusing on the 'bandhas' whatever you decide they are and you'll never get two Ashtangi's to agree, makes a nice point to focus the attention on (give or take an inch), added to all the other elements of a pose, it might make the difference of a month or two.

Don't get me wrong, not dismissing the bandhas out of hand, I work on them a lot in Vinyasa Krama as well as Ashtanga ( not so strongly though as it's hard to get a decent exhale in that frenetic practice) and especially in pranayama ( how I've ended up approaching it is more of a gentle lift at the end of the exhale for mula and a drawing back and up for uddiyana but take that or leave it), I think the work I've done on them in my Pranayama practice has, perhaps, somehow helped my asana practice but in subtle way that I don't pretend to understand.

But my key point is.... 'in Subtle ways'.

You want to jump back? Work on the different elements of technique and bringing them together along with your timing,.... oh and you can pull up your anus too if you want, somewhere down the line when you've been jumping through for a year or two it'll make it prettier....perhaps.

Of course, what do I know, just a daily practitioner like you, just bloggin' here....

Before you jump to their defence in the Ashtanga context, just think, who knows, Sharath may drop em altogether in a week or two along with ujaii, they are more closely associated with pranayama anyway and don't forget Jalandhara bandha never made it from the Makaranda to the Mala

26 comments:

  1. Wow, ok. I agree with you and I disgree

    I think that it is actually important to keep them in mind, but i confess I have yet to find a practice where mula bandha is engaged at all times... it comes and goes.

    But I think that eventually it will all come together.

    I agree with you in the sense that I would not worry too much about drishti either or even the poses cause if I worry that much I never get things done, rather keep practicing with awareness that it has to happen. But I would keep in mind that they have to be there...

    Just work at letting it all come. I actually do find they help me in primary...

    Side note: Don't think Sharath will be dismissing this portion... the ujjaji part was surprising but the bandhas he told us in conference that even though not part of the tristasana, that is because they should be engaged all day long... tightening the anus at all times... but with no worries or ultra pressures, on that I am with you

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  2. I agree and...agree, keep them in mind,explore them but dont get hung up on them.
    Was kidding about Sharath but dont think engaging mula all day is healthy, perhaps he was kidding.

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  3. Love this post! I think for women we do have to start engaging the internal muscles earlier on to be able to do a lot of the primary series poses whereas men who are naturally stronger can rely on external muscles until they get to more advanced poses before having to deal with this bandha thing. But I agree with you, it's not as big of a deal as some yoga teachers seem to make it. Thank goodness for blogosphere (and Grimmly!)

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  4. Well, let me throw a curve-ball here about what Sharath says about engaging Mula Bandha all day long. In my opinion, there are at least two activities during which mula bandha has to not be engaged: Pooping and sex. At least, I do not know how to engage mula bandha and poop or have sex at the same time. Uh... Is this TMI? Or is it possible to keep mula bandha on even during these two activities?

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  5. You know what? Bandhas: boring when you"somehow"already got them down and you don't even notice they're on! After many months of fussing and fretting with the JBs and the JTs, you find out
    that a DAILY practice earns you the right to fhuggetaboudit!

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  6. Try to do paschimotanasana D without using udiyana banda, you are gonna feel bad.

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  7. What's this comment about Sharath and dismissing ujjaiji? Have I missed something here? Please explain (as a rather obnoxious Aussie politician once said in some context that I've completely forgotten, but it's now an expression well-known in Australia!!)

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  8. Oh - OK! Just read Yyogini's post about the ujjaiji issue, and David Robson's post on what Sharath said! So we're still doing it, just calling it something different! I can live with that ... :)

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  9. Nice ranty post (^-^)/ I agree with you on most points, i hate it when teachers tell me to work on bandhas like it's holy grail of asana. Yet when you think of them in terms of the muscle groups they do make sense. There is a physiotherapist in one of my lessons who got very enthusiastic when i was trying to explain uddiyana and mula and how we can use them, she took over the talk to explain how and why she strengthens these muscles in her work. But i do agree they only play a part, must finish my mula post i started a while back. Also on jalandara, some teachers who were taught by kpj in his early days are still teaching it. I like a jalandara in me down dog ☆

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. Hahaha. Rant rant. In the end, it's what works for each of us that matters, according to my first yoga teacher when i had lunch with her last week. I was ranting on and on about... bandhas (and dristi). hee hee.

    Look inwards, she said. That's where you will find the answers and nothing else will matter.

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  12. thinking of starting a new blog group, ranters Anonymous, start each meeting by saying " It's ben X days/weeks/months since my last rant....".

    Thank you yyogini, interesting what you say there about woman perhaps starting on the internal strength earlier to compensate for a lack of physical strength (case by case of course).

    Nobel, I assume Sharath was talking pragmatically rather than literally there and besides we should only be eating a fistful a day and shagging making the beast with two backs once in a blue moon.

    Serene, not sure if your giving me a hard time here or agreeing with my, thanks for commenting though it's an interesting point whichever way I read it : )

    Yes yes Susie, rose by any other name and all that. Was confused watching Sharath's stream from Joisyoga last month when he was saying, 'free breathing with sound'.

    Morning エスタ, yeah i guess it's the pixie dust bit that irritates me occasionally, wonder why. i got interested in the muscles mula bandha might be referencing a while back too, interesting stuff. Hope everybody noted that I'm not dismissing them out of hand, I work on them everyday.

    look forward to the different ball game post : )

    Sorry Anon, almost missed you. I agree in Vinyasa Krama we hold Paschi D for ten minutes, exhaling ever slower and engaging all three bandhas fully.

    yes, Cory whatever works

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  13. I wonder if I would have the guts on next conference to raise -rise (never know the right rise)- my hand and ask: Sharath, when you said mula should be engaged all day long, were you kidding? hee hee... will use mula bandha to build the courage... or maybe I will just forgedaboudit

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  14. Hmmm... While I agree that the bandhas are both subtle and elusive, I can honestly say that, when they are engaged in tandem, my practice is lighter, more effortless.

    I tend to think of the bandhas as an energetic tool, a tool of awareness. Sometimes, just thinking about them is enough. In my own practice, engaging my bandhas helps me to stay present in my pelvis, which has been hugely helpful working with jump backs, jump throughs, arm balancing, and the like.

    I also think there's got to be a gender difference in the experience of the bandhas, considering the distinctions in physical structure in the pelvic bowl between men and women. I should probably say that I don't go along with Sharath's tightening-of-the-anus interpretation. For me, my mula bandha is at the base of the cervix, and when correctly engaged in combination with uddiyana bandha, creates a very distinctive feeling of lightness. Is it subtle? Yes. Is it helpful? Also yes.... BUT I think it is only helpful for practitioners who are advanced enough that they require a more internal experience to deepen the practice. Trying to explain bandhas to beginners is like trying to teach my dog to sing the national anthem.

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  15. I'm with you on a tool of awareness megan, find focussing on mula bandha seems to bring everything together, moving the body as one as it where rather than lifting up here, lifting up there, remembering to pull in this pull up that, nice focus point.
    Some practices are just great and you feel light and floaty, is it the bandhas, the breath, everything coming together or are you just more energetic that day, never really sure.

    i like linking them too, uddiyana is my favourite, that whole feeling of linking and lifting is powerful even if it only a metaphor during practice, it can't but help.

    ramaswami talks about the bandhas as a way of reaching and stimulating the internal organs, one of the ways yoga accesses the whole body. he also said that and i'm paraphrasing that Krishnamacharya said something along the lines of, 'Pranayama without bandhas?...what's the point".

    I think it's good for beginners to be working on them from the beginning ( pranayama too) I think that's why Jois used the pull up your anus, it'll do in the beginning and once you've been practicing a while you might want to be more subtle about it. He seemed to be one for keeping things as simple as possible and thus accessible to everyone.

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  16. Am an ashtangi, but have in the past taken the odd pilates class, where the bandhas are more clearly explained it seems to me - at least the teacher I had said 'pull in your belly two notches on your belt and tighten up your pee-stopping muscle, i.e. pretend you've got a full bladder and need to resist peeing' which is clearer than using sanskrit terms that no-one understands and few teachers are willing to go into in such an uninhibited way (if they even know themselves where the bandhas are, as you say). I like PJ's 'pull up your anus' for its similar frankness, but actually it's inaccurate, isn't it - you're not pulling up the anus but more the perineum and its surrounds (hence that rather unflattering picture of PJ testing the perinea of a couple female students that was doing the rounds a while back).

    Anyway, agree with you that the bandhas are largely not worth worrying about to achieve postures - the Coulter book on anatomy for example explains the muscles involved in bandhas at length, but does not claim any benefits for them in achieving the postures, and talks about them assisting in meditation and breathing (as per your post, but this isn't 'yoga' knowledge as such - singers do the same). Coulter also interestingly states that holding mula in some postures is anatomically impossible, so the idea that it's held by anyone all through the practice, or all day, is clearly rubbish. If anyone can explain how 'pulling up your anus' helps most postures in empirical terms then please do so.

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  17. Hi Anon, when I suggested that you'll find it hard to find two Ashtangi's to agree on what and where the bandhas are, I meant it more in the sense of their descriptions and metaphors etc and was kind of joking. Wasn't suggesting they don't know where they are. I figure any most ashatanga teachers have been practicing for years and exploring the bandhas in their own practice.
    As I say above and in the post i think the Guruji, 'pull up your anus' is just a broad brushstroke, rule of thumb for beginners to be going on with kind of statement. Of course as with anything Jois said, it becomes written in stone which is perhaps where some of the problems lie.

    Always an interesting topic to flip out on and knock back and forth, don't know why I get so bent out of shape on this topic.

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  18. Yeah, I'm sure most teachers know where they are, more-or-less, but my experience is that they're a bit coy about describing it. Saying 'pull up the place between your arsehole and genitals' somehow becomes 'engage the bandhas'.

    Amused by that pilates teacher on breathing too - pilates seems to have the same idea of breathing as ujayi (more or less), and again, this is borrowed from dance and gymnastics. His take on this was 'it's only breathing' - nice antidote to the slightly po-faced yoga approach.

    Don't think you're getting bent out of shape. I love ashtanga, don't get me wrong, but there's an awful lot of BS around it too (as with many things). My personal bugbear is the sanskrit - when push comes to shove, 90% or more of what goes on in an ashtanga shala (sorry, studio - there I go) was invented by Krishnamacharya or PJ. Now, they have a sort of excuse for sanskrit - being Indian brahmins (although it's not the language they spoke to each other in). I actually speak a couple of south Asian languages myself, and listening to my teacher (who I otherwise have a lot of time for) pronounce the mantras and the counting (in led class) makes me wonder what it's all supposed to be about? She can't hit either the vowels or the consonants anywhere near right, so it's not about a faithful rendition. If I picked out an individual word (apart from om or maybe shanti) she wouldn't know the meaning, so it's not about knowing what you're saying. It may as well be in English if it was about the sentiment - but unfortunately (whisper this) it's actually pretty much meaningless in English. The point of it is just the sound to focus on as a signal of intention I guess, but, as above, the sound is butchered by western tongues. I go along with it of course, but it is just weird really. Have heard that at Mysore they all go to chanting classes. This may offend some, but we got over this stuff 400 years ago in Europe - chanting a litany in a language we couldn't understand was dumped. OK, you lose some 'magic' (in theory) but you avoid the self-delusion. Not averse to people reading the texts if they want to, but to 'read' them in sanskrit unless you understand it is ridiculous.

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  19. I admit to feeling a similar way about the chanting in the past, not the names of poses so much, give me sanskrit anytime over 'Airplane' etc. but never thought I'd end up chanting away cycling into work but I like it, grew on me. I like the sounds, the rhythms, like exploring some of the sanskrit roots just as i enjoyed breaking down kanji when I lived in Japan. As long as you don't take yourself too seriously, no harm done.

    Anyway off to Greece in the morning, so apologies in advance for not responding to any comments for awhile.

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  20. I have to agree with the comment above re: Sanskrit pronunciation. In my experience, most teachers (famous or otherwise) do not come close to an accurate recitation.

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  21. The purpose of the bandhas in primary series is to deepen the forward fold, find that space in the groins and at the top of the thighs... not to float around, that's a natural consequence that comes later. But the principle of uddiyana especially, i.e. letting the abdomen relax in against the spine, especially the deep low abdomen, is crucial to forward bending.. otherwise you're just stretching the hamstrings and will likely give up / get injured eventually. People may not know they're doing it, but it's the main point to grasp and thing to integrate in primary series.

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  22. Definate article's always bother me. CK mentioned bandhas re hammies too recently Susan, hadn't thought of that before. Me, I got through the first year on common sense same as every sport I guess without bandhas awareness.

    Found a saltwater lake just outside Athens turned out there's the redbull cliff diving championship Sunday and they were setting up and practicing. Felt sure these guys must do yoga. Nice floating in basks konasana and durvasana, pictures to come.
    Grim

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  23. bandhas are internal muscle contractions that strengthen the more you engage them. i always thought they were meant to heat the body from the inside, thus purifying internal organs. i like the idea of alchemy-heating metal until it turns into gold. i think it takes years to really understand how to use them but if you are taught early, it's possible. they help me a lot-especially by making the practice quiet & light. that's why we aren't supposed to drink water during practice. so we don't put the fire out that we've created inside of our bodies.

    just my 2 rupees.

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  24. in addition to my previous post, engaging mula & uddiyana together puts the pelvis in a safe place-out of the sacrum area where there is too much curve already. at least that's what using them while walking down the street, shopping, or cooking helps with. my posture has dramatically improved, i have no lower back pain & stand very tall. i owe this to asana but even more, to bandhas. asana with bandhas=effective, safe, strong, light. asana without bandhas=can lead to bad habits, chronic low back pain, wandering mind, heaviness of practice.

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  25. Thanks for the comments Bindi
    'bandhas are internal muscle contractions that strengthen the more you engage them'

    That's pretty much how I like to think of them too, personally prefer it to energy locks, this way, and as a point of focus, feels more like something I can work with.

    My petit beef is just with the bandhas as pixidust, Dr Ashtanga's' cureall. The forgetaba here is more in the sense of don't stress over them. Work on them/with the/explore them, as you work on every other element of the practice. Personally I think that they DO add something to the practice, though of course I might be imagining it.

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  26. well one should not stress over anything yoga. the point is to rid oneself of "stress". however, i believe the bandhas, breath & dristi are first, asana is second to the system of astanga. at least that's how i've always been taught & that's how i teach. asana is nothing all by itself but mere exercise, which you can get jogging down the street. just my opinion of course.

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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