Thursday 12th July 2007
notes from the mat
For me the pelvic floor resembles the rabbit-hole that Alice fell into. During practice you peer into its mysterious depth with the inner eye. You focus attention on it and something magical happens – you cross over into another dimension.
If you want to experience it, try staying in a pose for 10 breaths – use the first couple of breaths to establish correct alignment with the outer body, then shift all your attention to your pelvic floor. See it and sense it inside of you as vividly as you can. Gently begin contracting the perineum (the central muscle) upwards to bring mula bandha into action. While holding the pose, don’t let the attention wander back out to the peripheral muscles of the body – keep it internal.
As you inhale and exhale, keep the pelvic floor muscles contracting gently upwards and this will direct the prana up from the lower to the higher chakras. Watch what happens over the course of those 10 breaths as you sustain this energetic focus. Note how the physical body automatically responds to the magnified presence of your inner core by releasing grips and tensions, and realigning itself naturally in line with energetic pathways.
You don’t need a teacher to tell you to move your navel to the left or drop your right shoulderblade because the body knows where it should be when you work from the inside out.
Focussing on the pelvic floor is like putting the conductor back on centre stage when the musicians are all playing individual tunes - all the discordant parts of the body and energy system start to line up around the maestro and sing one magnificent song.
I love watching this happen in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana (although I’m trying to do it in every pose now).
From the day I started yoga this pose delightfully easy for me, but over the years, the first side (where the right leg is in half lotus) has deteriorated. When I first bend up my right leg into half lotus the knee is 6” off the floor so I have to gradually and carefully move into the pose. I twist to the right and reach my right hand behind my back to grab the right foot then come back to centre again.
For a moment I sit and wait, tightly bound, until I get the cue to tilt forward and grab my left foot with my left hand.
Then I move my attention to the pelvic floor. I continue Ujjiya breathing, long and full, grounding into the earth through the base of the pose (the sitting bones). This grounding seems to be a key factor in the energetic matrix and without it there's no lift.
I draw up the pelvic floor and my spine responds by growing long, and I can consciously suck energy upwards from the pelvic floor in a straight column and feel it coursing through what I creatively envision as a mine shaft. I feel tight muscles shifting, softening and giving way, my hip joints release their grip allowing the pelvis to tilt more so I lengthen forward out over the left leg.
I control the exhale (yes after all that!) still contracting the perineum but controlling the flow of energy back down the shaft back to its source. After a few breaths like this my entire body relaxes around the pose…tight areas of contraction release, the hips soften, the knee joint opens and the knee begins descending softly and safely to the floor, my lower back becomes full and forgiving, my spine grows long and serpentine. Down the rabbit hole I go, following the undulations of the breath into another world.
This other world is where I go to do my yoga, or where yoga the really starts to happen.
Tell me, why would I go back to the shala when I can go here?