The ancient tradition of yoga and meditation began in India as a system of mental, physical and spiritual exercises. The world “yoga” comes from Sanskrit and refers to connection or union. It is union of the Self with the all pervading energy that surrounds us. Also yoga refers to inner harmony and balance and it is directed at the attainment of a unique state of spontaneous, psychological integration. This state has been described by modern psychologists as individualization or self-realization.
In approximately 500 year B.C. the Indian physician and sage Patanjali formalized the yoga tradition into a science with 8 limbs. These eight limbs are:
- Yama – obligations
- Niyama – devotions
- Asana – postures
- Pranayama – breathing exercises
- Pratyahara – sense withdrawal or non-attachment
- Dharana – concentration
- Dhyana – meditation
- Samadhi – realization of the true self
During the last decade yoga is becoming more and more popular in North America and all around the world. New Yoga studios open almost every day. At present, there are more yoga teachers in North America than in all of India. The emerging awareness of the body-mind connection is actually a rediscovery of what has been the basis of the practice of yoga and meditation for thousands of years.
Some important health benefits of yoga are:
- Improved flexibility and joint mobility
- Functional muscle strength
- Improved ventilation
- Weight management
- Improved posture
- Decreased stress
- Improved energy level
- Improved concentration and clarity of mind
Yoga for the pelvic floor
The pelvic girdle is a very important area in the human body. This is the place where the conception of life is performed.
According to the ancient yoga teachings a residual energy called Kundalini lies dormant within us in the sacrum bone. From an anatomical perspective, the sacrum along with the coccyx, ilium, ischium and pubis form the bony pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles attach to these bones and the muscle fascia. For many centuries the importance of this area has been known not only in yoga but also in different traditions, cultures and medical systems. The ancient Greeks knew the importance of the sacrum bone and that’s why they called it sacrum which means sacred.
In the 1940’s, Dr. Kegel suggested that women needed to exercise their pelvic floors. So, he instructed pelvic floor muscle contractions, knowned asKegel exercises (named after him). However, pelvic floor muscle training was known millenniums before Dr. Kegel. In the Yoga tradition this exercise is known as Mulabandha; it is part of pranayama (breathing exercises) and it is performed to control the flow of prana (vital energy). The word “bandha” in Sanskrit means binding, catching, closing, stopping or joining together. A bandha can be initiated in various yoga postures so that certain organs in the body are contracted in order to free or to unlock energy.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we have the energy Qi flowing at the front part of the body through the conception vessel (Ren Mai) and in the back part through the governing vessel (Du Mai). There is a gap of energy between the first point of the conception vessel CV1 and the first point of the governing vessel GV1 at the level of the anal sphincter. While performing a pelvic floor muscle contraction or squeezing the anal sphincter, we are actually closing the energy gap between the conception vessel and the governing vessel. In Traditional Chinese Medicine this exercise is used as a routine practice for health benefit and disease prevention.
In conclusion, it can be said that any dysfunction in the pelvis or in the pelvic organs: the large intestine, the bladder and the uterus, would affect the pelvic floor muscles and may cause significant discomfort and/or pain in the whole body; as well, a general decrease to one’s vital energy. That’s why it is important to maintain good homeostasis, muscle strength and tonus in the pelvic floor muscles.Best strategy to prevent pelvic dysfunctions is through regular practice of certain yoga postures/techniques or so called yoga for the pelvic floor.