What does “yoga” mean to you?
Yoga for me means to unite – it's quite limiting to list a sample of states/ levels/ qualities that are going to be united by yoga as it is just such a wholesome experience/journey, but here are some examples:
- Uniting your male and female aspects (which equals the right and left sides of the body and the left and right brain hemispheres respectively.) This will help “one” to deal with life/ to process life more holistically by combining intuition and intellect, the feeling and mental nature, giving and receiving, the active and passive (restorative) aspects of one's life etc. This has a positive healing influence at the planetary level and contributes to the morphogenetic field of humanity.
- Yoga for me is the perfect means to serve the divine without any manipulative interference coming from a “separated” ego mind set that can be present in other holistic healing methods. Yoga is, to quote a rather infamous term, teaching someone to fish himself/herself. By assisting the student/yogi in the asanas and adjusting misalignment, you support that being to discover – in the literal sense of the word – his or her own intrinsic essential wisdom and truth without indoctrinating. I am a strong supporter of the position that each person is his or her own authority and that not only each and every person is unique, but also that each and every person brings with it its own unique, incredible valuable gifts for humanity – persons should not be copies of another person or blindly follow a given mindset, but truly be individuals. This can only happen when the connection with the formless divine through the tool of the body is reestablished and the deliberate interference of the ego level, that can act in a self-sabotaging way, is limited. Yoga provides all of that on so many levels – not only physical but also on the emotional, spiritual and mental levels. It unites the elements within the body and unites the microcosm (a single person) with the greater holographic reflection of the macrocosm (God, the universe, the surrounding) thereby really empowering the individual with personal choice and freedom that comes from awareness.
- Yoga for me personally is a sacred dance, a fluid balance between hugging in and expressing outwards/expanding that helps me to embody and playfully combine elements of dance, strength, sensuality and spirituality and I intend to pass this on.
Why is Mountain Pose the “template” for all other poses?
Mountain Pose Tadasana is a so called “neutral” position that speaks of trusting the earth (the bigger you) to carry and nourish you, while standing relaxed yet alert, looking ahead, letting everything flow naturally. Tadasana or Samastiti-thi provides the optimal energetic alignment for the free flow of energy that should be applied to all other poses.
On a mental and emotional level it develops the inner attitude described above that is foundational for the bhava (feeling state) of all the other postures that follow. From trust (drawing in the core, being connected to you(rself), expansion happens naturally. The alignment of the major alignment points of the body stays the same in almost all postures. In every other pose you are trying to get back to this original blueprint of Tadasana.
Samasti-thi creates optimal physical and energetic alignment which holistically influences all the other (elemental) systems connected to physical being. Every pose (asana) will constrict the body in a different way and by honoring the principles of mountain pose throughout the journey, you reopen the out of alignment areas and allowing fresh energy and movement to come into areas that have been cut off from the flow previously. Thereby you gain the ability to reset everything else.
What is the purpose of teaching students to engage Mula Bandha?
The purpose of applying Mula Bandha (you can call it also pelvic floor activation or the root lock - although the last term does not fully "ring true" with me on a lingo-somatic level), which can as well be describes as a gentle contraction of the pelvic diaphragm and the muscles of the urogenital triangle, is to keep - or in other words – to control and restrain the energy in the body – so that the energy that we gather through breath and movement during practice stays in the body and can be distributed to the regions that need nourishment and healing – which in yoga is always a holistic thing. (asanas/breath/drishti)
Through the practise of Mula Bandha, or the lifting of the perineum towards the navel, the training of the mind in attentiveness is being continued. Mula Bandha naturally has a nice, gentle uplifting effect and its strength will gradually built over time. With experience you can hold the lock constantly which is what yogis recommend for meditation. Contracting Mula Bandha requires concentration and requires strength, and those two elements create heat in the body. Contracting Mula Bandha will force apāna vāyu (prāna or life force of the lower abdomen, which naturally has the tendency/quality to descend) to flow upwards until it meets with prāna vāyu, that resides in the region of the chest. This meeting of prāna and apāna, according to the Hatha Yoga Pradapika, is supposed to stimulate a nada, or inner sound. Thus, through at the beginning it looks only like a physical practice, the yogi is later on empowered to connect/ tune into and only listen to its own inner voice (of guidance).
On a transcendental level, by holding Mula Bandha or the root lock, the yogi tries to reach Mula or the root of all creation.
++ Mula bandha, which is situated between the anus and either the root of the pelvis or the vaginal opening, consists as already mentioned of the muscles of the pelvic diaphragm and the muscles of the urogenital triangle. The pelvic diaphragm is the deepest layer and a broad, thin sheet of muscles and fasciae that spans the entire diamond shaped region between anus posteriorly and genitals anteriorly. You can picture it as a deep hammock at the base of the body that is suspended between the pubic bones in front and the sacrum behind as its supports the internal structures of the pelvic cavity.
The muscles of the urogenital triangle are a structure overlying the deeper muscles that make up the pelvic diaphragm. They are related to muscles of the genitals and urethra. 3 pairs of muscles overlie the genitals: the superficial transverse perineal muscles, the bulbospongiosus muscles and the ischiocavernosus muscles. In a slightly deeper plane of the urogenital diaphragm lie the deep transverse perineal muscles. There is a central tendon that is located at the dividing line between the anal and urogenital triangles and around which the more delicate versions of muscles of mula bandha are organized. This is an extremely tough facial region into which the superficial and deep transverse perineal muscles insert.
If you can learn to focus your attention to this tiny region while creating minimal physical contraction of the nearby muscles, you will be feeling the Mula bandha.
For complete beginners you teach Mula bandha by either telling them that when the next time they are urinating, they simply try to stop the flow by contracting the muscles and then holding this contraction for a couple of seconds and that this sensation is the contraction of Mula Bandha. For people who are very disconnected form their genital area for whatever reasons, you can have them sit on a rolled up mat or bolster in either Sukasana or in a kneeling position and let them feel the pressure that is being created by the prop while telling them that this is the region of Mula Bandha and that they should try to “draw in” energy at this area by physically contracting the muscles there.
These are excerpts from my certification interview. Questions by Sadie Nardini (http://www.sadienardini.com/)
(++ means "additional information" that might have been taken from existing literature to deepen the understanding of the material in question or provide additional subtle layers of information). Copyright (Interview passages) Chiaradina Cerweny. Please do not use any passages without contacting me. Thank you for your understanding!
Radiate Variety in Unity. Chill. Life is not to be imitated. :)