Hatha yoga postures should be ‘Firm but calm (Sthira Sukham Asanam). It is the balance between the firmness of correct bandha work that allows freedom for the spine to move and the breath to travel up the spine, plus the calmness that comes through the controlled art of complete breathing while maintaining correct bandha yet without over-breathing (hyperventilation).
In our book (‘Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga’) we discuss the difference between different interpretations of bandha and explain how when bandha and core stabilisation are done correctly in posture (asana) the movements are light but generate tremendous internal energy, while maintaining a calmness in the nervous system. Although this is possible in any yoga style it is seen often in senior practitioners of the ashtanga vinyasa yoga system taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois and his teacher Sri T. Krishnamacharya who actually succeed in this. In its highest form Ashtanga vinyasa yoga has much that be compared with the internal martial arts of China and India.
Core stabilisation is a physiotherapy term that has been used in many different ways to describe how the spine can be stabilised and protected by muscle activation. The general consensus is that the main muscles involved in core stabilisation are deep muscles such as the transverse abdominus, the lumbar multifidus and the muscles of the pelvic floor, as well as the diaphragm. Other muscles, closer to the surface, that help with core stabilisation include the other more superficial abdominal and back muscles, as well as muscles around the pelvis, hips and shoulders. Recent research using real-time ultrasound (RTU) imaging devices has shown that a major problem in low back pain is due to over-activity of the superficial core muscles and reduced activity of the deep core muscles. For some time this problem has been made worse because it was assumed that pulling the navel to the spine is the best way to activate deep core muscles such as transverse abominis. Informal surveys show that up to two-thirds of people will pull their navel towards the spine when asked to ‘tighten their abdomen’. RTU has shown that pulling the navel towards the spine, actually causes an over-tightening of more superficial and gross abdominal muscles such as the obliquus externus, which can be seen to push the pelvic floor downwards in a negative fashion as well as inhibit the natural function of the diaphragm. In traditional hatha yoga ‘drawing the navel to the spine’ is a type of compressive ha-mula bandha that is used to complete an exhalation in advanced pranayama (breath-control exercises) but it is not generally maintained throughout postures as it usually inhibits the diaphragm.
Although there is a relationship between breathing, mula and uddiyana bandhas, and core stabilisation, it is not as simple as one may imagine. As described in detail throughout our book and online course on Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga (http://anatomy.yogasynergy.com) a bandha is the co-activation (simultaneous tensing) of opposing muscles around a joint complex. From this definition there are always at least two opposing ways to create a bandha, one causing an increased local pressure (which can be called a ha-bandha) and one causing a decreased local pressure (a tha-bandha) in the body.
The existence of two types of bandha with opposing effects explains why in modern yoga texts mula bandha and uddiyana bandha are described in several ways that often seem in opposition. This is an ongoing source of confusion for many yoga practitioners and teachers especially if they are familiar with the concept of core stabilisation but not up to date with the latest research on the subject. For example, Sri B.K.S. Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, two of the most important hatha yoga teachers of the modern era, both use mula bandha and uddiyana bandha differently depending on whether the focus is on pranayama (breath-control exercises) or asana (physical exercise). In asana, it is the compressive ha-uddiyana bandha and the expansive tha-mula bandha that are mainly used to stabilise the spine and to generate internal power in a relaxed way.
We look forward to seeing you in class!
Southside Yoga Studio is a boutique style yoga school, which is located on the border of Malvern, Armadale and Caulfield. It is within 5 minutes walk from Malvern train station and Malvern Central. Southside Yoga Studio is within 5-10 min drive from Carnegie, Toorak, Chadstone, St. Kilda East, Balacalava and Glen Iris.
Yoga Classes are taught by highly experienced yoga teachers Roman Kouzmenko and Leah Casey.
For yoga classes in Malvern, Armadale, Caulfield and Carnegie go to Southside Yoga Studio