When I do my practice and engage mula bandha after about 4 minutes I feel the need to release air from my lower intestines, so I drop the bandha. I think I may be loosing the strength of the bandha, but I am not sure. Should I hold it or not?
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Thank you for such a sophisticated question. From what you have told me, I think I know what is happening, but cannot be absolutely sure. Please use your own best intuitive judgment, and leave competition with yourself aside. Holding a bandha for 4 minutes is already quite and accomplishment.
When you progress in yogic techniques such as asana, pranayama and bhandas, it should be through cultivation, not force. A blend of 50% will and determination and 50% gracious allowing is the best formula. You'll need to put the agenda of progressing aside and work more sensitively.
Now for your individual experience: what may be happening is that while engaging the lock of mula bandha, compression of parts of the intestinal tract is created, because you are also contracting the abdominal muscles.
Although this is not a bad thing, because it both tones the muscles and allows you to move gas along the tract that was formerly inert, strictly speaking engaging mula bhanda involves only contraction of the perineum. This tiny muscle is located for men between the anus and scrotum. (Women have an even stronger way of lifting the pelvic floor in mula bhanda. They contract the cervix.) When we are unpracticed at mula bhanda it is natural to engage many other muscles. As you progress, work to isolate the tiny perineum muscle.
If I were in your situation, I would allow the gas to be expelled and simply re-engage mula bhanda when if feels comfortable to do so. Your body is giving you a strong signal as to what it needs to do: release gas. Please allow me to stress again that nothing in yoga should ever be forced. I do not believe you "lose the strength", as you put it.
Here is some additional information on mula bhanda:
· The purpose of bhanda practice is to circulate shakti, or energy, which prevents it from dissipating.
· To make the most of the bhanda practice engage all three of them:
1. jalandara bandha (chin pressed into the chest at the thyroid),
2. uddiyana bandha (holding the breath after full exhale, engage the muscles of the abdomen up under the ribcage)
3. mula bandha (contraction of the perineum or cervix)