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What are Chakras and Mula Bandha in Terms of Modern Science

By Elonne Stockton (with video from Paul Dallaghan)

Are we able to correlate ancient Hatha Yoga and Tantric teachings to modern science?

When reading any of the main Hatha Yoga and Tantric texts, we come across terms, and descriptions of those terms, that can be highly poetic in nature. In modern times, attempting to explain some of these images and analogies in terms of science is not always an easy undertaking.

Such lyrical language was originally meant to help us understand concepts that were not easy to grasp. And when looking at any old text, it is important to differentiate between those teachings, which are esoteric by design, dealing with an internal experience, and those teachings and concepts, which are purely physical.

Perfect examples of this are the teachings of mula bandha and chakras. One is an explanation of the engagement of pelvic floor muscles, which can be identified anatomically. Another is an obscure description of the awakening of kundalini and the movement of prana, of heightened states of awareness, which ultimately must be experienced, as it is beyond our intellectual understanding.

If you look at the Hatha Pradipika (3.61-62), this is its explanation of mula bandha:

Pressing the perineum with the heel, contract the anus so as to draw the apana upwards. This is mula bandha. By contraction (of muladhara) the apana, whose course is downwards, is forced to go upwards (through sushumna). Yogins call that mula bandha.

In the Gheranda Samhita (3.12-13) it says:

The wise yogi should apply pressure to the perineum with the heel of the left foot and carefully push the navel plexus against the spine. He should tightly press the penis with the right heel. This mudra destroys decrepitude and is called mula bandha.

This is simply describing the activation of pelvic floor muscles. The purpose of mula bandha is to help manage and channel prana, specifically redirecting apana/downward moving energy upwards. Although this may have an effect on kundalini/the awakening of dormant energy, the application of mula bandha is physical in nature; there is nothing esoteric about engaging pelvic floor muscles.

Conversely, if you look descriptions of chakras in Tantric texts like Goraksha Shataka (24):

The soul wanders only so long as it does not find the Real in the great twelve-spoked chakra (where there is) freedom from (the fruits of) merit and demerit.

Clearly this is poetic language, used in an attempt to help us understand an internal experience of higher consciousness, a process of awakening that cannot easily be explained in terms of modern science or be mapped physiologically.

In fact, Sri O.P. Tiwariji has described chakras as being like a rainbow. I find this simile particularly helpful. Like a rainbow, chakras appear to exist tangibly, and they can be experienced by a practitioner. However, once we get close enough to examine them, they vanish and remain illusive.

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While the descriptions of both mula bandha and chakras are poetic and potentially difficult to understand, one can be easily found and identified and one cannot.

Please watch Paul Dallaghan speak on this topic:

 

Summary
Article Name
Are we able to correlate ancient Hatha Yoga and Tantric teachings to modern science?
Description
When reading any of the main Hatha Yoga and Tantric texts, we come across terms, and descriptions of those terms, that can be highly poetic in nature. In modern times, attempting to explain some of these images and analogies in terms of science is not always an easy undertaking.
Author
Elonne Stockton

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