Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 91 - Yoni Mudra Kumbhaka - Purging the Third Eye, and More
Date: Mon Jan 19, 2004 4:57pm
Now that we have gotten everyone cautious about directly stimulating and awakening their kundalini energy, we will dive straight into the granddaddy of all the kundalini stimulators – kumbhaka (breath retention), with a full array of bandhas and mudras. Why not? When you are ready for it, you won’t have to go hunting. It will be right here. Until then, I trust you will be wise and not push your practices to excess.
We will approach kumbhaka under the auspices of a practice called “yoni mudra,” which means, “seal of the goddess.” You can substitute the name of any female deity you want for “goddess.” We all know who she is, even if by different names.
Before we get into yoni mudra, be reminded that all the same cautions apply here as detailed at the beginning of the recent lesson on siddhasana. You should be reasonably stable in all of your practices, and not experiencing internal energy instability in your everyday activities. You will find that much of what we have already been doing is part of the expanded style of yoni mudra we will be discussing here. We will be tying a group of practices together into a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. This will give our nervous system the opportunity to evolve more quickly to a broader and more integrated style of natural functioning relating to the flow of pure bliss consciousness and divine ecstasy inside us.
First, there is an extra caution we should mention. We will be holding our breath here, and adding some gentle targeted inner pressure in the body. Nothing extreme will be recommended – certainly nothing more than the equivalent of jumping in a swimming pool and holding our breath voluntarily for a short while. If you have a heart condition, respiratory problems, high blood pressure, or any other condition that could be aggravated by holding your breath, then, either skip this advanced yoga practice, or get your doctor’s permission before getting into it. In other words, if you know your doctor would not approve of you holding your breath and swimming underwater in a swimming pool, then you should stay away from yoni mudra. Safety first.
The practice of yoni mudra we will be discussing here is optimized in such a way so as to cover the entire sushumna by bringing in several other simultaneous practices.
It will be performed at the end of spinal breathing and before meditation. Right in-between those two well established practices.
Let’s begin by sitting as we do in pranayama. This means sitting in our chosen version of siddhasana. We are at the end of spinal breathing when we do yoni mudra kumbhaka, so we have been going up and down inside the spinal nerve on our inhalation and exhalation for our allotted time.
Now, to go into the yoni mudra phase we will begin by placing the tips of our two index fingers close to the outer corners of our closed eyes against the lower lids. Then we gently push the eyes up and to the center in the direction of the point between the eyebrows. This should not be done with any strain or discomfort. Just a gentle nudge of the eyes toward the point between the eyebrows. If you have long nails on your index fingers, you may have to trim them for this part of yoni mudra.
Now, with our closed eyes in third eye nudged mode, we go up inside the spinal nerve with our inhalation from the perineum to the point between the eyebrows. When our lungs are full and our attention is at the top of the spinal nerve at the point between the eyebrows, we close our nostrils on the outside with our two middle fingers pressing from either side of the nose. At the same time we keep the index fingers in place pressing the eyes gently toward the point between the eyebrows. Also, at the same time, we lift our tongue to the roof of our mouth, sealing off the mouth inside so no air can escape through there. Now we are holding our breath. But we are not holding it with the epiglottis in our throat, as we normally would. Instead, we allow the air pressure from our expanded lungs to come up easily into our nasal passages and sinuses. This is not a big pressure, only a small one. We don’t push it up there. We just let the natural pressure of our filled lungs be up there. Our middle fingers and tongue block our nose and mouth, so no air can escape.
Try that and see how it works. Pretty easy isn’t it?
What we do now is hold our breath for a comfortable duration – not too long, not too short. Depending on your capacity it could be thirty seconds, a minute, or maybe longer. If you are a professional sponge diver, it could be several minutes. It doesn’t matter exactly how long it is. What matters is that we hold our breath inside for a time that is both comfortable and going a bit toward the edge of our capacity. Not to the point of straining. Not to the point of gasping for air when we are done. When we are done and ready to exhale, we let our middle fingers go from the nostrils, but not the index fingers from our eyes or our raised tongue. We should have enough composure left to do a nice smooth exhalation through our nose going back down the spinal nerve with our attention to the perineum. When we exhale we should not be desperate for air. We can go a little faster than in normal spinal breathing, both on inhalation and exhalation, but if we are in a big rush to get air, we have held our breath too long. Find a balance. It will be a bit clunky at first, as all of these advanced yoga practices are. But it will smooth out quickly to a comfortable practice. The idea is to spend quality time with the breath suspended inside. It should not be an exercise in heroics.
Starting out, we will do only three of these yoni mudra kumbhakas between pranayama and meditation. So it is only a few minutes we are adding in the middle our practice of pranayama and meditation. But there is more to yoni mudra kumbhaka than just mentioned. There are some other things we want to be doing during our kumbhaka to produce the most positive results. So let’s get into more detail.
Having just come out of spinal breathing, we will have been doing mulabandha and sambhavi already, as well as sitting in siddhasana. In yoni mudra kumbhaka we continue with mulabandha. Sambhavi is modified during yoni mudra because we are nudging the eyes toward the point between the eyebrows with our index fingers. With our index fingers doing that, we do not do the lifting and centering of the eyes part of sambhavi. However we do continue with the furrowing of the brow, gently bringing the eyebrows together toward the center. So sambhavi in yoni mudra is a combination of lifting and centering the eyes with the index fingers and gently pulling the eyebrows together with the muscles in our head. Also, in yoni mudra kumbhaka, our attention is brought to the point between the eyebrows for the entire period of retention of breath, until we go back down the spinal nerve on exhalation. In fact, we may find our attention being drawn out in front of the point between our eyebrows during yoni mudra kumbhaka. This is natural. As the spinal nerve begins to have some ecstatic conductivity, it becomes quite pleasurable to do sambhavi. Pressing the eyes toward the point between the eyebrows with the fingers while pulling the eyebrows together in yoni mudra can fill the whole body with pleasure as the ecstatic conductivity rises in the spinal nerve. (“If your eye be single your body will be filled with light.”) The pleasure naturally increases as the attention goes out beyond the point between the eyebrows. There is something out beyond the body that calls us with ecstasy. We find that the sushumna keeps going, and it is okay to go there as we are naturally attracted. What will we find there? Oh, we will find out. It is all good. If this extension of the sushumna is occurring it is okay to let our attention go the full distance of it out in front during our normal spinal breathing as well. It is a natural evolution of the sushumna, and spinal breathing. It is promoted during yoni mudra, and is only one of the many benefits of this advanced yoga practice.
The maneuver with the tongue going to the roof of the mouth is the beginning stage of an advanced yoga practice called “kechari mudra.” The tongue has a very important role to play as our practice advances. For now, we just want to comfortably seal off the air from escaping through the mouth during yoni mudra. Maybe that means the tip of our tongue is placed behind the front teeth. Or maybe further back. If we can comfortably reach the point where the hard and soft palates meet on the roof of the mouth, that is a good place to park the tip of the tongue. It does not have to be there though. Whatever works most comfortably now is what we want. There will be much more on kechari in future lessons.
There are two other components we’d like to add to yoni mudra. First is something called “jalandhara bandha,” which means, “chin lock.” We will take a less stringent approach than what is implied. All we will do during breath retention in yoni mudra kumbhaka is let the head come down as far as it comfortably goes toward the chest. During inhalation and exhalation we lift it up again. That’s all. We just let the head hang down during breath retention, and let our fingers, placed on the eyes and nose, stay in place as the head comes down. If our chin goes comfortably half way down to the hollow of our throat, that is fine. If our chin goes all the way to the hollow of our throat that is the full chin lock. Either way is fine. Jalandhara stretches the spinal nerve in the upper part of the body from the point between the eyebrows on down. It is easy to feel the stretching. We don’t strain it. If there is some ecstatic conductivity in the spinal nerve, we can feel the stretching reach all the way to the perineum. It is amazing how it works. With jalandhara, we stretch the sushumna from the third eye to the root. This stretching greatly enhances the effect of yoni mudra kumbhaka, and promotes the rise of ecstatic conductivity in the spinal nerve. Later on, we will work more with jalandhara, using a dynamic version of it to stimulate huge amounts of prana up into the heart, throat and head. Jalandhara is a very important advanced yoga practice. Here in yoni mudra we are introducing the beginning of it – just letting the head go down easily while the breath is held in. Then we lift the head up while we are doing our exhalation and inhalation. We keep it comfortable.
The other component we will add is uddiyana. This also comes in several versions, which we will explore fully down the road. At this stage we are introducing a basic version for yoni mudra. When we are retaining the breath during yoni mudra, we gently lift our diaphragm a little and pull our belly in. This ties in with mulabandha coming up from the anal sphincter through the pelvis. Uddiyana does wonders as we are sitting in siddhasana too. Uddiyana, which means, “to fly up,” is connected with the activity in the pelvis, and carries it all up much higher. Because we are full of air in yoni mudra kumbhaka, we will not be pulling up with the diaphragm very much. Just a little.
You will feel the pressure coming up through the body from uddiyana. Don’t overdo it. If you have learned yoga postures (it’s highly recommended you do this), you will no doubt have learned to do uddiyana while standing up with all your air expelled. This is a good way to get some familiarity with it. There is a lot that will be done with the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. We will get further into it later. For now, just pull up a little during your yoni mudra kumbhaka. Let it go as you are exhaling and inhaling between breath retentions.
So, there are a lot of things being done in yoni mudra. Most are physical habits that can be easily cultivated. In time, once we are through the clunky stage, all of these things will come together into one integrated reflex of the body that happens automatically when the breath is retained. Then, as ecstatic conductivity rises, these maneuvers will refine into subtle coordinated inner movements responding the natural flow of divine ecstasy within. All that we have been discussing here is an introduction to a new and natural style of bodily functioning. In its advanced form all these components of practice discussed above will manifest as intimately connected, automatic “micro-movements” in the body, occurring invisibly as the energy moves in us day and night. All of these physical procedures we are learning now relate directly to the biology of ecstatic experience rising in the body. Though we are very clunky right now with these things, you will be amazed at how subtle, smooth, and naturally connected they become. Daily yoni mudra kumbhaka, with the full array of bandhas and mudras added gradually transforms us into the ecstatic equivalent of a fine tuned Ferrari. It may not seem like it now, but that is what happens. Yoni mudra kumbhaka is advanced spiritual training for the biology.
We will take a very gradual approach to yoni mudra kumbhaka, starting slow and easy with three repetitions between pranayama and meditation, as discussed. Those who find the practice of yoni mudra kumbhaka good and smooth can ramp up by baby steps. Do not overdo it. Kumbhaka is the most powerful of all the direct kundalini stimulators. If three repetitions are good, then maybe in a month try four. After a few more months, you could consider trying five repetitions. Like that. Don’t start doing five or ten right out of the gate. A very slow buildup is the way to go, and then only if you are smooth in all your practices and in daily activity.
We’ve talked about how to do yoni mudra kumbhaka, but not much about what yoni mudra kumbhaka does inside us. Put simply, it works to open every nook and cranny of our nervous system and draws kundalini (sexual energy) up at the same time. It produces a huge amount of purification in the body. It also cultivates the subtle habits of ecstatic biological functioning in us.
The multiple angles we take on the third eye produce a purging effect at the upper end of the sushumna and throughout the entire head. So, yoni mudra is a third eye cleanser for sure. The entire spinal nerve is stretched and permeated with prana coming up from the pelvic region. Also, kumbhaka, by creating an extra demand for life force in the body, pulls a large amount of sexual energy (kundalini) up from the vast storehouse of prana located in the pelvis. Siddhasana, mulabandha, and uddiyana promote this drawing up going on in the lower part of the body.
This is a broad overview of what happens. Many other things go on in the biology and nervous system as a result of yoni mudra kumbhaka. Way more than can be discussed in these few paragraphs. We will fill in the details in future lessons as experiences come up.
Finally, it should be mentioned that this is an optimized version of yoni mudra, aimed at promoting a broad range of openings in the nervous system. Formal yoni mudra involves using more fingers to seal the ears (thumbs) and mouth (ring and pinky fingers), and fewer of the bandhas and mudras given here. What we are learning here is a hybrid practice for the sake of efficiency. In a few extra minutes during our twice-daily sittings, we can add a big boost to all of our practices, and to our experience of the rise of pure bliss consciousness and divine ecstasy in our life. That is what this yoni mudra kumbhaka is for.
Click here for additional lesson content on kumbhaka (breath retention) in relation to the AYP system.
The guru is in you.