Saturday, July 2, 2011

Yoga for Conception and Contraception

In response to my post yesterday about whether it is possible to have an abortion by doing yoga, Roselil commented that in his book, "Yoga for the Three Stages of Life", Srivatsa Ramaswami quotes a verse from Sage Nathamuni giving a list of asana to be used as contraception for women (on page 222). According to Roselil, Ramaswami mentions that unless these asana are practiced from an early age so that they are mastered, they will have limited application. These asanas are: Pasasana, Yoganidrasana, Garbha Pindasana, Bhadrasana, Matsyendrasana. When these are mastered and practiced, conception will be prevented.

According to Roselil, Ramaswami also states that certain asanas are also prescribed for conception/healthy development of the fetus. These are: Purvatanasana, Dvipada Pitham, Baddhakonasana and Padmasana. In addition, Sarvangasana and Sirsasana are suggested (p 212). I am not familiar with Dvipada Pitham. Can anybody out there clarify? Thanks!

Many thanks to Roselil for providing this information :-) I thought I'll share all this here, since this might be useful and/or edifying to some of you out there. 

I am not very familiar with Ramaswami's work. I did take a workshop with him in Miami several years ago where he discusses yoga practice for the three stages of life: Youth, Householder, and Old Age (I don't think these are the exact terms he used, but I think I got the general idea). I distinctly remember him saying that one needs to do different practices for different stages of life, because you really don't need to be able to jump through your arms when you are middle-aged! Hmm... if this is true, then I probably have only a few years of jumping through and jumping back left :-)

But all this is neither here nor there. Coming back to the lists of contraceptive and conceptive asana, I notice, from just taking a quick glance at the two kinds of asana, that the contraceptive asanas seem to have one common feature: They all exert some kind of strong binding pressure on the pelvis/reproductive organs. My speculation is that this serves to "bind" and "limit" the reproductive capacity. On the other hand, the conceptive asanas also seem to have a common feature: They all promote an "opening" or expansion of the pelvis/reproductive organs. Which seems, to me, to promote circulation to these organs and foster their healthy functioning, thus enhancing the chances of conception. If we go by this logic, then I suppose backbends would also be conceptive asanas, since backbends, by their very nature, promote the opening and expansion of the front body in general, and the pelvic area/reproductive organs in particular.

Roselil also wonders what happens if we practice both conceptive and contraceptive asanas in the daily practice, as we do in Ashtanga. If you have any thoughts on this, please feel free to share.

I have not read Ramaswami's book, and (as I mentioned) have very little knowledge of his work. If you have anything to add in this area, please also feel free to share.


  1. As roselil says in her comment Ramaswami is refering to Krishnamacharya/Nathamuni's text the the ``Yoga Rahasya'' , big section in there on this topic. I wonder If the bit about having to have practiced them from an early age came out of discussions with his (Ramaswami's) wife who is a retired Gynochologist I believe. Dvipada Pitham is table pose no?

  2. He also includes pranayama and bandhas and then goes on to say... : These powerful asanas, which work on the pelvic organs, provide the tight amount of controlled pressure and twisting or squeezing of the uterus, and if aided by the bandhas in bathya-kumbhaka, they should prevent, if properly done, the embedding of the fertilized overum in uterine walls".
    p222 'Yoga for three stages of life' Srivatsa Ramaswami.
    My current post has a link to his newsletter page where he has several devoted to Vinyasa krama and Internal organs...always wondered if he checked them past his wife first... have this image of her wielding a big red pencil, crossing out bits here and there.

  3. As an explanation to why the asana for contraception have to be practiced by girls from early childhood, prior to puberty, in order to have the desired effect, Ramaswami says (same book, p 212) that it is not possible to wait to learn/perform these asana to "the time when needed".

    In a traditional Indian context "the time when needed" is right after the onset of puberty as the girls were usually already married by then. So if they did not perform the contraceptive asana well by the time they reached puberty, then the asana wouldn't offer them any protection from getting pregnant.

    Ramaswami also explains how the contraception works: "These powerful asana, which work at the pelvic organs, provide the right amount of controlled pressure and twisting or squeezing of the uterus, and if aided by the bandhas in bahya-kumbhaka, they should prevent, if properly done, the embedding of the fertilized ovum in the uterine walls."

  4. Hello Grimmly and Roselil, thank you for your valuable input. I didn't know Ramaswami's wife is a retired Gynecologist. I like that image of her standing over him, red pencil in hand :-)

    It is interesting that the asanas, performed with proper bandha engagement, can actually prevent the embedding of the fertitlized ovum in the uterine walls.

    Now I'm curious: Assuming that a girl were to practice and perform these contraceptive asanas regularly with a certain degree of proficiency (and thus be effectively on asana-birth-control), how long would it take for her to undo these birth-control effects by doing the conceptive asanas, if she decides at some point that she wants to have a baby? (Does my question make sense? I know this is a long and awkwardly-worded question.)

  5. So, I've never heard of Bhadrasana. A google search suggests that it is the same as Baddha Konasana, which would mean that it's in both lists (i.e., both "conception" and "abortion"). How can this be? Or is Bhadrasana actually something else?

    (Dvipada Pitham is like a simple Bridge Pose, usually grabbing the ankles, I think.)

  6. in Bhadrasana your sitting in padmasana, lotus with your palms on your thighs near your groing but with your hands turned inwards so your fingers are pointing towards you rather than away. One of my favourite postures as you can push up and really stretch the spine and get some nice bandha action going.

    Wouldn't call it it abortion frank the idea is to avoid pregnancy altogether rather than to terminate one.

  7. Actually, in Maehle's book, he mentions that Pasasana, in a certain sequence, could cause a miscarriage, which is why it's one of the first poses to be dropped when a practitioner becomes pregnant (I've seen it modified, rather than dropped).

  8. Nobel, my qualified guess is that the contraception stops and the woman becomes able to get pregnant in the first cyclus after she stops doing the contraceptive asana. The explanation of how the asana work (preventing the embedding of the fertilized ovum in the uterine wall) is the same method as used when contracepting with an IUD. And as soon as an IUD is removed, the womb is able to receive the fertilized ovum.

  9. Grimmly, thanks for the info about Bhadrasana. I did not know this is what it was :-)

    Frank, I have read that same passage in Maehle about Pasasana's possibly causing miscarriages as well.

    Roselil, your qualified guess seems right to me. So contraceptive asanas basically function like IUDs? Interesting.