Yogi Dr Malik - distinguished yoga writer, Editor of Yoga Magazine, Yogi (Yoga Teacher) and founder of Malik-Yoga and Malik-Laya

Articles by Yogi Dr. Malik

He is founder of Malik-Yoga, a style of yoga he began teaching over 15 years ago based upon the ancient traditions and instruction received from his training in the Himalayan region during his youth. Yogi Dr. Malik also founded YogaVogue (school of yoga) in London and is the Editor of the International best-selling and loved Yoga Magazine, mind, body, spirit.

Ayurveda & Yoga - Yoga For Men (Today's Therapist)

Putting off the andropause

Yogi Dr. Malik and Dr BB Sahi explain how yoga can help delay the onset of ageing.

You've probably heard about the menopause which affects women. You'll be surprised to learn that men experience something similar. The condition is known as 'andropause'. Andropause is a Greek word and andro means 'man', and 'pause' means to stop.

Testosterone is the chief androgen hormone which is produced mainly by the testicles, but very small quantities are secreted by the adrenal cortex (a part of the supra renal glands lying on the top of the upper poles of the kidneys). Andropause can affect men any time between the ages of 40 to 60 and it can come very suddenly.

With the decrease in testosterone, a man's body becomes susceptible to higher incidences of health problems ranging from memory loss, fatigue, decreased sexual libido and difficulty in holding an erection, digestive problems, osteoporosis and psychological problems.

So what is testosterone responsible for? And what happens during andropause?

Testosterone is responsible for many things including: the male orgasm; the development of testicles, prostate and penis; formation and maturation of sperm; it also helps to promote bone growth in adolescence, and to increase the muscle mass. Testosterone also helps to nourish body hair growth, and helps to distribute body fat. Testosterone is a type of androgen (male sex hormone). The androgens are secreted from the testis and the adrenal cortex as testosterone and are responsible for deficiencies in the body.

Importantly, the androgens (the male sex hormones) give men a feeling of wellbeing and energise the body. Androgens are also used as anabolic steroids to give energy to old and debilitated people.

The average serum value of testosterone in an adult male is between 9.4 - 37 n mole per litre. The morning value is 20 percent higher than the evening value. This value increases markedly in testicular tumours and supra renal tumours. This value decreases during stress, alcohol intake, drug intake and Addison's disease, thereby having a knock-on effect on the way a man feels.

Decrease in testosterone which takes place due to the ageing process can start from the age of 40 onwards and is called andropause. It is synonymous with menopause in women, which comes abruptly, whereas andropause is a slow process.

As we mentioned above, the symptoms of andropause affect not only the mind, but also the body. A reduction in blood count means that the body slows down as blood is not pumped to the major organs at its normal rate. This results in the ageing process.

Osteoporosis can also set in and bone density becomes weaker and brittle. Though osteoporosis is not a unique condition to andropausal men, it nevertheless can be a debilitating condition to deal with. Other conditions include a decrease in muscle mass and fat deposits around the waist region. Psychological effects may also include fear, inferiority complex and low sexual libido.

The deficiency of testosterone may be corrected by medical intervention. Some of these methods include:

  • Giving synthetic preparations of testosterone in the form of skin patches.
  • Testosterone jelly rubbed on the penis.
  • Tablets taken orally containing preparations of testosterone.
  • The best way to administer testosterone is in oil-based injections given by deep intra-muscular route.

However, hormone replacement therapy may not be suited to everyone's disposition. It depends on your medical history.

So how does andropause affect men who practise yoga?

Yoga and Andropause

People who perform regular yoga asanas can severely delay the onset of andropause or its symptoms. At its simplest level, 'asana' can be translated as a physical body posture. Yoga asanas are designed to nourish the body and give it extra strength. Yoga energises the body on a regular basis. Hence, extreme tiredness and severe bouts of depression are rare. This is because yoga asanas stimulate the appropriate glands to produce secretions which are poured into the blood giving a sense of wellbeing. The following exercises, if regularly performed, can help prevent the symptoms of andropause which can affect men between the ages of 40 and 70. There are several ancient yoga exercises, which if performed correctly and regularly are specifically designed to help against onset of andropause.

Practical Yoga Exercises to help prevent onset of Andropause

There are 3 special exercises you can perform. Each of these 'mudras' or 'bhandhas' work with different areas of the sexual regions. The ancient classical text, the Gheranda Samitha described 25 mudras and bhandhas. (Note, the term 'mudra' is popularly used in yoga to describe hand gestures. However, they are 'locks' and the term mudra can also be applied to 'body-locks'). Of the 25 we will concentrate on 3 below.

These are:

  • ASHWINI MUDRA: (located in the anal sphincter muscles). In this exercise the muscles of the anus are contracted and pushed upwards.
  • MULLA BHANDHA: (also spelt mula bhandha, this point is situated between the anus and scrotum - perineal point). Note that men contract a spot between the anus and testicles. For women the point of contraction will be the cervix. This exercise is also known as the perineal lock.
  • VAJROLI MUDRA : (in the penis). Performed by contracting the genital area and pushing upwards to the abdominal region. Testicles will be pushed upwards when this exercise is performed.

ASHWINI MUDRA

Ashwa means horse and the exercise mimics the movement the horse makes with its muscles after emptying his bowels. The exercise focusses on quick contractions. There are several ways to perform this ashwini mudra. One method is described as follows:

  • You can sit in padmasana (lotus) or cross-legged pose. Inhale and exhale breathing slowly.
  • Concentrate your attention on the anus region, but don't fixate it, let it be a natural relaxing type of concentration.
  • Contract the sphincter muscles of the anus (rectum) area. Hold for 2-3 seconds. Feel the squeeze. Relax for few seconds. This is one round of ashwini mudra.
  • As your practice is perfected and your stamina grows you can repeat this exercise for longer and hold the sphincter muscles for longer than 2-3 seconds.
  • Also you can increase the speed of the contractions gradually.

MULLA BHANDHA

This works with the 1st chakra point which is situated in the base of the spine. Mool means root, source, origin. Bhandha has several meaning including body-lock and stoppage. When we perform a bhandha we stop the breath at different levels to regulate the energy to a particular part. There are several types of bhandha. A useful bhandha for prevention of andropause is mulla bhandha.

  • Sit down into cross-legged pose. Press the heel of the left foot between the region of the anus and scrotum.
  • Contract the rectum area. This is done by contracting the part of the pelvic diaphragm between anus and scrotum and pushing upwards.
  • The intestines of the abdomen should be pressed against the spine. Now place the heel of right foot onto the pubic region. Hold. The Gheranda Samitha advises that this exercise will help the practitioner control prana (life force energy) and it should be practised in silence and with due care.
  • The energy in the lower abdomen, (the normal course of which is downwards), is made to rise upwards and unite with the energy in the chest region. Mulla bandha is performed during the retention of breath. It is important to note this. The anus is pulled upwards towards the belly button against the spine. This also creates a pull on the diaphragm (muscle which separates the chest from the abdomen), hence the entire region from anus to diaphragm is pulled up towards the spine.
  • This bhandha tones up the perineal muscles and pelvic organs such as the prostate, bladder and testicles which are stimulated and function more effectively, by increasing sexual power, strengthening the 1st chakra and helping to delay ejaculation.
  • There is increased production of sexual energy. Long-term yoga practitioners can direct the sexual energies upwards rather than downwards into sexual intercourse. This exercise is performed regularly to help do so.
  • When sexual energy is directed upwards it turns into "ojas", which is then used for higher intellectual purposes.

VAJROLI MUDRA

In the ancient classical yoga text, Siva Samitha, the vajroli mudra is described at Chapter III. It is considered a 'secret' mudra and is credited with destroying the ego and illusions. Vajroli is also a key Yogi Dr.c kriya practised in Hatha Yoga.

This series of exercises was used and is still used to achieve perfection as a Brahmacharya or an Oordhvareta Yogi Dr.. The sexual juices when diverted away from the sexual organs and intercourse become 'ojas', a special nectar and energy which is then used for higher creative and intellectual purposes. In his excellent book, Practice of Brahmacharya, the respected Swami Sivananda notes that "An Oordhvareta Yogi Dr. is one in whom the seminal energy flows upwards to the brain and is stored there as Ojas Shakti. This Ojas Shakti is used for contemplative purposes during the practice of meditation. In an Oordhvareta Yogi Dr. the seminal energy is transmuted into spiritual energy called Ojas Shakti. The process of transformation is termed sex-sublimination.

There are different types of vajroli mudra. Two specific techniques are the amaroli and the sahajoli method. In the first exercise ejaculation is controlled, while at the same time orgasm can be achieved. In the second exercise during sexual intercourse both the male and female sexual juices are sucked up through the penis.

When you practise vajroli, what you are doing is contracting and squeezing the urethral sphincter muscles located at the tip of the penis. When you pass urine and stop it midway these same muscles are used. This example should give you an idea of where the muscles are located.

  • Sit down into either padmasana (lotus pose) or, if you find this difficult, cross-legged. Keep the spine straight and upright. Concentrate on the urethral sphincter. It's vital you appreciate where it is located, otherwise you may not appreciate the benefits of your vajroli practice.
  • While concentrating on the sphincter inhale deeply and hold the breath. At the same time you should contract this muscle and push in your lower abdomen region and pull it up. Visualise yourself trying to push this region upwards to your chest region. Hold for few seconds then let go of the contraction.
  • Repeat while still holding the same breath. You can repeat this exercise as many times as you can. But remember, all repetitions should be done using the same breath. Once you have released the contraction you can exhale. You can continue breathing as normal. This is one set of Vajroli. You can repeat the whole set again depending on your stamina.
  • There are different types of vajroli mudra and it can take some time to effectively master this exercise. Expert practitioners can then progress to the next stages, for instance drawing water into the stomach region. This practice is particularly used by those aspiring to be Brahmacharya. It helps control sexual arousal and desires. Those who have mastered this exercise are able to control their sexual desires.

UDDIYANA BHANDHA

According to the ancient classical text Siva Samitha this bhandha will give you the strength of a lion. In this book the Yogi Dr. is recommended to practise this bhandha 4 times a day. This will clean his intestines and purify his body. It is even promised in the Siva Samitha that whoever performs this exercise will conquer death. This is an excellent exercise which benefits the whole body. It also works with the abdomen, improving its vitality and strength. The abdominal muscles are exercised and regular performance of this bhandha helps improve digestion and helps alleviate conditions such as constipation and indigestion. Uddiyana also helps to strengthen the stomach. This bhandha can be performed either standing or sitting in the lotus pose (padmasana).

The standing variation is described below:

  • Stand up and move feet apart a few inches. Now slightly move forward a few inches, but not too much.
  • Place your right hand on right knee and left hand on left knee. Hold the knees firmly but don't squeeze them. Try and relax a little. Feet should be firmly on floor.
  • When you feel grounded to the floor and comfortable, empty your lungs by exhaling any breath you have. Make sure you exhale every last inch of breath you have. Visualise the process of emptying the lungs. This will help you hold the pose.
  • After expiration of breath don't inhale. Instead, contract the muscles in the stomach and push them back. You will know if you are performing this exercise properly because your stomach should form a cavity, a deep hollow, because you are basically pushing the stomach up and up. Hold for at least between 4-10 seconds.
  • When you feel you are about to inhale release the stomach and inhale very slowly.You can now repeat this whole process as many times as you want but don't perform in excess. Three rounds should be sufficient to get you going. Also, don't push yourself into the pose or try and hold your breath longer than you can reasonably cope with it.

In addition to the bhandhas there are yoga asanas which can be practised to help delay andropause and retain a man's vitality and strength. One of my favourite exercises and one which I enjoy teaching is the locust exercise.

SHALABHASANA (THE LOCUST)

Also spelt shalabahasana, the body resembles the locust when this asana is performed. When we go into locust pose we connect with the earth. When you come into locust you are primarily working with the lower chakras, the seats of your passions, sexual desires, hunger, the need for shelter and safety.

Locust works with the spinal region and increases its flexibility helping the body to remain agile and youthful. When the spine is stiff or damaged it affects not only the movements of other parts of the body but will psychologically affect you also. As we grow older, we lose flexibility of the spine. There are many yoga exercises that specifically massage and work with the spine, helping it retain its elasticity.

Regular and correct performance of locust will also revitalise the bowel, liver and pancreas. It is also excellent for people who experience back pain and sciatica.

There are several variations of the classical locust posture. You can vary the position of the arms, legs and head. The locust exercise also helps to tone and firm the hamstrings and buttocks. Your stamina and strength will also increase through regularity of performance. Don't be shy of the posture. We don't normally lie down on our stomach and turn over except perhaps when we are sleeping and that's normally on a bed or sofa. Go over and feel the difference as you stretch onto your yoga mat.

How to perform

  • Lie down on the floor onto stomach with arms to side of body with palms open facing upwards.
  • Stretch legs out behind you and together. Toes should be stretched and pointed out. Rest either left or right side of face on floor. Now lift head slightly and rest it on the chin. Keep neck straight.
  • Tuck the right arm under the right side of body and left one under left side. Bring palms of hands together into fist or you can bring them together with fingers pointing downwards to toes still keeping them underneath the body. (The way you hold your hands depends on what you feel comfortable with and which position will help you lift those legs up). Keep arms straight. Tighten your buttocks.
  • Breathe in and raise both legs off the floor and take them up backwards as high as they can go, at least a few inches. New students may find it difficult to achieve this pose. In this case you can use props to help you lift the legs, such as a rolled up blanket tucked under the lower hip area. When legs are raised keep them straight and together. To help achieve this try and visualise a piece of rope pushing through the hips and out down the legs. Hold the pose for at least 2-3 seconds.
  • Exhale breath and lower the legs slowly to the floor.

Note

  • Don't bend the legs when lifting and bringing the legs down to the floor.
  • You can hold the final pose for as long as your stamina allows. Try and hold for at least 60 seconds and up to 3 minutes.
  • Remember not to push or hold legs up longer than you can cope with. You may strain your back.
  • People with spinal and back injuries should be careful as this asana could exacerbate the condition.
  • If you have strained your neck be careful when coming into and out of this pose as you may experience pain.
  • Students can also try the challenging variations of shalabahasana including lifting the arms off the floor when holding the pose.
  • Another variation of locust is Ardha Shalabhasana meaning half locust. This is performed by using one leg only.
  • This asana complements bhujangasana (cobra) which works with the upper half of the body. The locust exercise works more with the lower helping also to relieve conditions including constipation and back pain. To help you come into locust you can start by practising bhujangasana (cobra). You can also practise other yoga asanas to help flex up the hips and the lower waist region. These include Dhaunrasana (bow) and Halasana (plough).

Yogi Dr. Malik has been teaching, studying and researching Yoga for over 30 years. He is Editor of YOGA Magazine (www.yogamagazine.co.uk) and is an internationally qualified teacher.

Dr Sahi practised as a G.P. for over 20 years in the UK before returning to India to follow his interest in researching yoga and medicine.

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