Often times while teaching yoga, I’ve asked my students to engage their mula bandha and I would always get that empty look on their faces, wondering what the hell I was referring to. The ‘mula’ refers to the base of the torso, the perineum. In Sanskrit, it means ‘root’ in its literal form and in yoga specifically, ‘bandha’ refers to lock.
For men, mula bandha results from contractions of the muscles between the testes and the anus. By applying light pressure beneath this area, like sitting on a soft rolled sock, you can possibly stimulate a contraction.
For women, the contraction of mula bandha should be felt at the area surrounding the base of the cervix. Like men, we can also stimulate the lock by placing a soft cushion or rolled up sock at the center of the perineum. What’s also cool is that mula bandha is actually stimulating the very same process that creates an orgasm for women. Yogasm? Yes, it can happen.
When you hear your teacher say, “squeeze your anus,” this serves as a guide, directing you to the area of contraction, but it is more than just contracting your anus. To go a step further, try placing your finger in or on the anal opening and squeezing it shut. The anal contraction will get you closer to activating your perineum, which is where you engage your ‘root lock’. Eventually, once you’ve nailed engaging your mula bandha, the anal sphincter softens up. We’re aiming towards lifting the pelvic floor, which is related to squeezing the anus, but isn’t exactly that. The goal is to feel the perineum. To feel your perineum, try pressing your finger in the space between the anus and scrotum or labia (for the ladies). Contract your anus and then try contracting your perineum. See if you can feel a difference. Following?
Here’s a little visual to make things a little more clear. Imagine you have to go to the bathroom really badly but you have to hold it, or you’re on the toilet and slowly releasing your urine. Without using your abs, gluteus or leg muscles, you are probably engaging the right muscles associated with your mula bandha and this would be one of your most typical encounters with your root lock.
For the ladies, let’s go a step further. Try placing yourself in a low squat with your heels in and toes out, lean your torso in between your thighs and place your hands in prayer position. As you inhale, engage your mula bandha and imagine a flow of energy rising from the earth and entering the pelvic floor. When you’ve reached the end of your inhale, relax the squeeze on your exhale without totally letting go. Contracting the mula bandha is actually quite similar to Kegel exercises, which women use to help correct urinary incontinence and strengthen the vaginal walls after childbirth.
Keep practicing engaging your mula bandha and you can experience an array of benefits! Activating your root lock can align your posture, strengthen your core muscles, protect the lower back muscles and increase energy, just to name a few. It is also vital for a strong and stable yoga practice, as it is the foundation of all those cool yoga poses you've been working so hard on! Once you become a pro at it, you’ll tap into the physical experience of moving from external to internal awareness.
Peace & Love,
Anna & Nishia