Ever wonder how some yogis are able to lift themselves up like that? Yes, there is strength to be gained and utilized in order for certain postures to happen. However, the key to floating in your asana practice is one that is often under-explained in class. Perhaps, at one time or another, you have wondered what you teacher meant when they glazed over the term mula bandha (pronounced, “moo-lah bahn-dah”).
Directly translated, this term means “root bond.”
That might not really mean anything to you. As students, we are often reminded to use it, but we seldom receive the proper instruction needed in order to actually do so. Mula bandha is one of three principle, internal body locks, and it is located at the base of your spine. These locks can be used to contain and direct your prana (life force energy). This can be very beneficial to your yoga practice, because it is the key to lifting up and surmounting any challenge with ease.
Now, I am a firm believer that, much like other yogic knowledge, understanding mula bandha can be just as much about the getting there as it is about the arrival. This is to say, I did not recognize it immediately. In fact, it took me a long time to understand what it felt like for my body to engage mula bandha. Once I did learn, the things that seemed challenging came with more ease, more flow, and a sense of lightness.
Before we begin, it is important to have a general understanding of what the goal is. Essentially, you are going to contract your perineum, which is the space between you genitals and your anus. This is different from contracting your anus or your kegel muscles. Because of the location we are focusing on, those contractions may occur while you are doing this; however, those are external locks. Contracting the perineum is an internal process, it may take some time before you notice the exact sensation. But, it is happening. You will recognize it. Trust the process.
How to Engage Mula Bandha:
- Find a comfortable seat, preferably cross legged. Gently tuck your tailbone forward to eliminate any curvature in your lower back. Roll your shoulders back and down. Gently lift the crown of your head toward the ceiling.
- Focus your attention on your pelvis. Envision that at the base of your spine, there is a bowl filled to the brim with energy. By maintaining the integrity of your spine, you are keeping that bowl from spilling. This awareness will help you to experience the lift when you engage mula bandha.
- Move your awareness to your perineal area. Because you may be new to this, take this opportunity to familiarize yourself with the different sensations available to you. Objectively observe what happens when you tighten and release your kegel muscles, if available. Do the same with your anal muscles. Then, focus your attention on the space between your anus and your genitals. This is your perineum. This is where we engage mula bandha.
- Exhale through your nose completely, then inhale. Pause. At this point, gently contract the perineum, as if it were drawing in and up into the center of your pelvis. Hold for a moment, then exhale completely and relax.
Because this body lock may be new territory for you, you may want to begin incorporating it consciously into your practice through pranayama (breath work), as we did here. When this practice feels comfortable, you may want to move forward engaging it in more restorative, gentle postures. Build up to more challenging practices!
Remember: there is always time. Even if you can’t feel it engaging quite yet, just trust that it is. You are on your way.