When translated from Sanskrit to English, Mula Bandha means Root Lock. There are 4 Bandhas, or a system of locks, that could be activated when practicing yoga. These locks are at the pelvis, belly, and chin. The fourth Bandha is when you have all three Bandhas working at the same time.
The Bandhas work to contain your energy and help you use it appropriately. When the Bandhas are not active, your energy can escape or be misused. This is a loss that will not cause injury, but it does diminish potential for an amazing yoga practice. Activating the Bandhas will help you move and hold with ease through challenging yoga sequences.
Mula Bandha is located inside the pelvis. By activating Mula Bandha, you could possibly experience several health benefits. Because of the muscle activity within the pelvis, Mula Bandha activation is reported to:
- relieve constipation.
- help regulate periods.
- reduce IBS and constipation.
- decrease depression.
- reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
These claims are made by yogis and little or no scientific research has been done to refute or validate these claims.
Pregnant women should not engage Mula Bandha.
Finding Mula Bandha
First, let’s talk about anatomy. Imagine that your pelvis is a bowl. This should be relatively easy to do because your pelvis actually acts like a bowl by holding many of your internal organs. From your spine to both of your hips, you have support.
However, when you move around to the front of the bowl, there’s not much bony structure. In fact, you really just have your pubic bones, which are a part of your pelvis. To further complicate stability, the pubic bones are a joint. This means they can move independently.
To help have a stable bowl, your pubic bones should be in proper alignment. (Frequently, the pubic bones can become misaligned through regular events such as pregnancy.) The good news is that you have your abdominals to stabilize in the front, and many other muscles provide support within the pelvis.
Now, we’ve got our bowl. Everything is set up and ready to go right? No.
Whether you’re male or female, you’ve got a hole in the bottom of your bowl. Yes, literally, there is a hole for elimination. However, in terms of yoga practice, there is a spot located in front of your anus in an area called the perineum.
The perineum is a soft tissue that is located between the testicles and anus for men and between the vagina and anus for women. When practicing engaging Mula Bandha, men will try to engage the perineum. Women will probably feel the muscles engage at the base of the cervix, according to Rolf Sovik in “A Beginner’s Guide to Mula Bandha (Root Lock).”
I want to take a moment to advise that you lightly activate the muscles for activating Mula Bandha. In Pilates, we used to use cueing for engaging or lifting the pelvic floor. This makes sense because Joseph Pilates borrowed from yoga when he was creating his workout routine. Essentially, engage the pelvic floor was the Pilates way of telling you to engage Mula Bandha.
However, Type-A people in particular were over-engaging their pelvic floor muscles, causing rips and tears. If there’s one thing you don’t want to do, it’s tear your pelvic floor. So please, go easy on yourself.
Engaging Mula Bandha
There are several techniques to engage Mula Bandha, and all of them involve body/mind awareness. So, before you begin trying to find this Bandha, be prepared to really focus on what’s going on inside of you.
According to Rolf Sovik, you could apply light pressure beneath the perineum or cervix by sitting on a soft, rolled sock or a specially designed cushion. This should encourage correct muscle contraction.
There are also some yoga poses that can be done by sitting on your heel. This can also be a tool to awaken the muscles in the Mula Bandha area.
For me, I imagine fighting gravity. All day long, gravity is pushing on me, trying to drive me down like a nail in a board. Inside my pelvis, I decide to lift up and fight gravity. My spine straightens, my chest and head align, and yes, I feel something within me–a muscle deep in the bottom of my pelvis–lift away from the floor. That is Mula Bandha.
As you’re engaging Mula Bandha, try to notice any other muscles that are unnecessarily trying to work. For example, if you have a tight psoas, it might try to join in. If you carry tension in your neck and shoulders, you might even find that your shoulders want to lift. Reassure your psoas, neck, and shoulders that they’re not necessary right now, and resume your practice.
Ideally, you will build your ability to hold this Bandha through your entire practice.
Practicing Mula Bandha
Now that you’re able to find Mula Bandha while in a stable, relaxed position, it’s time to get moving!
Let’s take a moment to think. When we’re standing, seated, or on our backs, we will probably be able to engage Mula Bandha (as long as we remember to do so). Whatever tool you use to engage Mula Bandha, use it before you move into your pose.
However, inversions like Downward facing dog and arm balances like Crow pose might be more challenging. Whenever our hips are higher than our heads, it can cause some confusion in our bodies. In cases like this where we are inverted, we want to think about moving with gravity, sending our energy toward our rib cage or head.
The key to perfecting your Mula Bandha engagement is practice, practice, practice. Pay attention to what you’re doing (or not doing). Never grip your muscles, particularly in your pelvic bowl.
For more information about how to use Mula Bandha while practicing yoga, check out “How to Use Mula Bandha in Yoga Poses” by Hillari Dowdle.