Let’s Talk About the Mula Bandha in Yoga
During the course of your yoga practice you might have heard the term mula bandha. What is this and why is it helpful?
If you study or have knowledge of the chakras, the first one is called the muladhara chakra. In Sanskrit, mula means base, so the reference is to the base or root chakra. The term bandha means lock. So does this mean to lock your root? Not exactly, but it does refer to the perineum, and it can be a very useful tool to help strengthen this area. For men these are the muscles around the perineal body which lie midway between the anus and genitals. For women, the contraction is felt in the area surrounding the cervix. Using the heel of the foot, a soft object, or a specially designed cushion helps to contract these muscles.
Contracting these muscles takes practice, particularly because when you tense one muscle, many more follow. Start by sitting in a comfortable, cross legged position. Concentrate on the breath and you breathe in and out through the nose. Keep the breath following smoothly until you feel the body relax. Squeeze the entire perineal region, being careful not to also stop the breath flow in the ribcage. Repeat until you feel comfortable activating this area.
Next, contract the perineal region, maintaining a steady breath, and hold the contraction for about 8-10 breaths. Think of the area as an open purse, and when you are contracting the muscle, you are drawing the strings closed on the purse. With practice, you will be able to contract this area without engaging the anal muscles. Don't rush it. A few minutes of practice a day will do it.
Once you can hold the contraction without also holding your breath, you are ready to engage in the mula bandha lock for your meditation and breath work (Pranayama). Ideally, the mula bandha should be held during the entire yoga class to "lock" in energy and allowing you to hold a pose for its maximum benefits. NOTE: Sorry, this is not for pregnant women!
Why is engaging the mula bandha important? For women, it helps menstrual and menopausal maladies, nourishing this area and providing blood flow and circulation. For men and women, it helps to regulate breathing and lower blood pressure and also increases digestion. For all yogis, bringing your attention the the root area, helps you feel grounded and supported physically, mentally, and spiritually.