Have you ever been in yoga class and hear the instructor say “apply mula bandha” or “apply the locks” and thought to yourself, huh? Or perhaps you have an idea of what this means but still a little foggy about how to lock your root? Or if you’re doing it correctly? Read on to clear up some lingering thoughts and questions about mula bandha and how this relates to our Root chakra, Muladhara.
In Sanskrit, “mula” means root; “bandha” means a lock or binding. Not only physically but also in more subtle ways, mula bandha is a technique for containing and channeling the energy (Prana) associated with the mula-dhara (root place) chakra. Located at the tip of the spine and inhabits your entire pelvic floor area, muladhara chakra represents the stage of consciousness where basic survival needs dominate.
Mula also refers to the root of all action, and the root of any action is a thought. As we begin to refine our thoughts—restricting and binding the intentions behind our actions—the actions themselves become refined. In yoga practice we bind our body and mind, restricting our impulses into the orderly channels of ethics, individual responsibility, and right action.
Mula bandha is said to cut through brahma granthi, the energetic knot of our resistance to change, which lies in muladhara chakra. On the physical level, practicing mula bandha creates attentiveness in the supportive musculature of the pelvis. This increases the stability of the pelvis, and, since the pelvis is the seat of the spine, its stability creates a safe environment for spinal movement. Thus, mula bandha strengthens—and teaches the importance of—the solid foundation that should underlie any movement. Especially important when practicing backbends and twists. Equally important to engage mula bandha during pranayama as a means to keep prana flowing through your internal energy channels.
Mula bandha also lifts and compresses the bowel and lower abdominal region. This creates a solid foundation, a platform under the breath that makes it possible to increase or decrease the pressure inside the torso and facilitate movement. The bandha creates lightness and fluidity; when it is properly applied, the body is less earth-bound and more mobile.
To practice the engagement of mula bandha start out in Virasana, Hero Pose. Contact the “tripod” at the base of your pelvis which consists of three bones: the tail bone (coccyx) and the two heads of the thigh (femur) bones. Your coccyx should imaginatively lengthen down and through the floor. Your femur heads should similarly sink down and through the floor, imagine yourself rooting into the earth below you.
To apply mula bandha contract the muscles of your pelvic floor. Women will recognize this as a kegel exercise, or another way to familiarize yourself with this engagement is to contract the muscles you use to stop urinating mid-stream. Yes, those muscles are your pelvic floor muscles, the seat of your root chakra and mula bandha. Begin ujjayi breathing once settled into virasana and as you inhale lock your pelvic floor muscles, at the top of your inhale hold your breath and root lock here for a few seconds and when you need to release – take an exhale – release mula bandha as well. Practice for a few rounds keep your focus steady and soft and bring your awareness to any changes, thoughts, and actions that may come for you during your mula bandha practice.