Mula bandha in english translates as the root (mula) lock (bandha). This area of the body is the true centre of the core. Engagement here not only facilitates your yoga practice but is excellent for the health of your body as we age and everything tends to descend with gravity.
Mula bandha is the pelvic floor, specifically its the muscles of the perineum or the area in between the genitals and the anus. We can engage these muscles by doing what we call a ‘kiegel’ or pretending that we are stopping the flow of urine mid-flow.
The importance of engaging this during a practice is two-fold. First, in yogic philosophy when we inhale we are bringing prana or life force into the body. By engaging mula bandha on the inhale we create a seal for the prana so that it becomes contained in the torso. There are alternate philosophies in yoga that engage mula bandha on the exhale. This is what we tend to do naturally without thinking. In the philosophy that I have ‘grown up in’ mula bandha is engaged on the inhale so I will continue my explanation from this perspective. Second, the engagement of mula bandha creates incredible strength and stability in the body but the muscles are tiny so we are able to create this stability in a very energy efficient way, using small muscles instead of large ones to create this effect.
To find this sacred place in the body, you want to begin by finding a comfortable seat. Sit either on a block or in a chair so the spine is tall. Close your eyes and while you inhale try to lift the perineum up towards the centre of the bowl of the pelvis and when you exhale let it go completely. Engagement in this area takes practice but you do want to train the body into a habit of doing this when you are on the mat so keep it up! Those of you familiar with this space in the body start to refine the movement so it doesn’t involve the anus, often this will lift as well. In the beginning of the learning this is fine but moving forward you want to make the action smaller and more energetic in nature.
Once you start to use mula bandha in your yoga practice really pay attention to how it affects the stability of the body. Mula bandha really teaches us to move from the centre and radiate out. One of the most striking ways this bandha can change the physical practice is in forward folds. You will often find much more length when you fold forward using these muscles. Mula bandha not only teaches us stability and lengthening but it reminds us to wake up that which lays dormant in the body and helps us get sensitive to the deeper parts within.