Mula Bandha: the Yogic Root Lock Explored

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In a yoga class, you may have heard a teacher instruct everyone to “engage their mula bandha“… But without knowing what it is or how to properly activate it, this cue is not very useful.

Truthfully, the subject of mula bandha, or “root lock” is quite complex. It requires some explanation, step-by-step instruction, and most of all, practice.

As a teacher, if I center the class around mula bandha, I always make sure to spend some time at the start of the session to cover the basics of what it means, what it does, and how it works.

All of the answers to the above are covered in this article, including:

  • What are Bandhas?
  • Understanding Mula Bandha
  • How to Activate Mula Bandha
  • 4 Benefits of Practicing Mula Bandha
  • 4 Asanas That Require Mula Bandha Engagement
  • Mula Bandha in Pranayama and Meditation

Once you are familiar with the concept, you can start working on engaging your mula bandha. With some practice, you will soon be able to incorporate it into your yoga practice and reap the benefits that it brings.

a diagram of the mula bandha being activated over a woman meditating

What Are Bandhas?

Let’s start with the obvious question. What is a bandha?

This Sanskrit word is most commonly translated as “a lock“, however, it might be helpful to think of bandhas as floodgates. The role of the bandhas is to help control the flow of prana through the body, similar to the way you might use a floodgate to retain or guide the water in a stream or a reservoir.

Within our body, there are several key locations that are considered to be such “locks” or “gates”:

It is also believed that our hands and feet serve as energy locks, which are known as:

Naturally, each of these bandhas plays a specific role when it comes to the flow of energy through the body. Additionally, engaging one or several of these bandhas affects our practice on the physical level.

an x ray of the pelvis with the root chakra over it

Understanding the Mula Bandha

Mula bandha, often referred to as the “root lock,” is a fundamental yogic technique that involves the conscious contraction and lifting of the perineum (the space between the anus and the genitals).

Mula bandha is closely linked with Muladhara (the root chakra). According to ancient yogic philosophy, by engaging mula bandha, it is possible to channel the vital life force believed to be coiled at the base of the spine, where the root chakra is located.

With origins steeped in the ancient wisdom of India, the practice of mula bandha is an integral aspect of Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, and Tantra Yoga.

How to Activate Mula Bandha

It may take a while to master the technique of activating your mula bandha. Follow these steps to help you get started, and then it is all about practice, practice, practice!

  1. Bring your awareness to your breath. Spend a moment centering yourself in the asana you are in.
  2. Locate the perineum. The perineum is the space between the anus and genitals. Take a moment to become aware of this part of the body, visualizing the space if necessary.
  3. Breathe in and engage. While holding the breath or at the end of the inhalation, gently contract and lift the perineum. Imagine as if you are pulling it slightly upwards inside your body.
  4. Catch and release. Maintain the gentle engagement within the perenium while holding the breath. As you exhale, release the contraction in the perineum and let your breath flow out naturally.

Although it may sound easy, it is more tricky than it seems. Once you feel comfortable with the basic process, you can begin to gradually increase the duration of the engagement.

The next step once you feel more confident with engaging mula bandha, you can begin integrating it into various yoga asanas, like the postures listed below.

a group of pregnant people practicing yoga with balls

4 Benefits of Practicing Mula Bandha

The practice of mula bandha offers a wide range of physical and energetic benefits that can significantly enhance your overall well-being. Below are just some of the key benefits of the regular practice of engaging your root lock.

1. Stronger Pelvic Floor

Some yoga practitioners report that the physical action of engaging the root lock bears a strong resemblance to a Kegel exercise. As such, the mula bandha practice offers the same benefits.

Most notably, it strengthens the pelvic floor muscles, which in turn, helps practitioners prevent or overcome incontinence. Women may also find mula bandha exercises helpful as a way to support them through pregnancy and childbirth.

2. Enhanced Core Stability

The practice of mula bandha activates the deep core muscles, providing greater stability to the lower abdomen and spine. This results in better posture and supports the body during yoga asanas and daily activities.

3. Stimulation of Muladhara

Activating the root lock has a direct influence on the root chakra. It helps to awaken and balance this vital energy center, containing the dormant spiritual energy coiled at the base of the spine, known as Kundalini.

The practice of mula bandha helps prepare the energetic pathways for the safe and gradual awakening of Kundalini, fostering a sense of grounding, stability, and security.

4. Increased Self-Awareness

Engaging mula bandha requires keen awareness, fostering a stronger mind-body connection. This heightened awareness can deepen your yoga practice, leading to better body alignment and improved concentration.

Through this process, you may develop a deeper understanding of your body, breath, and energetic states.

4 Asanas That Require Mula Bandha Engagement

Mula bandha plays a vital role in a variety of yoga poses, promoting stability, alignment, and energy flow.

By incorporating the activation of the root lock mindfully and with proper guidance, you too can experience the transformative power of this ancient yogic practice.

1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Activating the root lock in this asana helps to align the pelvis, lift the lower belly, and draw energy upwards through the spine, promoting better posture and grounding during the practice.

Drawing the energy from the earth, engage your mula bandha while standing tall in Tadasana to create a stable foundation for the entire body.

annotated image of a woman doing yoga's mountain pose

2. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Incorporating mula bandha in Chair Pose enhances stability and strengthens the lower abdominal muscles. The root lock supports the lower back and pelvis, allowing you to maintain the pose with greater ease while directing energy upwards.

annotated image of a woman doing chair pose

3. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvanghasana)

Even the Sanskrit name of this posture points to the necessity of working with one’s energy locks! In fact, mula bandha is not the only lock activated in Bridge Pose.

Engage mula bandha to activate the pelvic floor muscles and lift the hips and support the lower back. This engagement also directs energy upwards through the spine, promoting a sense of expansion and openness in the chest and heart region.

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing bridge pose

4. Lotus Pose (Padmasana)

In Padmasana, activating mula bandha helps to stabilize the pelvis and maintain balance as the legs are intertwined in the lotus position.

The root lock also assists in grounding the energy, promoting a sense of inner stillness and focus. As such, Lotus Pose is a popular choice for seated meditation.

an annotated image of a man wearing black yoga clothes sitting in lotus pose

Mula Bandha in Pranayama and Meditation

Of course, the asana aspect is only a fraction of the overall yoga practice. Naturally, activating the root lock goes beyond physical postures and can be incorporated into breathwork and meditation practice.

Merging the mula bandha practice with breathwork and meditation is an art of refining the mind-body connection and beautiful way of tapping into the subtle energies within.

Mula bandha is usually engaged synchronously with the breath, creating a harmonious union between the energetic and respiratory systems. This union enhances the flow of prana throughout the body, promoting vitality and calming the mind during pranayama practices such as Ujjayi breath and Nadi Shodhana.

In meditation, mula bandha acts as a focal point to anchor awareness. As practitioners settle into a comfortable seated position, they gently activate the lock while entering the state of contemplation, fostering a deeper sense of presence and inner stillness.

Final Thoughts

I cannot overstate the importance of regular practice when it comes to mastering the engagement of the root lock.

It may not come to you immediately, but trust that it will come!

If the practice causes discomfort or pain, be sure to consult a pelvic floor physical therapist to help you figure out the cause and follow their medical advice.

The practice of mula bandha may also stir unexpected emotions or memories. If you have a history of trauma associated with the pelvic region, approach the practice with sensitivity and consider seeking support if necessary.

If you are more of a visual learner, you may find it helpful to follow along with a video to learn how to activate your mula bandha.

Interested in more on Bandha theory?

Have a read through our resources on the other major bandhas, the throat lock, the belly lock, the hand lock, and the foot lock!

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An avid yoga practitioner, Cat completed her training as a Hatha yoga teacher in 2016. She firmly believes that with the right guidance, yoga can benefit everyone, regardless of age, gender, size, or ability. With a background in journalism, Cat realized she could share her yoga experience with others, kickstarting her freelance writing career.

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