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How to do Mula Bandha (Root Lock) - Steps, Benefits, and More

Asian woman doing Mula Bandha (Root Lock) in cross-legged yoga pose

Mula bandha (or Moola Bandha) is a ‘pelvic seal’ used in conjunction with mudras and pranayama in yoga. Bandha translates to ‘bond’ or ‘hold’ and mula (root) refers to the base of the spine (coccyx). The mula bandha is created by tightening specific muscles in the pelvic floor and lifting them up and towards the navel, either as a standalone practice or with breath retention.

Many yogic techniques manipulate strategic muscles or energy pathways in the body. The goal is to activate biological systems and enhance the flow of prana for spiritual and physical enhancement. Broadly speaking, bandhas are one of the five sub-types of yoga mudras

  • Hasta Mudra (Hand)

  • Mana Mudra (Head)

  • Kaya Mudra (Body)

  • Adhara Mudra (Perineal)

  • Bandha (Internal Lock)

The 3 primary bandhas - Jalandhara, Uddiyana, and Mula bandha - are resources to deepen your yoga practice. That said, bandhas aren’t mandatory. They are one of the many tools available to each practitioner to achieve physical well-being and spiritual exultation.

In this post, we take a comprehensive look at mula bandha. We will discuss the procedure, purpose, and benefits of the practice. The information presented here is an amalgam of our personal practice, yogic literature, and inputs from certified yoga instructors.

What is Mula Bandha?

Mula bandha or Root lock is a traditional yogic hold achieved by contracting specific muscles in the pelvic floor and lifting the pelvic diaphragm (up towards the navel) while performing internal breath retention in pranayama (antara kumbhaka). It is one of the three primary internal locks applied in yoga that serves an energetic, physical, and spiritual purpose.

The purpose of mula bandha is to prevent the downward-moving apana from escaping the body, as it is naturally inclined to do. Activating the mula bandha urges apana to move up into the digestive fire. It stokes the digestive fire and moves into the upper region to meet prana vayu.

If you look at the human anatomy, the throat is at the upper end of the spine and the root is located at the base of the spine. The root lock prevents the downward flow of energy. It ushers energy back to the navel area to kindle the digestive fire (Jatharagni).

"Mula bandha – the root lock - is performed by contracting the perineum and tilting the pelvis forward. The root (Mula) and throat (Jalandhara) bandhas are also applied together to seal the upper and lower end of the spinal column," Yogi Hansraj Joshi.

Mula Bandha: Step-by-step Guide

Illustration of young man doing Mula Bandha

Base Pose: Siddhasana | Siddha Yoni Asana

Difficulty: Intermediate

Expert guidance: Recommended

Preparatory practice: Ashwini Mudra

Rounds: 3 to 5

Post-bandha: Relax in Corpse Pose

  1. Sit on a yoga mat in Siddhasana (male) and Sidda Yoni Asana (female). Use the heel of your left foot to touch the pelvic floor and exert moderate pressure.

  2. Draw a long deep breath and tighten your pelvic floor as you begin exhalation. Initially you can contract the anus to improve control of the muscles in the pelvic diaphgragm.

  3. Beginner's may not be able to isolate the right muscles. You will unconsciously end up performing the Ashwini mudra. Read the tips below to refine your practice.

  4. Hold it or intensify the muscle contraction while you exhale.

  5. Direct your awareness to the Muladhara Chakra (spiritual) or the muscles in the pelvic floor (physical) while practicing the mula bandha.

  6. Release the muscles and return to base position. This is one round of mula bandha.

Beginners can attempt 5 rounds with rest between rounds. Mula bandha is performed over the internal breath retention during pranayama. It can be done with external breath retention (bahya kumbhaka) if it is being done before meditation or in conjunction with mudras.

"There are more than one ways to do mula bandha. The variations depend on what school of lineage of yoga you follow. However, the benefits and basic process remains the same." Hansraj Joshi

Precautions: Who should avoid mula bandha?

Pregnant and menstruating women should also avoid mula bandha. Breathe retention is an important part of bandhas, so anyone who is advised to not retain the breath should avoid mula bandha as well. Hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular issues, and anxiety are aggravated by breath retention.

Additionally, mula bandha is ill-advised in case of hernia, digestion issues (i.e. peptic ulcers), and chronic diseases. If you are uncertain about your condition, discuss your health problems with a yoga teacher and healthcare provider to understand what is safe and permissible.

How to apply mula bandha to your pranayama routine?

We will preface this segment with a few pointers:

  • Mulabandha should be performed in a seated meditation posture.

  • Bandhas are not traditionally performed with any yoga asanas.

  • Acquire proficiency in asana and pranayama before you attempt bandhas.

In other words, don’t spread out your mat and start trying bandhas right away.

Yes, you are free to throw in a pelvic lock in a standing yoga pose, but don’t equate it with mula bandha or the benefits associated to it. It might have other benefits, perhaps, but none of the classical texts of yoga purport those.

Step 1: Prepare for mula bandha with other practices

The muscles in the groin (anal sphincter) are difficult to isolate. Moreover, the muscle group is weak and difficult to control because it is largely ignored in our day-to-day life. You need to locate the right muscles and gradually improve control.

Due to the lack of control, you will involuntarily contract additional muscles of the pelvic floor along with the anal sphincter. Regular practice will improve your ability to contract the right muscles without unconsciously contracting the anal sphincter.

Satyananda Saraswati (in APMB) also recommends Vajroli and Ashwini mudra as preparation for mula bandha. B. K. S. Iyenger recommends practicing Ashwini mudra in yoga poses such as:

  • Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

  • Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)

  • Bow Pose (Dharuasana)

  • Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottasana)

Step 2: Learn the bandha as a standalone practice

Do not combine mula bandha with yoga mudras or pranayama until you have achieved proficiency in the practice. Focus on the pelvic floor and learn to contract the right muscles while breathing normally (without breath retention).

"Contraction is only one part. The other difficult aspect is moving the muscle inward and upward - towards the navel," says Yogi Hansraja.

Perform 8 to 10 rounds of mula bandha as a standalone practice. Relax the body fully between the rounds with breath awareness and even breathing. Rest in Corpse Pose (Savasana) when you conclude the practice to allow your energy levels to restore to normal.

Initially, you won't be able to control the precise muscles and may notice that the anus or surrounding muscles are involuntarily contracting. Gradually you will develop control through yoga and find it possible to narrowly focus on the pubococcygeus and levator ani muscles.

Step 3: Start with Ujjayi pranayama to attain proficiency

In yoga mudras, you should be capable of holding the mula bandha naturally (without exertion or strain) through the inhale and exhale by now. Once you feel confident, start doing mula bandha with Ujjayi breathing without breath retention and then gradually add breath retention.

Include the practice of mula bandha over inhaled breath retention with other pranayamas as a variation. Always attain mastery over one bandha before you try the next or try two or more in conjunction.

We are eager to practice Maha bandha but should respect our body’s limitations. Time and perseverance are crucial if you want to work the right muscle groups in the pelvic floor.

Also Read: X Mula Bandha Benefits backed by Science (Coming Soon)

What is the purpose of Mulabandha?

Regularly practicing the mula bandha, as per the Hatha yoga Pradipika, cause an individual to “…become free of disease, tender as the stalk of a lotus, and live a very long life.” How so?

Mula Bandha unites Prana and Apana Vayu:

Mula - the Sanskrit word - translates to 'root' or 'source'. It alludes to the muladhara chakra - the source of Kundalini - the divine primal energy. Thus, the muladhara bandha is a yogic hold to awake or energize the root chakra to awaken Kundalini energy and usher it into Sushumna.

Illustration of effects of mula bandha

In yoga theory, prana is governed by air (Vayu) and is subdivided into five types of vayu based their role/function in the body. Not all vayus are created equal. Of these five, two types – apana vayu and prana vayu – are considered to be the most important.

Prana vayu is upward moving and located in the chest. Apana vayu is located in the lower abdomen and is inherently downward moving. Performing the mula bandha forces apana to move upwards and enter the navel region. The navel is the seat of Jathargani - the digestive fire.

Apana fans the navel fire and it rises upward to carry the heat into the prana breath. When these two meet, it generates a hot current that stings the dormant Shakti Kundalini (divine energy), which is described as “hitting a coiled and sleeping snake with a stick”.

This is how Mula bandhas awakens Kundalini, forcing it to enter the Bhrama nadi.

Mula bandha awakens Kundalini. Other bandhas (in conjunction with pranayama) propel Kundalini into and up the Sushumna nadi to activate the Crown chakra. Of course, now is a good time to stop as we are trespassing into the Tantra Yoga realm.

Sanskrit is a poetic language that relies heavily on metaphors. Kundalini isn’t a coiled snake but the metaphor allows for brevity and depth of meaning. Plus, it is easy to remember. After all, this was a time when knowledge was orally transmitted.

Mula Bandha dissolves the Brahma Granthi (Knot of Brahma)

Illustration showing the three psychic knots in yoga

In yogic literature (especially Yoga Tantra), there are three granthis or 'knots' - Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra Granthi - in the human body. These knots are named after the divine trinity - Brahma (Creation), Vishnu (Sustenance), and Rudra (Destruction). The three knots are present in every living entity and they block the flow of energy in the spiritual body.

The Brahma Granthi is a 'physic knot' located in the pelvic floor. It covers the root chakra and sacral chakra and prevents prana from entering the central channel. Incidentally, these two chakras are associated with basic needs (food, water, sleep), fear of death, and identity.

"The knot of Brahma blocks the muladhara and svadisthana chakra and keeps an individual engaged in the physical dimension via the pursuit of sensuality, satiation, anxiety, mortality, and other aspects of fear, self-identity, and survival," Hansraj Joshi

When the two chakras are blocked, a person remains trapped in the material and existent world. In yoga, mula bandha and pranayama are used to untie the Brahma Granthi and energize the muladhara chakra (root) and svadisthana (sacral) chakra.

Parting Thoughts

Despite being such a powerful practice, bandhas are glossed over by a vast majority of the yoga population. The Muladhara chakra is the source of creation and mula bandha the first step in the journey from the physical to the subtle. That’s why it is practiced right before meditation.

Many people have drawn parallels between mula bandha and Kegel exercises. Though it isn't the primary purpose of mula bandha, yoga-based healing therapies use the root lock to cure incontinence and strengthen the pelvic floor in women after childbirth.

We hope this resource will endure as a comprehensive guide to mula bandha yoga. Use it as a point of departure to verify if it is the right tool in your quest for self-realization. We will continue to add to this literature based upon your suggestions and queries.

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