MOOLA BANDHA – the root lock
Moola Bandha is a useful technique on many levels.
On the one hand it is a powerful technique used, preferably under the careful guidance of a teacher in the practices of Kriya Yoga, to fan and raise the primal force (kundalini) that is said to reside in the base of the spine.
It is a good practice for locating the trigger point of Mooladhara Chakra.
It can also help transmute sexual energy, if abstinence is being practised.
It is also, however, a simple technique that can be used by anyone to tap into
‘a drop of the life -giving energy force, to strengthen the body, and remove and prevent disease’.
(Moola Bandha by Swami Buddhananda Saraswati).
On a purely physical level, a toned pelvic floor helps to prevent prolapse of the uterus or bladder, and helps to maintain health of the prostate gland and urinary continence. A toned pelvic floor also improves sexual pleasure, function and sensation for both sexes.
Moola Bandha is basically then a pelvic floor contraction. It is applicable to both men and women.
Moola means ‘root’, and in this case the word refers to the base of the body, the base of the spine, the perineum.
Bandha means to ‘hold’, or ‘lock’, or tighten, or to keep firmly fixed.
Yes, Moola Bandha is designed to raise the prana, or the fundamental energy, for the purposes of spiritual enlightenment. But it also redirects that energy for the purposes of physical and emotional well-being. It is a powerful tool in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Practise of Moola Bandha helps to resolve low energy states and lethargy. There may even come a time when post-partum depression will be linked to a weakening of these vital muscles. It also, in my experience, helps to ‘’catch’’ the energy if something goes awry on a psychic level……but that is purely experiential, and different for everyone.
A granthi is a normal binding of energy that everyone experiences, not something to be concerned about….Moola bandha deals with the knot or ‘granthi’ in the psychic energy around mooladhara and swadhisthana chakras. (Brahma Granthi)
Mooladhara and Swadisthana chakras are related to the basic survival instincts, our fundamental fears, instinctive drives and knowledge, our desires and sexuality.
Moola bandha: perineal contraction, stimulates both the sensory-motor and autonomic nervous system in the pelvic region, this pelvic stimulation activates the parasympathetic fibres emerging from the pelvic spinal cord. Parasympathetic fibres emerge from the cervical (neck) and sacral (pelvic) areas only, while sympathetic fibres emerge from the thoracic (upper back) and lumbar (lower back) areas.
Sw. Buddhananda (ibid)
As with all other tools and practices you must exercise personal discrimination. Pursue the middle path. There is no need to hurl your-self headlong into an extravagant practise of Moola Bandha. If there are any negative effects from the practice, simply discontinue it. If the practice causes any hyper-activity also discontinue. This, in my experience, is a possible and temporary side-effect, but really it depends on the person.
Moola Bandha can easily be incorporated into daily life. You can practise a few rounds while you wash the dishes, or watch the television, for example. Be aware of how your body is affected by the practice and keep note of how you feel.
I have come upon a surprising number of references that describe Moola Bandha as a contraction of the anus, or of the anal and stomach muscles together, and this is incorrect. Contraction of the anal muscles is a practice known as Ashwini Mudra. This is a very valuable technique in its own right. Because it is fundamental to the practise of Moola Bandha that there be a development of sensitivity in the area of the anus and perineum, Ashwini Mudra is therefore an excellent preparatory practice. Ashwini Mudra helps to stimulate intestinal peristalsis and alleviates constipation and haemorrhoids, thus improving over-all physical health.
Since we’re in that zone, so to speak, Ashwini Mudra goes as follows –
Sit in a comfortable position and relax the entire body. While breathing normally, rapidly contract and relax the anal muscles, trying to confine the contraction only to that area. (It is natural, however, that other muscles will respond. This will improve with practise.) When you feel comfortable with this rapid contraction and relaxation, you can slow down the practice so that you contract the anus upon inhalation and release upon exhalation. Be sensible and do not overstrain. Do not practise if you suffer from anal fistula.
Also note that when the body is tense and anxious we often unconsciously hold the muscles in the buttocks, anus and pelvic region quite tight. Check this out right now and if you find tension, release it. Check back regularly. Ashwini mudra is very helpful for releasing this unconscious ‘up-tightness’.
It is important for the practise of Moola Bandha that you begin to isolate the muscles used in the practice from those involved in the urinary or excretory functions. The muscles involved for the practise of Moola Bandha are located in the perineum of the male, between the anus and the testes, and in the female behind the cervix where the uterus meets the vagina. I have also heard of the area described as being related to the Hui – Yin point in Acupuncture, which is the first point on the meridian known as the Conception Vessel. To find this Hui-Yin point, move the awareness an inch forward from the anus on the perineum and then take the awareness a couple of inches up into the body.
In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Moola Bandha is described as follows, from a seated meditation position,
‘Press the heel against the perineum, and contract the perineum. Draw the apana upward. This is known as Moola Bandha.’
Verse 61, Chapter 4 Hatha Yoga Pradipika
(Apana is the specific name for the prana/energy circulating in the lower trunk of the body. It is a downward-moving energy.)
If you can sit in a meditation pose where the heel is pressing against the perineum, all to the good. Otherwise sit in any comfortable pose. Note, that if you choose to practise in a cross-legged meditation pose, the knees should come down towards the floor so that the belly and chest have plenty of room to be at ease and open, and the spine must be held upright.
Close your eyes, and relax the entire body. Your breath should be easy and natural.
Concentrate on the perineal/vaginal area, (depending on your gender).
Contract this area by pulling upwards or drawing upwards the muscles of the pelvic floor.
Work towards isolating the relevant muscles, although it is natural in the beginning that the anus and urethra contract somewhat as well.
Keeping a steady and even rhythm, practise brief contractions and relaxations.
Keep your breathing normal and relaxed.
Practise for a couple of minutes.
After having become comfortable with this practice over time you can practise a slower form of contraction, drawing up the relevant isolated muscles as you inhale, and releasing slowly and evenly as you exhale. Repeat up to ten times.
There are variations, such as contracting and relaxing the muscles in steps or stages, but ultimately the practice amounts to the same thing. For example, contract Moola Bandha in 4 stages, hold, and release in 4 equal stages..etc etc
An active practice of Moola Bandha incorporating an asana called the Bridge Pose (kandhurasana) goes as follows…
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your foot-soles on the floor. Knees are hip-distance apart. Feet likewise.
Arms are down alongside the body. Head and neck are comfortable. Eyes are closed. Face is relaxed. Take your time….
Then, become aware of the tailbone.
As you inhale, curl up the tailbone, and raise the buttocks off the floor.
Continue inhaling as you continue raising the lower back, and then the middle back, and on upwards as far as you are comfortable -raising the spine off the floor. The head, neck, arms and shoulders (and feet!) remain comfortably on the floor.
(Imagine that there is a string at your navel pulling your belly upwards towards the ceiling.)
At the end of this movement hold the inhalation and contract moola bandha.
Hold for a few seconds then release the pelvic floor contraction.
Begin to exhale and slowly unfurl the spine, vertebrae by vertebrae, back down onto the floor. Finally uncurl the tailbone and release any tension in the buttocks.
If you need to take an extra breath during this movement do so.
Rest and breathe between rounds, and repeat the practice 5 to 7 times. .