Mula bandha: Root into the safety and comfort within
Do you carry tension in your body and struggle to fully relax, even when you have down time? Are you living with a looming sense of fear?
This month's Mini Home Practice can help. Mula bandha reestablishes our connection to the safety and comfort that lies dormant at the root of the body.
If fear and worry are your constant companions, learn to let go with this simple technique.
What is mula bandha?
Mula bandha translates to mean "root lock". Mula bandha is performed by contracting the pelvic floor muscles lightly. This practice brings awareness to the base of the body, enhancing the energetic sensation of safety.
The pelvic floor muscles can be found between the pubic bone and the tailbone. When you engage mula bandha, you may feel a gentle upward pulling sensation at the perineum, the area between the genitals and the anus.
Why should I try this?
The practice of mula bandha helps to regulate the flow of energy at the root of your spinal column. This practice has been clinically shown to relieve chronic fear and worry.
When you experience stress, tension can accumulate in your body. This can cause disordered breathing patterns which mess with your body's ability to regulate itself.
Excess tension goes hand in hand with disordered breathing, and over time, can cause physical problems and even impact your mental states. Disordered breathing can take many forms, including but not limited to holding the belly in all the time, gastrointestinal and/or pelvic floor problems, shallow or quick breathing, breath-holding, mouth breathing, a feeling of not being able to breathe in fully, or even panic attacks.
Practicing mula bandha allows us to use movement, breath and awareness to retrain our systems to flow and integrate naturally, all the way down to our root. This flow, when extended into the base of the body, signals our nervous system that all is well.
We feel more grounded and calm.
And over time, fear and worry begin to fade.
How to perform mula bandha
Ready to try it? Find a comfortable but firm place to lie down, such as on a carpet or a yoga mat. Place a folded towel under your head. Get a little cozy, perhaps draping a warm blanket over your body, or an eye pillow over your eyes.
Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground. Rest your knees together and turn your heels slightly outward. Place your hands on your belly.
Breathe into your belly. Feel your belly rise as you inhale, and fall as you exhale.
Do this for a couple minutes.
Next, bring your awareness to your pelvic floor. Notice what you feel here. Do you sense any tension in your pelvic floor? Any movement at all? Perhaps you are able to feel a subtle opening as you breathe in and closing as you breathe out. Give yourself plenty of time to observe this area of your body, and experience whatever can be felt here.
Next, send breath toward your belly and pelvic floor area as you breathe in. Imagine these areas expanding, opening, and relaxing. Then, breathe out and engage (lightly squeeze and lift) your pelvic floor.
Put it all together now: Breathe in and relax/open your pelvic floor. Breathe out and contract/squeeze your pelvic floor.
Work with this practice for five to ten minutes.
Close your practice by noticing how you feel.
Not sure you're doing it right?
"But what if I can't find my pelvic floor?"
I get this question a lot!
Sometimes it can be difficult to find your pelvic floor. It can also be challenging to contract and release this area of the body, even if you think you've found it. If so, try contracting and relaxing the anal sphincter instead. Breathe in and relax the anal sphincter; breathe out and squeeze the anal sphincter. After a few rounds, imagine shifting the contractions and relaxations into an area just in front of and above the anus.
Breathe in and relax/open your pelvic floor. Breathe out and contract/squeeze your pelvic floor.
Always remember when trying a new practice that your experience is completely yours, and is never wrong.
When we invite ourselves to feel new sensations, it can be uncomfortable or disorienting at first. If working with this area of the body is uncomfortable for you, you don't need to do it. There are many other calming practices that could work better for you, and that's ok.
But if you choose to practice mula bandha, know that with a little time, curiosity and playfulness, your awareness and skill will grow. The benefits will accumulate and often emerge as unexpected gifts in your life.
Awareness brings many such benefits, and is a foundational skill in yoga and meditation practice. Awareness is a tool for regulating energy and finding energetic flow. In yoga, this energy is called prana, and it is said in the Yogic tradition that awareness moves prana. When prana becomes stuck, with time, our systems not longer integrate as they should, and disease can develop.
As you practice mula bandha with breath, the resulting oscillation regulates your autonomic nervous system. With regular practice, this calm state becomes conditioned, and you may experience a lessening of difficult mind states like fear and worry.
Allow yourself at least a week, but preferably three weeks, with this daily practice. After some time has passed, ask yourself if you have experienced any changes in your daily life and mental state.
Everything you need can be found within. I hope you find this practice beneficial.