Introduction to Yoga Body Locks Part 1

by Jessica

Recently at Koa there has been a renewed focus on integrating the use of the body locks in our practice. The body locks, or Bandha’ are contractions of specific muscles in the body during asanas. Activating the bandha’ can provide numerous benefits to not only improve yoga practice but to also improve overall physical and mental health. 

The bandha’, combined with the breath momentarily interrupt the flow of blood to the contracted muscles releasing a fresh flow of blood that will detoxify the body by flushing away old dead cells. Flushing away the toxins allows the organs to strengthen and rejuvenate. The fresh flow of blood helps improve the circulation and pumps blood and oxygen to all areas of the body.

Besides the physical benefits, bandha’ also improve the flow of energy to the brain centers. Energy is purified and breaks down blockages to allow the energy to move freely through the body and mind. Activating the bandha’ can allow the mind to come to rest, alleviate stress and also welcome inner harmony and balance.

There are four body locks in yoga. Although these locks are primarily associated with Hatha Yoga, they can be utilized in all types of yoga, physical activity and anytime throughout your day. The four bandha’ are:

Mula Bandha, contraction of the pelvic floor

Uddiyana Bandha, contraction of the abdomen

Jalandhara, tucking the chin close to the chest

Maha Bandha, activating all three of the bandha’ together

 

Currently I have been focusing primarily on Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. Today I’m going to talk about Mula Bandha and I will address Uddiyana Bandha at another time. Mula Bandha, or the “root lock” is located at the center of the pelvic floor. Contracting the muscle of Mula Bandha creates an energetic seal that locks prana (breath) in the body. Mula Bandha provides a strong foundation for movement and balance. 

Mula Bandha is a contraction and lifting up of the pelvic floor. To put it simply, Mula Bandha is a contraction of the perineum, the area between the anus and scrotum or vagina. Think kegels. The benefits of kegels have long been known to help with incontinence and strengthen support to the womb, bladder and bowels. They can also strengthen the vaginal walls after childbirth. Mula Bandha can do this and more. I have noticed significant changes in my practice and in my body since I started incorporated Mula Bandha into my practice. My balance has improved, my posture both on and off the mat has improved and because Mula Bandha works the lowest part of the torso I have noticed increased strength in my abdomen.

In the beginning, activating mula bandha can be tricky. To practice you can start and stop the flow of urine midflow. This will allow you to feel the perineum contract and release. Practicing in this way will help improve your use of Mula Bandha in your practice. Over time you should be able to relax the anus and the other muscles around the perineum. You will feel the floor of your pelvis lift deep inside your abdomen.

Using Mula Bandha in conjunction with Uddiyana Bandha and Ujjayi Pranayama (victorious or ocean breath) have made my overall practice is stronger. Here’s how it works: On the inhale I activate Mula Bandha and on the exhale I activate Uddiyana Bandha. Working it this way has been difficult for me to master. There’s a ton to think about? Are my feet in the right place? Are my hands in the right place? Are my hips square, my face soft, my muscles activated, my pelvis tilted, my shoulders relaxed and on and on and on. It can be overwhelming! This is the practice. Every time I come to the mat I work to improve and using Mula Bandha has certainly helped!

Mula Bandha is located at the root chakra, Muladhara, from which energy permeates the body and mind. Mula Badha allows you to connect more deeply with this chakra. When this chakra is strong and relaxed, you will create peace and strength in your heart and soul. Focusing on the breath allows you to see your time on the mat as a moving meditation. You will walk away more energized, centered and focused.

"Yoga allows you to find an inner peace that is not ruffled and riled by the endless stresses and struggles of life”

            B.K.S. lyengar