Root Lock in Yoga: What is Mula Bandha in Yoga Practice and in Life?
What Does it Mean to be Rooted?
If you’ve practiced yoga for awhile then you’ve, no doubt, noticed that yoga practice and life cease to be two separate things. Yoga seeps into life and life seeps into yoga. And this is the intended direction. Practice should support both a more “ease-full” and stable life. Yoga practice on the mat is our laboratory. We are provided with different challenging scenarios everyday and we have the opportunity in each practice to notice our reactions and explore different responses. One of our tools in yoga practice is mula bandha. Mula bandha is usually translated as “root lock”. Mula bandha is not just a trick to mastering jumpbacks; it’s a tool for responding with steadiness to ever-changing conditions.
What about mula bandha and the pelvic floor muscles?
Does mula bandha involve engaging muscles of the pelvic floor? Using physical engagement can be a helpful way to begin experiencing the practice of mula bandha. Just as we use the tool of physical asana to explore subtler ideas of exploring consciousness and training concentration, we can apply the physical tool of trying to maintain a gentle engagement the muscles of the pelvic floor, while we move through our postures. The physical effort can help us go in the direction of experiencing what it is like to try to remain steady when the external circumstances keep changing.
Mula bandha is an energetic concept
At its heart, mula bandha is an energetic concept. It’s subtle and kind of hard to grasp onto. I’d be remiss as a student if I suggested either that mula bandha is a “thing”, or that I know exactly what “it” is. My understanding of mula bandha continues to evolve as I practice. My experience is that mula bandha is a idea and a process, not so much a muscular contraction. It’s about growing roots.
Learning how to stay
My experience of the practice of mula bandha, is that some part of it is about learning how to stay: learning how to stay through discomfort (not pain! – that’s different), learning how to stay through boredom, learning how to stay through the plateaus of asana, learning how to stay through distraction, learning to stay through all the thoughts we have about why we think it would be better to be somewhere else other than where we are right now.
Practice of mula bandha doesn’t just show up in jumping back and fancy gymnastics. It shows up in our discipline and our willingness to do a daily practice. Showing up on the mat, no matter which postures you’re doing, when you are tired, bored, distracted, or just don’t feeling like getting up early, is an expression of rooting. It’s an expression of mula bandha as I understand it.
Staying with the practice of a steady, even breath, whether the postures feel easy or hard, is an expression of mula bandha. It’s showing a conscious decision to root, to be steady even as the conditions change.
Taking mula bandha off the mat
In this way, we can take the concept of mula bandha off the mat and into our lives. Where is it in your life that you could use more stability? Where would you like to apply the skill of holding steady despite changing external circumstances? Take the understanding of mula bandha and rooting to your practice on the mat and see where it leads you. Then, take the skill of conscious steadiness off the mat and into your life. See where the practice of mula bandha takes you!