The root lock, or Mula Bandha, is defined by B.K.S. Iyengar as "a posture where the body from the anus to the navel is contracted and lifted up and towards the spine."
It is a technique used not only in asana practice, but in pranayama and meditation as well. When describing the root lock, you have to think of it more in terms of energy rather than just physical practice.
There is a system of energy that starts at the base of your spine, or root, and runs up your spinal column to your skull. With this logic, by using your bandhas, you can control the flow of energy within you. Contracting your root lock can affect many systems of the body and your inner energy.
How to Activate your Root Lock
The cue “now activate your root lock” is not heard often in many yoga classes. Because of that, this term can confuse many yogis, no matter their practice level. The first step is to find your root lock. To do that, you need to locate it and then practice contracting and relaxing that area. The lock is located at the base of your spine, or directly at the pelvic floor.
Any yogi starting in the journey of working with this lock should start broad and, after practice, work toward contracting a more specific area. This lock is hard to pin-point so the broadest way to get in touch with this area, is by starting with the anal sphincter.
You must start by contracting and relaxing all the muscles down there. Sit, breathe, contract and relax, holding for a second. As that becomes more comfortable, work your way up to holding those muscles for longer periods. Practice this daily.
Once you have mastered tensing all the root muscles, the focus then is on isolating and contracting independent muscles. A way to start is to differentiate and recognize muscles is by using the heel of your foot or a tennis ball. Applying that pressure to your perineum area allows you to start to recognize and segregate all the different muscles of the area.
To apply full Mula Bandha, you are only contracting the innermost layer of the pelvic floor. This is done by a gentle but deep internal lifting or pulling of the pelvic diaphragm. The rest of the surface muscles should stay relaxed.
Why Activate your Root Lock?
The purpose of getting this close and personal with these muscles is to integrate the full mind-body connection. Using these locks can transform your practice by adding stability in poses and keeping energy from leaking during meditative practice.
It takes patience and time to understand how to have control over these locks in your body, but your efforts will be worth it, as having control of these locks is to also have control of your life force energy.
And when you are able to contain and control that life inside of you, it helps you not to look for enjoyment or happiness elsewhere and finally recognize that all that you need, you already have inside.
Image credit: Stephanie Birch