In the past I’ve written about complimentary opposites like grounding and reaching, pushing and pulling, expanding and contracting, but never in relationship to the bandhas or the yogic locks.
As with all yoga poses and techniques the bandhas are all about managing and directing our prana or life force. As you may have already encountered, definitions and practice of yogic techniques often vary amongst different traditions. Each tradition has valuable insight into the effects and practice of the bandhas. Let’s begin with root lock or mulabandha.
Mula means root, source, cause or firmly fixed. Some traditions teach that mulabandha is a subtle contraction of the muscles of the pelvic floor as opposed to the entire region including the anal sphincter muscles. Others, like the Kundalini tradition teach that root lock includes the whole region from the pelvic floor to the naval. Because we’re concerned more with physical cleansing in this post, I will emphasize the Kundalini technique.
This region of the body contains the anal muscles, rectum, reproductive organs, and also influences the lower digestive tract. For women this includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. For men, the vas deferens, prostate and vessels connected to the penis. Whether we are in our prime reproductive years, middle or old age it is imperative that we keep full blood circulation in these organs to prevent disease and ensure optimum operation.
Too many people globally suffer from prostate, uterine, ovarian or other related cancers among other diseases that afflict these organs. It is my strong belief that the bandhas can help prevent these diseases. I would love to see medical researchers put these techniques to the test. I think the results would be very positive indeed.
Often, these organs become congested with waste, or what is called in Ayurveda, “ama.” This congestion may well be undetectable by modern medicine until gross symptoms of disorder prevent themselves. A good friend of mine, Crispin, in the prime of her life, was stricken by ovarian cancer and died at 41. I witnessed her valiant fight to live and the suffering that she so bravely endured. I watched helplessly as she died. Crispin’s suffering and death have inspired me to practice and teach the bandhas.
It is best to practice root lock on an empty stomach. Sit in any comfortable position. Siddhasana is ideal. Position the sole of the right foot against the inner left thigh with the right heel under the perineum. Otherwise, easy pose or any other comfortable sitting posture will suffice. Inhale a deep, three part breath, exhale, hold the breath out and draw the pelvic floor up, contract the lower abdominal muscles above the pubic bone and draw the naval inward toward the spine. As you release inhale deeply. Contract and release the root lock slowly several times to develop an easy acquaintance with this technique. Pay careful attention to what’s happening in your body.
Just like squeezing a sponge this powerful contraction massages the organs and tissues forcing them to push blood and fluids out of the cells. As the contraction is released the tissues expand and fresh blood and fluids flush the area for a cleansing effect. The muscles, organs, glands and cells also gain a firmer tone and better conditioning from repetitive rounds of root lock.
It is quite easy to incorporate the root lock into your asana practice as well. Forward bending postures, especially seated forward bends lend themselves very well to using root lock. The forward bending postures contract the front of the body and facilitate the root lock to maximum efficiency. Try it and you’ll immediately see what I mean.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, (Ashwini Mudra) the root lock can be quite effective in treating incontinence and sexual dysfunction as well.
This is by no means an exhaustive treatise on root lock, but it should be enough to get you started. Root lock can also be used in conjunction with pranayama, breath holding and mudras. The book footnoted above is one of the best to help guide you.
The bandhas are powerful practices. If you don’t feel confident practicing by yourself, find a qualified teacher and submit to their instruction. Also, if you have high blood pressure, hernia or other active conditions in the abdominal region these techniques are contraindicated. If you have pain or discomfort, discontinue the practice. If you have any doubts consult a trusted medical professional.
As always, begin your exploration of the root lock gently and mindfully. Be persistent and you will get results.
In future posts we will consider uddiyana and jalandhara bandhas. In addition to the physical benefits we will also look at how these methods raise the Kundalini energy and speed our union with the universal life force.
 Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati