Practicing yoga can have many benefits, including balance, flexibility, and a calmer mind. One practice in particular — called mula bandha — may even help strengthen your pelvic floor and improve bladder control.
A Sanskrit term meaning “root lock,” mula bandha is the yogic practice of drawing the root chakra up and in. The root chakra is said to be located at the base of the torso, or the perineum, which is the area between your anus and genitals.
Your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, bowels, and womb. Weakening of these muscles due to age or childbirth can lead to urinary incontinence.
Physically, mula bandha resembles a Kegel exercise. Kegels involve contracting the muscles at the center of the perineum and “lifting” the pelvic floor. One way to get the feel for this exercise is to practice stopping your urine mid-flow.
Follow these steps to try mula bandha and maintain a strong, healthy pelvic floor.
1. Sit comfortably on a chair or cushion. Relax your shoulders and jaw, and bring awareness to your breath.
2. As you inhale, begin to contract and lift the muscles of your pelvic floor.
3. While breathing slowly, draw your pelvic floor muscles up for a count of 5. It may help to imagine an elevator rising up one floor with each number.
4. Hold this for up to 10 seconds. You can start off holding for 3 seconds, and then build up to 10 seconds over time with regular practice.
5. Slowly exhale to a count of 5, lowering the pelvic floor with each count until you are completely relaxed.
6. Practice for around 2 to 5 minutes, twice a day.
Pelvic floor muscle training, which includes Kegel exercises, can
Although it may feel overwhelming to add another item to your daily to-do list, this practice takes very little time. Try not to focus on how long it takes you to do this exercise. It’s more important that you practice mula bandha on a regular basis.
So, take a comfortable seat, connect to your breath, and enjoy the ancient yogic practice of mula bandha.
Courtney Sullivan is a professional yoga instructor with extensive experience in her field. In addition to holding a 200hr certification from Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Courtney is certified in Yoga Trance Dance, and has pursued continuing education in Children’s Yoga, Yoga for Special Populations, Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, and more. She has worked with Kripalu Center’s lead faculty in training new Yoga Teachers, and holds a Degree in Complementary Healthcare from Mount Wachusett College in Massachusetts. Courtney currently owns and operates a yoga-inspired preschool program in North Carolina, and continues to practice and study yoga in its many forms.