by Beth Heller MS, RYT
Jivamukti Yoga Co-Founder David Life tells a famous story about his first experience of mula bandha. Standing in a yoga class with a famous Indian yoga instructor, Life heard the instructions “Contact Uranus!”
Contact Uranus? Did he wander by accident into a Star Trek convention?
It took Life a while to understand that his teacher was saying ”contract your anus,” the basic instructions for initiating mula bandha, a very powerful yoga technique for fertility.
I don’t hesitate to tell you this story because if you’re experiencing infertility you’re no stranger to embarrassing descriptions of things that are happening (or not happening) below the waist. You can likely rattle off words like “semen” and “cervical mucous,” “vaginal probe” and “post-coital.” Now, believe it or not, your fertility yoga practice is going to take you there, too.
Mula bandha is an energetic practice that stabilizes the pelvis and sacrum and tones the pelvic muscles. While Life’s teacher suggested contracting the anus, mula bandha is actually more subtle. In women the action of mula bandha is the contraction of the vaginal and cervical muscles, similar to a Kegel. If you’ve never heard of a Kegel, you can get a sense of this muscle action by imagining that you are urinating and must contract your pelvic floor muscles to stop the flow of urine.
On a physical level mula bandha tones the muscles of the pelvic floor. It is great preparation for pregnancy where these muscles experience strain which can lead to urinary incontinence. But mula bandha is more than just a muscular contraction, it is also an energetic contraction. On an energetic level, the practice of mula bandha is grounding and helps conserve life energy (prana) in our body. Mula bandha also clears congestion at the root chakra, also called muladhara chakra, which is concerned with safety and survival. Mula bandha literally lifts prana up from the root chakra to the second chakra. The second chakra is called the svadhishthana chakra and is concerned with sexuality, creativity and fertility – so you can see why this might benefit fertility. Mula bandha is also said to sever the brahma granthi, the energetic knot at the base of our spine that represents resistance to change, so if you’re feeling stuck or afraid, this work is for you.
To practice mula bandha, sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the ground. Slowly inhale and begin to engage the muscles of the pelvic floor (ie. as if you are stopping the flow of urine) over a count of five. I like to use a visualization of an elevator going up (floor 1, floor 2, floor 3, floor 4, floor 5). Exhale as you release the contraction slowly and feel the elevator descending floor by floor. Check in with leg and buttocks muscles to make sure you aren’t tightening them. Repeat 10 times.
With practice it will become possible to hold mula bandha for longer periods of time, while going for a walk, while doing your yoga, while talking on the phone. Practiced regularly and with attention mula bandha can bring many gifts.