A Healthy Alternative To Kegels
For decades women have been told to incorporate kegels into their daily lifestyle to improve muscle control in the pelvic floor. As a Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist, I’ve been working for years to truly understand the nuances between kegels and the practice of Mula Bandha, a practice of engaging the root lock in Yoga. It wasn’t until I ran into my OBGYN that I truly understood the difference between these two exercises.
My OBGYN, Dr. Mellissa, explained that kegels are a rapid contraction and release of the pelvic floor, and the practice of Mula Bandha is more subtle and drawn out. For example, if your doctor told you to do 20 kegels a day you would simple contract and release the pelvic floor 20 times and complete your exercises. When you practice Mula Bandha the contraction is done in stages.
I sat with this new revelation for quite some time. I wondered exactly what it would look like to teach Mula Bandha in a public class. I came up with a solution that would marry the breath with the engagement of the pelvic floor to create awareness around the act of engaging Mula Bandha.
The first step is to come to a comfortable seat. I prefer sitting on a block or bolster so that my hips are slightly elevated. I like to set the class up by having them bring awareness to their breath and posture. Often times when we come to sit in Yoga we are transitioning from a seat behind a computer to a seat on our mat. Many practitioners carry those patterns with them as they move into their practice. By actively drawing the awareness to the way the breath is building the body from the inside out we can help practitioners to sit up a little taller, and find more space through the front body.
The next cue I like to use is , “draw your low belly in and engage your pelvic floor”. I ask my classes to pause at the top and feel the engagement of Mula Bandha as an internal zipping up. I then cue a slow release to the count of five. From here, we can move into an inquiry around Mula Bandha.
I ask them to inhale, drawing the low belly up and barely engage the pelvic floor on an inhale and to hold it on an exhale. On the next inhale I ask that they draw their low belly up a bit more and engage slightly deeper through the pelvic floor, and pause through he exhale. The next inhale draws the pelvic floor in more, and the exhale holds the engagement. Finally, on the fifth inhalation I as that they engage to capacity and hold through the exhale. On the next inhale we hold Mula Bandha and as we exhale to the count of five we slowly release one stop at a time.
Dr. Mellissa explained that most women can engage the pelvic floor, but very view have the strength to release slowly. Working on the release help to isolate the action of engagement, and ultimately is more effective than contracting and releasing arbitrarily. This slow engagement, or zipping up, is the practice of engaging Mula Bandha in the yogic tradition. There are many ways to approach teaching Mula Bandha. Below is a modified practice that also effectively strengthens Mula Bandha and our connection to the root lock.
Sit comfortably on a cushion or a block. Inhale to the count of five, slowly engaging the muscles between the sex organs and the anus to the count of five. Pause at the top, an on the exhalation, slowly release the contraction of the muscles in the perineum to the count of five. Keep with the practice allowing your breath to inform your practice. Practice 15 to 20 rounds and then switch legs (if your legs are crossed), and do 15 to 20 rounds with the opposite shin crossed in front. Note, if you are female, begin with the left foot closest to the body, in a cross legged seat. If you are male, begin with the right foot closest to the body, in a cross legged seat.
Practicing Mula Bandha outside of asana practice can help you to connect with Mula Bandha more completely in your asana practice. It can completely transform your inversions and backbends, and ultimately the practice of Mula Bandha can bring vitality in your practice overall.