All That Moola

TURN to the page on moola bandha in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and you will find two visuals of the male and female sexual organs with dotted arrows pointing at three different spots labeled 1, 2, and 3. No explanation whatsoever is offered on what the arrows or the numbers mean, so let me attempt an interpretation.

The “2” is the one we are interested in. It marks out the perineum, that sweet spot one must engage to achieve a moola bandha or “root lock.”

For men, it is the area between the anus and the scrotum; for women, it is tucked away in the cervix. To be more precise, it sits directly opposite the G-spot, which is situated on the anterior wall of the vagina. The perineum, according to our visual, sits on the posterior wall.

But how does one get to that spot exactly? Perhaps that’s why there are three arrows swooping down on the “2” in the visual for ladies—as added encouragement and focus—versus a lone arrow in the men’s.

The Pradipika advices women to contract the cervix and vaginal muscles. Most teachers would position it as holding in pee, which isn’t as elegant as saying “lift the pelvic floor,” but it’s definitely more effective in conveying the sense and feel of this powerful bandha.

Two of my teachers Charat and Punam offer yet another technique—the moola detector, if you will. You roll up a towel—a small one like a hand towel, not a bath towel—and sit on it lengthwise in a comfortable meditative cross-legged pose. The gentle bulge of the towel gets you in contact with the mooladhara chakra or root chakra, situated in the perineal floor in men and the cervix in women.

The rest becomes a feeling game of lifting, contracting, and squeezing—all great verbs to think about when you are learning how to tune into all this moola mumbo jumbo.

Alternatively, there’s always poetry to turn to, especially The Perfumed Garden, the Arabic literary classic where I had first encountered the words yoni and lingam as a youth stealing quiet reads from a yellowed paperback my father had hid in the depths of my family bookshelf.

WHY engage the perineum and what are the benefits of practicing moola bandha? This is what the Pradipika has to say:

By contracting the perineum the downward moving apana vayu is forced to go upwards. Yogis call this moola bandha. (Chapter 3, Verse 62)

Think of apana vayu as vital energy, something akin to qiapana, being the energy in the lower abdomen responsible for elimination through the excretory and reproductive organs; and vayu, the wind or pranic air current. If we were to visualize the pelvic floor as the base of a vessel, moola bandha would be the very thing that keeps the energy in. Without moola bandha, the vital energy leaks and escapes.

For this reason, the Pradipika speaks of how moola bandha “produces heat in the subtle body,” thus awakening the potential of kundalini, the latent energy that lies coiled at the base of the spine.

This also explains why, in our practice, particularly with challenging asanas, engaging the moola bandha makes us feel lighter and stronger. It’s exactly what “energetic lift” feels like whenever we hear those words uttered in class.

And for those with lower back issues, activating the moola bandha more consciously now and then while at the desk, takes away the deadly dump on the lumbar as a result of long sedentary hours.

So lift, contract, and squeeze, and you might just feel some muscular sheath begin to hug the lower reaches of the spine, making it sturdy and strong.

That’s why moola bandha is my good friend.

***

Precautions

Women in their moon cycle should not practice moola bandha. Menstrual flow follows apana’s downward push, but moola bandha reverses it.

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