Bandhas ("locks") are internal actions within the body which are employed throughout most moments of Ashtanga practice. This is a simplified explanation, but: the mula bandha and the uddiyana bandha help generate and maintain heat in the body, retain the life-force (prana) in the channels along the spinal column from the bottom of the column, and build the strength that facilitates particular postures and movements. Uddiyana bandha supports the lower back and strengthens against hernia. Jalandhara bandha helps retain prana at the top of the spinal column. All 3 bandhas have various influences on different organs and functions of the physical body and the psyche/spiritual/emotional body. The employment of all 3 bandhas engaged at once is called maha bandha (great lock).
The 3 bandhas are (again, simplified):
Jalandhara bandha (chin lock) - a dropping of the chin
Uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock) - a drawing of the navel toward the spine and upwards into the body
Mula bandha (root lock) - an engaging of the perineal body, which is a portion of the perineum. The perinuem is a group of muscles which extends the entire length of the pelvic floor, related to both the urogenital and anal areas. The perineal body is a small fibromuscular mode about one to one and a half inches in front of the anus and approximately two inches inside the body.
Finding the mula bandha:
For women: In women, the contraction of the perineal body happens near the cervix. In the sitting or lying position, insert the finger into the vagina as far as you can. Inhale, and with the awareness concentrated, slowly attempt to contract the muscles around your finger. If you can distinctly feel the muscles of the upper vagina contract, then you have succeeded in contracting the area around the cervix. If you achieve this contraction without movement of the anus or the urinary opening, then you have also successfully isolated the perineal body/mula bandha.
For men: In the sitting or lying position place the finger against the point approximately midway between the anus and the scrotum. Inhale, and with the awareness concentrated, slowly attempt to contract the perineal body. If you can feel that the point at which your finger rests has lifted upwards into the body then you have succeeded in contracting the perineal body. If this takes place without movement of the anus or penis, then you have also successfully isolated the perineal body.
* Information about the mula bandha has been adapted from Moola Bandha: the Master Key, by Swami Buddhananda.
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