Guest Post - Mula Bandha for Moms
November 29, 2011
The language of yoga flows off the tongue like its motions flow through each pose, but one subtle aspect of Yoga practice - Mula Bandha - is often overlooked. Yet the act of "root locking," which is what Mula Bandha means, is crucial for any man or woman who wants to protect their pelvic floor and core strength through every breath, bounce and birth. To simplify and put it in terms that most can understand, Mula Bandha is similar to pulling off a successful Kegel exercise. Yet it's a delicate matter to talk a client, let alone an entire class, through the intimate steps of activating the pubo-coccygeal (PC) muscle, so many trainers and instructors avoid such discussion to the detriment of urinary health, sexual health, and core strength.
I love how someone recently phrased this question to me: What muscle is Mula Bandha? It's actually two muscles: Your deepest abdominal muscle that acts as a core stabilizer is the transverse abdominus (TVA), and then also your PC muscle. Now here's a cool fact: Your TVA and your PC muscle both connect at your pubic bone in the same spot, BUT your TVA comes in just above your PC muscle. Want me to put that into plain English? Okay, when you tighten your corset muscle that wraps around your whole tummy by pulling your navel inward, that god-given girdle lifts UP and takes pressure OFF of your PC muscle.
The bottom line (don't mind the pun) is that your organs and/or the child you carried in your womb weigh quite a lot; when you are standing that weight rests almost fully upon your hammock-like PC muscle. In fact, it's called "pubo-coccygeal" because it is a muscle that stretches between your pubis and your coccyx (tail bone). This muscle is the final frontier at the base of your torso! If you don't want to stretch your hammock out, take some of the load out of it by strengthening your core.
A pregnant woman or an obese person with a great deal of intra-abdominal fat has even MORE pushing down and stretching out this vulnerable area. Like every other part of your body, though, if you don't use it, you lose it. Daily use, daily pressure, daily stress, pregnancy, and birth all constitute wear and tear, and those events can break the muscle down not build it up. This is where the concept of the Mula Bandha comes into play, and the best part is that learning how to "root lock" is not only good for your crotch, it's good for a new mama's core! When you are doing yoga or any type of workout, it's important to find and maintain Mula Bandha.
Here are two things you can do to "find" Mula Bandha during Yoga, during your other workouts, or during any event in your life. No one will see you doing them; these things are private yet very beneficial.
1. Tighten your transverse to take some pressure off - Start with a belly breath. Gently expand your middle with air, and then pull your belly button inward as you exhale. Imagine that you are zipping up your abs. I've even told my group fitness classes to pretend they are trying to make their navel and vertebrae "kiss" eachother. Keep your gut hollowed out during every forward-leaning pose and every transition. This makes your core look smaller, so some people think that this means that tightening your TVA doesn't stabilize your spine, because how can something smaller be more stable? However, this article proves
that your corset muscle is quite powerful and gets bigger as it compresses your core. This begins the root locking process, and a healthy transverse abdominus is key for moms who want to get their pre-baby body back.
2. Tighten your PC muscle - The visual that people often use with Kegels is a "figure 8." One part of the "8" is your urinary tract, and the other part is your rectum. If you can lift the center of that "8," where the two circles of the "8" connect, and if you can hold that lift, that is a basic kegel and you have begun to activate your PC muscle.
Women who have given birth are not the only ones who struggle with pelvic floor health. Women who have never been pregnant, and men as well, can all struggle with finding Mula Bandha and experiencing the benefits of a healthy PC muscle. If the core has been torn apart during athletics, sports, excessive rib flaring, or a career where a person has to lean forward a lot, then the TVA will be weak, and the PC will be that much more weakened as well! The two are very connected, and crunches will NOT help you get your core back! I know Kim has some great products and services that will help you heal from the inside out, and my site over at Fit2B Studio
offers workouts that tone your entire body while truly rebuilding your abs in a way that won't tear them apart again.
About the Author: Bethany Learn lives in Oregon with her husband and two children. She has a bachelors degree in Exercise and Sport Science, and she has been a certified group fitness instructor for over 14 years. She is the owner and founder of Fit2B Studio which provides Yoga and Pilates workout videos on the web. Her hobbies include editing for indie authors and crocheting rugs out of old shirts.