We received a user question on contracting the perineum:
First of all thank you for your very serious and complete application!
A friend of mine who practices yoga regularly told me that her teacher told her to contract the perineum in all poses during the yoga practice. Is it actually advisable? Because it is difficult for me. I have trouble in holding the posture if I have to pay close attention to my perineum.
Our teacher Anu Visuri answers:
Contracting the perineum in the asana practice is called Mula Bandha (=root lock). It gives the practitioner stability and strength from within on the mat. Some teachers and yoga styles advice using Mula Bandha strongly throughout the whole practice. The truth is, it is really helpful, especially in backbends and in arm balancing.
But, there are two things a practitioner must remember:
1. It is easy to do Mula Bandha wrong. Mula Bandha is a slight contraction of the pelvic floor, which is initiated from the front of the body by pulling the pubic bone towards the tail bone without moving the pelvis. Many people start with the back of the body by pulling the tail bone toward the pubic bone flattening the lower back and the buttocks. The problem here is that many of us already have a contraction there and it becomes too much and causes f.ex. back pain. The next step would be pulling the sitting bones toward each other very softly and after that pulling the tail bone very slightly toward the pubic bone, once again without moving the pelvis, and then lifting the contraction up toward the navel imagining the pelvic floor as an elevator travelling upward. The contraction is very soft! You should not do it strongly at all. In some poses, like in the Plank Pose, the pelvic floor activates almost by itself. Some people need more Mula Bandha and some people less. It is very individual.
2. It is important to remember to release the lock after the practice. I know students who have started to do Mula Bandha (often wrong) all the time and they have created a big problem for themselves in a form of a hypertonic pelvic floor. It means that your pelvic floor is in a constant contraction, which is not good since the pelvic floor needs to be strong but elastic like a trampoline. This hypertonus can cause back pains, pain in the buttocks or to the backs of the legs, erection problems with men, stopping of the menstruation cycle with women, haemorrhoids etc. So, the practitioner needs to be sure she or he does the lock correctly, not too strongly and does not “keep” the lock outside the practice. Some people won’t have any problems with this and some people might have. We are all different. If your friend has been doing this many years and does not have any problems, he should continue practicing Mula Bandha in the asana practice.
If Mula Bandha feels weird for you, try it gradually step by step in a seated pose, like in the cross-legged pose. Maybe just pull the sitting bones towards each other to create a contraction in the pelvic floor and then lift this contraction upward like an elevator. Other times pull your pubic bone toward your tail bone and your tail bone toward your pubic bone and then lift the contraction upward and feel if it is different.
The good news is that in yoga you don’t have to do anything that does not feel right. So, listen to your body, what does it say. Maybe it needs time, maybe with time Mula Bandha becomes a component of your asana practice, maybe not. Do not stress over it. There is enough stress in the world anyway.