“For years, consciously contracting my pelvic floor when I felt unsafe or when I needed a little more power and confidence was really helpful for me … It creates a kind of energetic shield of protection between me and the world.”
In yoga practice, the pelvic floor area is sometimes referred to as mulabandha—the root lock. This is an energetic gate that can be engaged to help us build heat and strengthen the core within the yoga practice. It involves a slight lift, a drawing in and up of the perineum—a little like a Kegel exercise, but very subtle. We keep it engaged throughout our powerful yoga practice as an aspect of our ujjayi breath—the breath of the warrior. With the pelvic floor engaged and the mouth closed, we seal the openings at the root and the throat, containing our energy as we build it up through sun salutations and other forms of dynamic movement. It’s a way to feel powerful, build heat, keep the core engaged, and generally feel like a warrior.
Even when we’re not thinking about it, the pelvic floor knows how to open and close depending on what’s happening around us. The muscles in this area create a little diaphragm, a kind of trampoline for the pelvic organs that surround the genitals from front to back and side to side. The whole thing contracts when we feel unsafe, while it will soften and gently move with our breath when we do feel safe. When we contract it consciously, it can help us engage the core, straighten our spine, and even make our voices a little louder. It makes us appear a bit stronger to the people around us, even if they have no idea what we are doing in our pants!
For years, consciously contracting my pelvic floor when I felt unsafe or when I needed a little more power and confidence was really helpful for me—it helped me feel like a warrior not only in my yoga practice but also when I was teaching, giving a performance, or even when I was having a difficult conversation. It creates a kind of energetic shield of protection between me and the world.
But, eventually, I realized that I was in warrior mode a little too often. I wasn’t opening to pleasure, kindness, or rest when I was always sealed up down there. In order to be healthy and whole, we need to spend time in other modes—friend mode, lover mode, chilling-on-the-couch-watching-Netflix mode. For me, it was pretty easy to engage my pelvic floor, but it became more and more difficult to let it go. Now, my practice is largely about softening and opening, of knowing when I need to be a warrior, and when I need to allow myself to be held.
Mulabandha connects us to the ground—to our roots—and allows us to channel the energy from the earth beneath us into our bodies and into our hearts. When we can consciously relax this area and breathe into it, we connect to this energy. We are more likely to be feeling our feelings; to notice the anger, grief, joy, or pleasure that is flowing through our bodies all the time. Contracting this area make us feel more powerful partly because it can stop the flow of emotions and allow us to focus on whatever the challenge is at hand.
The pelvic floor is the gateway to the energy of drive, self-trust, personal power, deep emotions, pleasure, and playfulness. It’s the energy of feeling connected to that which is bigger than us—including other people. Knowing how to use this gateway means knowing how to use our own personal power. Being able to soften into this area means being able to receive pleasure, joy, and a deep connection to our own emotions and whatever others may bring into our lives.
Spend some time exploring your pelvic floor with the breath in this guided meditation for stress relief.