Yoga Tip: Root Lock – The foundation of breath

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Have you ever experienced difficulty directing a spacious full-body breath into your lungs? If so, right now, try this exercise. If you’re sitting in a chair, place the soles of your feet firmly into floor. Sit with a straight spine, pressing your sits bones into the chair. Now draw up (squeeze) the perineum, which is a tiny diamond-shaped muscle just below the base of your spine. Surrounded by my much larger muscles, a well-toned perineum is crucial to developing core strength in your gut and spine. If you’re uncertain as to where I’m referring, this is the muscle you use to stop the flow of urine mid-stream. Mothers may be familiar with Kegel exercises designed to strength the lower abdomen after giving birth. It is the perineum which is key to redeveloping lower ab strength. Who among us can’t use more muscle control in this area? So as you engage this muscle, draw the breath in through your nostrils and direct it to your lungs. Notice that the gut naturally firms up when you engage the perineum … and breath is much easier to direct to its desired destination … and the breath capacity expands effortlessly. Well, in the beginning it may require more effort. But in time when this root lock comes naturally, you will know that lower abs/core strength is working for you.

In yogic terminology, engaging this muscle is called mula bandha or root lock. It is considered essential for:
1. Activating the root (first) chakra at the base of the spine.
2. Building internal heat which purifies the body/mind/spirit.
3. Developing core strength
4. Expanding/directing breath capacity
5. Energetic upliftment

Know that Root lock can take years of practice to master. So please be patient and persistent with yourself. In beginning it much easier to sustain on the inhale and relax on the exhale. Each time you are about to enter postures, try this root lock. Especially in the following: Pranayama (most important here), Half moon, Awkward pose, Eagle, and all other standing poses. First try it from sitting position. Right now or when driving in your car. If you have felt frustration in strengthening your gut, I advice you to practice this breathing exercise with some regularity. It works. You will notice that your spine starts to lengthen, which means that “natural human traction” (which I mentions every day in yoga classes) will become more and more real. I am serious when I say that yogis learn how to defy gravity. But regular practice of this Root lock is essential to earning your wings to fly. Let me know how it works for you.

ps. Several students have commented how reaching up high and using pelvic tilt in sit-ups have helped strengthen their previously troubled lower backs. Also taking classes with greater frequency made a big difference.