In this lesson we introduced the first of the human chakras, mooladhara. In kriya yoga, it is essential to be able to easily and exactly locate the physical trigger point of this chakra. A good method is to utilize the practice of moola bandha.
The Sanskrit word moola means ‘root’ and the word bandha means ‘lock’. Here the word moola means various things, it refers to the mooladhara chakra, the seat of kundalini and it also refers to the root of the spine or the trunk of the body, the perineum. In English, moola bandha can be translated by the cumbersome name the perineum contraction lock’.
This is an important yoga-tantra practice and is widely mentioned in the scriptures. One of the fullest descriptions is given in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika Chapter 4: “Press the heels against the perineum and contract it firmly. Draw the apana upwards. This is known as moola bandha.” (61) Here, the word apana refers to the function of the body, at all levels, gross and subtle, which expels energy and waste materials from the body. In the context of pranavama, apana refers to exhalation. “The downward action of apana should be directed upwards by contraction of the perineum.” (62)
“Moola bandha brings about the union of prana and apana, and nada and bindu. This will bestow perfection in yoga. Of this there is no doubt.” (64) Here, prana refers to the specific functions of the body which supply energy into the body to maintain the upkeep. This prana is contained in food, air that is breathed, as well as subtle prana in the environment. In the context of pranayama, prana refers to inhalation.
Balance of prana and apana implies that there is equilibrium between the incoming and outgoing energies of the body. In the case of pranayama, balance of inhalation and exhalation signifies the retention of breath (kumbhaka).
Bindu and nada will be explained when we discuss the centre called bindu2.
“The apana moves upwards and when it reaches the circle of fire (manipura chakra) the flame lengthens and reaches the anahata chakra.” (65) “When the apana and the fire meet (at manipura) the prana is heated. This increases the digestive fire.” (67) “Due to this kindling of the fire, apana and prana, the sleeping kundalini is awakened; it becomes straight like a snake beaten by a stick.” (68) “The kundalini enters the brahma nadi in the same way that a snake enters a hole. The yogi should therefore practise moola bandha daily.” (69)
The brahma nadi is the central core of sushumna3. Though the text that we have quoted may seem a bit vague, it nevertheless gives a clear indication of the role of moola bandha in kundalini yoga.
Moola bandha is also clearly described in the Yoga Chudamani Upanishad and the Gherand Samhita. The latter text sums up by saying: “Those who wish to swim across the ocean of samsara (world of delusion) should practise this bandha in a lonely place. Practice brings about control of the prana residing in the body. Do it in silence, with care and determination. All lethargy will vanish.” (3:15)