A key element in physical forms of yoga is mastering the flow of breath and energy around your body. This is developed with the use of internal locks (called ‘bhandas’) which are mechanisms that act like locks. The three main locks are located in the areas of the throat, diaphragm and pelvis. When the locks are applied, they increase strength, lightness and ease of movement in the body.
When doing exercises that require strength, whether in the gym or on the floor at home, it’s beneficial to know how to activate the root lock (mula bandha). This lock provides core stability in the pelvic region, which is essential for good form and efficient distribution of power in swimming, cycling and running.
How to engage the Pelvic Lock
Traditionally the locks are learnt while seated, and often with breath control exercises.
However, it’s more useful for you to learn how to engage the pelvic lock in a more practical way that you can then apply when doing core strength exercises.
Lie flat on your back, head and neck relaxed, arms resting by your sides, palms up.
Bend your knees, place your feet on the floor and close to your butt, hip width apart.
- Suck your perineum inward – this is a strong internal muscular contraction, as if you were stopping yourself urinating mid-stream
- Now also draw your navel in towards your spine, which will cause your lumbar to press into the floor
- Hold this contraction for 5 – 10 relaxed breaths, then release.
You should be able to breath freely, and applying this lock shouldn’t cause you to strain in any way.
Now raise your legs straight up in the air, switch on the pelvic lock, and hold the position for 5-10 relaxed breaths. (if you can’t keep your knees straight, let them bend but keep your feet directly above your hips). Keep your lower back glued to the floor. This will intensify the load.
If step 2 feels easy, stretch your arms over your head and bend your knees. On an exhale lower both feet down to the floor, returning to the starting position in step 1. Do this slowly, with control and maintaining the pelvic lock for the entire movement.
Once you’ve understood the sensation of the lock, and you can consciously switch it on and off, begin to use it in sport specific ways, such as in swimming and running drills, when hill climbing on the bike (for power) and descending (for control).
It’s also a really good tool to have in an endurance event when your bowels are over active! I know this from personal experience in my 2nd half ironman event. I had to keep myself locked down really tight for the whole run segment because it was a long way between portaloos.