Tag Archives: Richard Freeman

mula bandha


Here is a detail of an illustration by Susan Chiocchi from ‘The Mirror of Yoga’, that combines physiology and metaphor.

Mula Bandha may be the most befuddling, underinstructed technique in the world of yoga. Here, one intrepid reporter gets to the root of things and discovers that Mula Bandha is not just a physical action but a doorway into bliss.

Benefits Abound

So, once you “get it,” how will the bandhas change your practice? In the Ashtanga tradition, Mula Bandha is so critical to the correct performance of asana that K. Pattabhi Jois, the leader of the tradition, instructs his students to keep Mula Bandha engaged throughout every practice; in fact, he’s often quoted as saying that it should stay engaged 24/7. That’s a metaphorical overstatement, of course, meant to emphasize the importance of Mula Bandha, which when mastered and used correctly has the potential to transform even the most lackluster practice.

Mula Bandha is what helps Ashtanga practitioners find the balance they need to tackle arm balances and inversions, and the strength and control they need for difficult tasks, such as jumping through and jumping back. But the list of the physical benefits to a yoga practice is nearly endless, and Freeman can rattle them off handily: “It’s grounding, so students feel much more stable. They won’t lose balance. Correct movement of limbs becomes more natural. When they do a backbend, they’ll be less likely to compress the spine. They’ll find more space under the belly, which is very convenient for twists.”

“By practicing Mula Bandha, you gain a real sense of the central axis of the body,” says Freeman, a student of Jois. “You learn to move from the lower belly, feeling the pelvic floor and letting it participate in aligning the body. It will help you integrate the movements of the body and give you the sense that you are composed of radiance…One becomes juicier, more intuitive, more sensitive, and more able to express feeling with the entire body through every movement.”

The Inside Line

That inward path, let’s not forget, is the point of yoga. “I think it’s important for people to remember the original context of hatha yoga,” says Pomeda, who was a Vedic monk in the Sarasvati order for 18 years. “This opens up your perspective, puts the practice into a much larger framework. From that reference point, all practices are geared to the awakening of kundalini and the attainment of the highest realization.”

Kundalini is the feminine energy that is classically depicted as a serpent coiled and asleep at the base of the spine, which is also the seat of Mula Bandha. When she awakens, she rises up through the spine to merge with universal consciousness at the crown chakra, found at the top of the head. The bandhas —particularly Mula Bandha and Jalandhara engaged together—can be used to help create the internal pressure necessary to roust her out of her comfy home, where she might otherwise snooze away forever.

And though spiritual life certainly does not end with Mula Bandha, it does, in a sense, begin there. “Engaging Mula Bandha creates a foundation,” Harrigan says. “The root of the tree is important for the entire tree. Likewise, Mula Bandha is important for making asana and pranayama beneficial. Without the bandhas, these exercises have only physical effects.”

Excerpts from Yoga Journal Article Bound for Glory By Hillari Dowdle, Asana Instruction by Tim Miller

To learn more about how to integrate Mula Bandha into your daily asana practice, read Mula Bandha in Action.

richard freeman: on mula bandha

The topic of the class was on the scripture called Aparoksanubhuti by Shankaracharya, which is a non-dual text that Richard said was one of Guruji’s favorites. This text talks about mula bandha among many other things and I have included the sutra below that Richard spoke at length about.

Mula Bandha – 114

yanmulam sarvabhutanam yanmulam cittabandharam/
mulabandhah sada sevyo yogyo’sau rajayoginam

That which is the root of all existence and on which the cessation of the mind is based is called mulabandha, which should always be served since it is fit for raja-yogis.

Richard says that mula bandha is the cessation of thought so it cannot be something you think or try to do. It is more of a seva, which means service or to attend to and the idea is that mula bandha is treated like a deity and you do seva to the deity at the sacred temple sitting deep within the pelvis. The balancing of energies on the pelvic floor is the way to consecrate the temple and then the goddess serpent Kundalini will stand up when she wants to. The voyeur of the ego prevents the goddess from awakening because you have to invite her as the sacred flame at the root of the pelvic floor so that she inhabits the temple. Mula bandha according to Richard is not a mechanical thing but more like a devotional experience.

Excerpt from Article Richard Freeman and Mula Bandha over Coffee on a Friday Afternoon by Kino MacGregor


coconut vegetable curry




¾ pound firm tofu
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons agave (divided)
1 small carrot, roll cut
1 small sweet potato, sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 small crookneck squash, sliced
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 cups coconut milk
1 cup vegetable stock or water and bouillon
1 tablespoon minced ginger or 4 slices galangal, smashed
2-3 tablespoons green curry paste (available at natural foods and Asian markets)
Salt to taste
⅓ cup chopped fresh basil


Slice the tofu into ½ inch thick slabs. Place on a clean kitchen towel, cover with a second towel and press to remove excess water by putting a cutting board and a weight (heaving frying pan works well) on top of the board. Allow the tofu to drain for about 20 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl combine the tamari, lime juice and 1 teaspoon of agave. When the tofu has been thoroughly pressed, cut it into cubes and toss the cubed tofu in the tamari marinade. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.

As the tofu is being pressed and marinated, prepare the vegetables, trimming and slicing each. Set aside. The vegetables may be prepared and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 8 hours before finishing the dish.

In a sauté pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the marinated tofu and cook, tossing frequently, until the cubes are browned on a couple of sides. Set aside. The tofu may be pressed, marinated and sautéed up to 24 hours in advance if refrigerated in an airtight container.

To prepare the curry, place the coconut milk, stock, ginger and curry paste in a large sauté pan or saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetables in the order of porousness—those that will take longer to cook, such as carrots and potatoes added first, those that need just a few moments to cook like the sugar snaps added just at the end. Allow enough time for all vegetables to cook until just tender, in total for this particular mixture about 15 minutes. After about 10 minutes of simmering the curry, add the tofu to the mixture. Be sure to carefully stir the mixture once the tofu is added as it is very delicate.

Once all vegetables are cooked and the tofu is warmed through, immediately remove the curry from the heat. Stir in salt to taste along with the basil. Turn into serving bowls with jasmine rice along side or pour the curry directly over the rice for each serving.

Yield: 6-8 Servings

Prep Time: 40 Minutes

Cooking Time: 20 Minutes

Coconut Vegetable Curry Recipe from yogaworkshop.com