Keeping the mind alert and focused while you meditate can be a challenge. Most of us know that the first step is to cultivate a stable, comfortable sitting posture, and the second is to quiet the breath. But if you’ve achieved both those goals and the mind is still roaming in the past and straying into the future, what then? Are there any other physical practices that will help?
The yogis tell us that one of the best is mulabandha, the root lock. More often encountered as a hatha yoga practice than as a meditation technique, the root lock is a prolonged contraction of the muscles at the perineum (the area midway between the anus and the genitals). This simple movement alters the flow of subtle energy (prana) in the body by reversing the downward-moving energy in the root chakra, causing it to move upward. Restraining energy here is stabilizing and calming and has the effect of enhancing the energy of concentration. One experienced meditator likens it to adjusting a radio dial properly so that the voice of consciousness can speak more clearly.
Although the practice sounds simple, it isn't. Isolating contractions in the perineum requires attention and patience—the muscles in this area tend to work together, so when one contracts, they all do. Further, it can be difficult to train yourself to avoid tensing the muscles in the abdomen and elsewhere sympathetically, thus interfering with the smooth, effortless flow of your breath.
If you want to perfect the technique, find a good hatha yoga instructor and be prepared to commit yourself to a prolonged and patient practice. The rewards are potentially immense. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says, “There is no doubt that by practicing the root lock…total perfection is attained.” The Gheranda Samhita claims that this technique “leads to mastery of the breath and brings about total rejuvenation of the body.” On a less lofty plane, the practice is said to regulate unstable menstrual periods and improve digestion as well as lower respiration rate, heart rate, and blood pressure.
You can stimulate a contraction in the pelvic floor and maintain it during your practice by placing a rolled sock at the perineum.
But if you are willing to settle for a more focused meditation practice and give “total perfection” a pass, there is another way. You can stimulate a contraction in the pelvic floor and maintain it during your practice by placing a rolled sock at the perineum. (The placement of the heel in siddhasana has a similar effect, but this posture is too difficult for most of us, and besides, the hardness of the heel can easily create discomfort.) Make it firm enough to stimulate a contraction, yet not so firm that it becomes uncomfortable or harms sensitive tissue. And it needs to be large enough to supply pressure without imbalancing your sitting posture. You will need to experiment a bit to find the configuration that is right for you, but once you have it you will find your mind more attuned to inner consciousness and less apt to wander off.