Your pelvic floor isn't a group of muscles you get excited about strengthening until you notice they're not up to par. A strong perineum -- located between the pubic bone and coccyx in both men and women -- means you can avoid using adult diapers, supports pre- and post-childbirth vaginal strength and may even lead to better sex.
You can't really do weighted exercises for this delicate set of muscles. However, focused contractions, such as those found in yoga, can help you strengthen the pelvic floor.
Mula bandha isn't a pose, per se, but a "lock" or "binding." You're to use it during most poses to create strength, balance and focus. Mula refers to root, or your base, so engaging it gives you a strong foundation for most postures. For example, using Mula Bandha in a simple Mountain pose helps keep you upright; Mula Bandha in a challenging Handstand keeps your legs together, your core strong and your body balanced.
Do Mula Bandha by contracting the muscles of the pelvic floor. It's similar to Kegel exercises, in which you pull your pelvic muscles together and upward. It's a subtle movement, which sometimes takes practice to master.
Practice engaging Mula Bandha while lying on your stomach. Once you get a good sensation of the lock, employ it as often as you remember during your practice. It will benefit any of the following pelvic floor specific poses, too.
A modified version of Malasana is also known as a yoga squat. It stretches and strengthens the groin and the muscles of the inner thigh. The full version of Malasana has your feet together and your heels flat in the floor, but is inaccessible to many due to ankle inflexibility.
How To: Stand with your feet mat distance, or farther, apart. Keep your feet flat and squat down so that your pelvis is just inches from the floor. Bring your hands to the center of your chest and lengthen your spine.
Supta Baddha Konasana
Supta Baddha Konasana is a reclined butterfly posture. Inhale and exhale in the pose as you draw your pelvic floor in and up.
How To: Lie on your back and bring the soles of your feet together to touch. Allow the knees to fall out to the sides of the room, so you're shaped like a butterfly. Relax into the postures. Use blocks to support your thighs if the stretch is too intense.
Skandasana is a wide side lunge. Keep your pelvis strong as you shift from right to left in the pose, pausing for a breath or two on each side.
How To: Start by standing in a wide forward fold. Your feet are about 4 feet apart, and you're hinged over your legs, hands on the floor. Deeply bend your right knee, allowing your hands to walk in front of your knee to offer support. Your right heel might lift off the floor. As you become stronger through the glutes, thighs and pelvic floor, bring the hands together at the center of your chest. Take two to three breaths and then shift to lunge with the left knee.
Warrior II is the perfect place to bring attention to Mula Bandha. You pull up through the pelvic floor as you lunge deeply into the lower body.
How To: Stand with your feet about 4 feet apart on a yoga mat. Turn your hips to face the long side of the mat and point your right toe straight ahead, toward the front of your mat. Turn your left foot at a 45-degree angle, but keep the whole foot planted in the floor. Bend your right knee so that it aligns right over your right ankle (widen your feet if necessary). Reach your hands to the front and back of the mat and turn your gaze over the right hand. Shift your feet and repeat lunging to the left.
Viparita Karani is also known as Legs Up the Wall pose. It gives you a chance to focus on squeezing the pelvic floor muscles together and up, without bearing weight on your legs.
How To: Lie on the floor against a bare wall. Bring your buttocks as close to the wall as possible and place your legs against it so that they reach straight up. Squeeze your inner thighs together as you focus on drawing your pelvic floor in and up. Relax your head and neck into the floor and breathe deeply.