A bandha, known as an energetic lock, is a lock or bind in yoga and is also known as an energetic seal, used to direct and regulate the flow of prana (life force energy) to certain parts of our body.
As an energetic lock, bandha was practiced by yogis of the past to promote the energy flow and maintain the optimal health.
Each bandha is associated with a major energy channel and the performance of a particular bandha will affect the flow of prana in that channel.
What are Mudras and Bandhas?
To follow the techniques of pranayama, it is essential to know something about mudras and bandhas.
The Sanskrit word mudra means seal or lock. It refers to positions that clog the pores of the body, and where the fingers are clasped, with special hand gestures. Bandha means to bind, join, bind or hold together. It also refers to a posture in which certain organs or parts of the body are clamped, contracted and controlled.
When electricity is generated, it is necessary to have transformers, conductors, fuses, switches and insulated wires to carry the electricity to its destination; Otherwise the current will be fatal. When prana flows through the body of the yogi by the practice of pranayama, it is equally necessary for him to wear a band to prevent wastage of energy and to carry it to the right places without any damage. Without bandhas, pranayama practice disrupts the flow of prana and injures the nervous system.
Types of Bandha
There are four types of Bandhas:
- Jalandhara Bandha (Chin Lock or Throat Lock)
- Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock)
- Mula Bandha (Root Lock)
- Maha Bandha (Great Lock, or Triple Lock, or Supreme Lock)
Of the many postures described in Hatha Yoga texts, Jalandhara, Uddiyana, Mula and Maha bandha are essential for pranayama. They help to distribute the energy and prevent its waste through hyper-ventilation of our body. They are practiced during pranayama to awaken the sleeping kundalinal and direct its energy through the sushumna channel. It is necessary to use them to experience the state of samadhi.
1. Jalandhara Bandha (Chin Lock or Throat Lock)
The first bandha for a seeker should be Jalandhara Bandha.
- Jala means a mesh, net or web. This bandha concentrate on the throat chakra or vishuddha chakra.
It is mastered when performing Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand Pose or Supported shoulderstand Pose) and its chakra, during which the sternum is pressed against the chin.
The solar plexus is located in the center of the trunk. According to yoga, it is the seat of the digestive fire (jatharagni), which burns food and produces heat. The lunar plexus is in the center of the brain and produces coolness. Due to the locking of the nadis in the neck by performing Jalandhara Bandha, the cold energy of the lunar plexus is not allowed to flow or be destroyed by the hot energy of the solar plexus. In this way the elixir of life is accumulated and life itself becomes prolonged. The bandha also suppresses the ida and pingala channels and allows prana to pass through the sushumna.
Jalandhara bandha clears the nasal passages and regulates the flow of blood and prana (energy) to the endocrine glands (thyroid and para-thyroid) in the heart, head and neck. If pranayama is done without jalandhara bandha, pressure is felt immediately in the heart, brain, eyeball and inner ear. This can cause dizziness. It relaxes the mind and also humbles the intellect (manas, buddhi and ahankara).
How to practice Throat Lock or Chin Lock?
- Sit in a comfortable position like Siddhasana (Accomplished Pose), Swastikasana (Auspicious Pose), Bhadrasana (Gracious Pose), Virasana (Hero Pose), Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), or Padmasana (Lotus Pose).
- Keep your back straight. Lift from the pan of your sternum and your rib cage.
- Without tension, stretch the sides of your neck and move your shoulder blades to the body; Keep your thoracic and cervical spine concave and tilt your head forward and down from the back of your neck toward your chest.
- Do not compress your throat or strain your neck muscles. It should not be forced to stretch forward, downward or backward. Keep your neck and throat muscles soft.
- Bring the head down so that the point of your jawbone and both sides rest evenly in the notch between your collar-bones on the front wall of your chest.
- Do not spread your chin too much to one side or the other. Also, don’t tilt your neck to one side, it can cause pain and strain that lasts for a long time. As elasticity is gained, your neck sharply bends down.
- Do not touch your chin to your chest, but raise your chest to match the lower chin.
- Align the center of your head and chin with the middle of your sternum, navel and perineum.
- Keeping your chin on your chest, do not lean into your ribs.
- Relax your temples and keep your eyes and ears relaxed.
- This is Jalandhar Bandha.
Precautions and Contraindications
- Individuals with stiff necks should keep their head as low as possible without discomfort, or roll up a piece of cloth and place it over the collar-bones.
- Instead of pressing it down from the chin, hold the chest up. This relieves tension in the throat and makes breathing easier.
2. Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock)
- Uddiyana, which means to fly-up, is the abdominal grip. This bandha concentrate on the Solar Plexus or Manipura Chakra. Uddiyana Bandha also known as Shakti Chalana Pranayama or Upward Flying Lock.
In this, prana or energy is made to flow from your lower abdomen towards your head. Your diaphragm is lifted up into your thorax from your lower alveolar, pulling your abdominal organs back and up toward your spinal cord.
It is said that through Uddiyana Bandha the great bird Prana is forced to fly through the Susumna Nadi, the main channel for the flow of nervous energy, which is located inside your merudanda (spinal cord). It is the best of the bandhas, and individual who practices it continuously, as taught by his master, becomes young again. It is said that the lion kills the elephant named death.
This should be done only during the interval between a full exhalation and a fresh inhalation. It exercises the diaphragm and abdominal organs. Lifting your diaphragm gently massages your heart muscles, thereby toning them. It tones your abdominal organs, enhances gastric fire and eliminates toxins in the digestive tract. That’s why it is also called Shakti Chalana Pranayama.
How to practice Abdominal Lock?
The first master uddiyana in the position mentioned below. Only then presents it in external practices, while the outer Kumbhaka (the interval between full breathing and breathing) sits during). Never never Uddiyana during Pranayama until you mastered later, nor during the Antara Kumbhaka (full breathing and breathing during the intenar between the beginning of breathing), because it is the inferior to the inferior Will give stress.
- Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
- Spread your legs about 31 centimetres.
- Proceed slightly with folded knees, spread your fingers and hold in middle of your with your the hands.
- Bend your arms slightly at your elbows and lower your chin as far down as possible into jalandhara bandha.
- Inhale deeply and then exhale quickly so that the air is expelled from your lungs in a rush.
- Without breathing breath. Pull the entire abdominal area back towards the spine and lift it upwards. Never hollow the chest during Uddiyana exercise.
- Extend your lumbar and dorsal spine forward and upwards. Squeeze your abdominal organs towards your spine and press them against it.
- Maintain your abdominal grip, lift your hands from your thighs and rest them a little higher on your pelvic rim for a still firmer contraction.
- Straighten your back without loosening your abdominal grip or lifting your chin up.
- Hold the grip as long as you can, for 10 to 15 seconds. Do not try to bold it beyond your endurance, but slowly increase time as it becomes comfortable.
- Relax your abdominal muscles without moving your chin and head. If they move, stress is once felt in the area of heart and temples.
- Allow your stomach to return in your normal position, then inhale slowly.
- Do not breathe-out during the procedures described in step 6 to 11.
- Take some breaths, then repeat the cycle from step 1 to 11 not more than 6 to 8 times on a stretch. Increase the duration of hold or the number of cycles, or under the individual supervision of an experienced yoga teacher/instructor/guru.
- The cycle should only be done once a day.
- When firmness is achieved in the practice of uddiyana, it is gradually introduced in various types of pranayama, but only when breathing after breathing (external Kumbhaka).
Precautions and contraindications
- Practice only on an empty stomach.
- Not squeeze the stomach until the breath is expelled.
- If tension is felt on temples or if work is done for breathing, it means that Uddiyana is beyond the capacity.
- Never keep breathing until Uddiyana’s grip is released and the abdominal organs are brought to their original comfort.
- Do not constrict your lungs by compressing your abdominal organs.
3. Mula Bandha (Root Lock)
- Mula means root, source, origin, or cause and base, or foundation.
It refers to the major area between the anus and the genitals. Contract the muscles in this area, and lift them vertically toward the navel. Simultaneously, the lower anterior abdomen below the navel is pressed backward and upward towards the spine. The passage below Apana Vayu is diverted and then Prana is channeled to mix with Vayu, which is located in the chest region.
After inhalation (Antara Kumbhaka), the attempt of Mula Bandha in internal retention should be done first. There is a difference between abdominal grip in Uddiyana Bandha and in Mula Bandha.
In the former the entire area from the anus to the diaphragm is pulled back towards the spine and raised. But in Iauer only the perineal and lower abdominal region between the anus and the navel is compressed, pulled back towards the spine and raised up towards the diaphragm.
The practice of contracting the muscles of the anal sphincter (Asvini Mudra) helps a person to master the Mula Bandha. Asva means horse. This mudra is so called because it indicates the halt of the horse.
It should be learned while doing various poses, especially:
- Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
- Headstand (Sirsasana)
- Shoulder Stand Pose (Sarvangasana)
- Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
- Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
- Seated Forward Bend Pose (Intense Dorsal Stretch Pose or Paschimottanasana)
How to practice Root Lock?
- Take a deep breath and hold the breath.
- Place your hands on your knees, lift your shoulders and tilt your upper body forward slightly.
- Engage your pelvic floor while pulling it up towards the navel.
- If you don’t know how to reach your pelvic floor, think of it as the space between your pubic bone and tailbone. Concentrate on the muladhara chakra and contract your anal muscles firmly.
- Hold the muscle contraction and breath for as long and comfortably as possible.
- Return to the starting position while exhaling.
- Breathing normally stay in this position for some time.
Precautions and contraindications
There is a serious danger in attempting to learn the Uddiyana and Mula Bandhas on your own.
Improper performance of the former will cause involuntary discharge of semen and loss of vitality, while the latter will seriously weaken the practitioner who lacks virility. Even the correct performance of Mula Bandha has its dangers. It enhances sexual retention power, which the practitioner is tempted to abuse. If he succumbs to this temptation, all his dormant desires can be awakened and as deadly as a sleeping serpent, which is shaken with a stick.
With mastery of the three bandhas, the yogi is at the crossroads of his destiny, with one path leading to bhoga (enjoyment of worldly pleasures) and the other leading to yoga or union with the divine.
However, the yogi feels more attraction to his creator. Normally, the senses open outwards and are attracted to objects and follow the path of enjoyment. If this direction is changed so that they turn inward, they follow the path of yoga. The Yogi’s senses turn inward to meet the source of the whole creation.
When the seeker has mastered all the three bandhas, then the guidance of a yoga teacher/instructor/guru is most essential, because under proper guidance this increased energy is elevated for higher and nobler works. The practitioner is then known as a celibate (brahmachari or urdhvareta). Having mastered sexual desire naturally, but not by force, he ceases to exert his manhood. He is completely powerful yet owns self (bhava vairagra). Then he gains moral and spiritual strength, which will shine like the sun.
While practicing Mula Bandha, the yogi tries to reach the real source or root of all creation. His goal is the complete restraint or bondage of China which includes the manas (mind), buddhi (intellect) and ahamkara (ego).
4. Maha Bandha (Great Lock, or Triple Lock, or Supreme Lock)
- Maha, which means great.
Maha Bandha is an advanced yoga practice that involves practicing the three major bandhas simultaneously:
- Jalandhar Bandha
- Uddiyana Bandha
- Mula Bandha
When all the three locks are applied in external concept, it is called Maha Bandha. This is a very powerful lock as all three locks are engaged in the external retention.
How to practice Great Lock?
- Take a deep breath and exhale completely through your mouth. Hold the breath out.
- Place your hands on your knees, lift your shoulders and lean your upper body forward slightly, keeping your back straight.
- Do Jalandhara Bandha and focus on the Vishuddhi Chakra.
- Do Uddiyana Bandha and focus on the Manipura Chakra.
- Finally, come to Mula Bandha and focus on the Muladhara Chakra.
- Remain in this position while maintaining all the three bandhas till the breath can be easily stopped.
- Release the bandhas in the same order they were applied.
- Take a deep breath and return to the starting position. In this position, breathe normally for some time.
Precautions and contraindications
The precautions are given for each of the Bandhas are also valid for this Bandha. 1
- Source: Light on Pranayama by B.K.S. Iyengar (Author). Available here: https://amzn.to/3egDK5f