What is a bandha? Maybe you have been told to “engage your bandha” while practicing certain postures and didn’t know exactly what the teacher meant. Here we will give you a simple understanding of the bandhas, otherwise known as energetic locks that we all have.
Bandha in Sanskrit means to lock, to hold or to tighten. Bandhas are energetic locks that hold and move the energy within in the body. Not only do the bandhas build energy, but they help with maintaining concentration and mental clarity. Ancient yoga philosophers said, that when you master the locks – you master the yoga practice. On the outside, you master the asanas, you can float in and out of asanas, hold the postures for long periods of time and learn new positions easier. On the inside of your yoga practice, a consistent concentration with a steady and long breath and a calm and clear mind. So, don’t just brush off the bandhas as something “not so important” for your yoga practice. Take the time to learn about the bandhas and try to apply these locks to your practice.
There are 3 principle bandhas and a fourth bandha that uses all 3 of these bandhas together.
Mula in Sanskrit means root. Therefore Mula Bandha is the root lock. This bandha contracts the muscles in the pelvic floor. For men, focus on contracting the area between the anus and the testes. For women, contract the muscles at the bottom of the pelvic floor. If you are having trouble in understanding which muscles to engage- imagine you really have to pee, but there is a long line for the bathroom. Ideally, engaging this lock for your entire yoga practice is what you should do because this lock allows your energy to flow upwards. You will feel lighter on the mat and will be able to prevent fatigue within the practice if you are able to hold this lock for the entire time.
Uddiyana in Sanskrit means to fly up or rise up. It is the stomach lock that is between your pelvic floor and diaphragm. This “flying up lock” moves the energy upwards within in the body. To find this bandha, stand with your feet hips-width distance apart, take a deep inhale and exhale out through your mouth and fold forward, placing your hands above your knees. Bring your abdomen towards your spine, as if sucking everything up and in. If you are doing it correctly, your waist should be very very tiny. Stay here for as long as it is comfortable, exit the bandha by inhaling through your nose and standing up straight. With this compression and release of the abdomen, we improve the blood circulation which helps with indigestion and constipation. It is best to connect to this bandha on an empty stomach with fully exhaled lungs. As you advance more in your practice, the uddiyana bandha can be very transformative. It allows you to invert easier, float forward and back more lightly but most of all, subtly transforms and fine tunes your practice to flow effortlessly.
*Avoid if you have ulcers, hernia, menstruation or pregnant.
The Jalandhara bandha is known as the chin lock. It is located at the chin and neck area, close to the throat chakra. It controls the flow of energy in the nerves and blood vessels of the neck. To find this bandha, sit up tall in a comfortable cross-legged position with your hands on your legs. Inhale deeply through your nose and bring your chin towards your neck and lightly lift your sternum. Retain the breath for as long as you comfortably can, then raise your head and exhale long and steady while returning to the starting position. Engaging this bandha is an instant trigger for mental relaxation and stress relief!
Finally, the Maha bandha, which is also known as the Great Lock is the combination of all the three bandhas. It should normally be practiced only when all the other bandhas have been mastered. Practice the Maha Bandha by first engaging the Jalandhara Bandha, the Uddiyana Bandha and finally the Mula Bandha. Hold the breath for as long as it feels comfortable and release the bandhas in the same order as they were engaged. This bandha benefits and regulates the entire endocrine system, nervous system, internal organs and also creates a positive effect on the mind.
Start practicing these bandhas slowly and focus on harnessing this energy within your body. Take your time and don’t get overwhelmed if you are not easily understanding the bandhas. Slowly as your progress more in your asana practice, you can slowly explore more the effects that the bandhas will have on you and your practice. <3