YOGA BANDHAS - THE BODY LOCKS
Source: Jennifer Fitzsimmons' Pathways Academy of Life Yoga Teacher Training)
The bandhas are certain combinations of muscle contractions applied to the body that direct and regulate the pranic flow in the subtle body energy channels. By applying the locks, energy is forced to spread throughout the specific area of the lock. The prana nourishes our subtle body and the energy is absorbed on a cellular level to balance our gross nervous system.
This creates a balance that has a major impact on the body and mind in elevation and happiness. In the physical body, it builds core strength and aids the nervous and endocrine systems. The correctness of posture comes from, and is supported by, the correct internal framework created by the bandhas. Strengthening our internal contractions is essential in the beginning to build a solid core and internal framework to support us in practice.
The 3 principal bandhas are:
1) Mula Bandha, the root lock;
2) Jalandhara Bandha, the neck lock; and
3) Uddiyana Bandha, the diaphragm lock.
They are very powerful locks that should be practised with care.
Explanation of how each lock works below:
MULA BANDHA (root lock) - mula means root, source, origin, cause or base in Sanskrit. It is located at the base of the spine. It is used to lock the energy to stop it from moving downward. It seals the foundatin so that the energy can rise upward. It is a frequently used lock especially at the end of an exercise to crystallise the effect. It directs, stimulates and balances the flow of energy in the rectum, sexual organs and navel point. It merges prana and apana. It is very good for the reproductive organs.
Technique to apply: Contract the anal sphincter or use the Kegel exercise to squeeze the muscles upward and within, next contract the muscles around the sexual organs with a slight lift and rotation inward of the pelvis, as though to stop the flow of urine. Finally, pull the lower abdomen and navel point toward the spine.
JALANDHARA BANDHA (neck lock) - jala means net/mesh and dhara means holding in Sanskrit. This is the most frequently used lock in yoga postures, chanting meditations, pranayama (breath control) exercise and during breath retention. When applied, it seals the energy in the upper area of the brain. If applied, whilst meditating, it is easier to focus without distraction. The lock controls the dispersing of nectar/hormones from the brain.
Neck lock is beneficial to the thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, pituitary and pineal glands. It stretches the spinal cord, which is important to correct breathing. It keeps the weight of the head properly supported by the spine.
This lock also helps activate the Vishuddi Chakra (throat chakra).
Technique to apply: Lift the chest, pull the chin inward, the chest lifts up further, counterbalance by dropping the shoulder blades down. Relax any unnecessary tension in the neck muscles and shoulders. Sit for a few moments with long deep breathing to get the feel of the position.
UDDIYANA BANDHA (diaphragm lock) - uddiyana means flying up or rising up in Sanskrit. It is used to continue the upward flow of energy through the sushumna nadi (spine where Kundalini flows). There are very powerful emotions lodged in this area, so it is wise to proceed slowly.
This lock develops our conscious control of the thoracic diaphragm. To develop lung capacity, it is vital that the thoracic diaphragm have the flexibility to expand downward on the inhalation and the freedom to move upward for a complete exhalation. Sometimes, the diaphragm is stuck and it cannot move freely. Diaphragm lock frees it and stretches the muscles between the ribs so that the rib cage can expand all around on the inhalation.
Technique to apply: Bend your torso forward, lifting the chest and keeping the neck aligned. Exhale as deeply and as fully as you can. Hold the breath out and pull the chin in to seal the throat. This will create a vacuum in your chest so that you can suck your thoracic diaphragm upward making a hollow space under your ribs. You will feel this suction also drawing the skin inward at the base of the throat in the notch of the sternum. As the diaphragm lifts upwards, the abdominal muscles are lifted up and back toward the spine. Hold the breath out for as long as comfortable. Before inhaling relax the tension, lower the diaphragm and then inhale gently.
This lock must be practised on an empty stomach. It is only fully applied after a complete exhalation, while the breath is held out. Those with high blood pressure, hernia or ulcers should NOT practise this lock. It should be avoided during menstruation or pregnancy.
HOPE THIS SHARING HELPS YOU ENHANCE YOUR YOGA PRACTICE.
SEE YOU ON THE YOGA MAT WITH LOTS OF LOVE IN HUMBLE PEACE, CALM AND HARMONY.