Bandhas in Yoga
Bandhas are muscular and structural locks that we can use to control the flow of energy or “prana”. They can be used to help distribute energy to specific parts of the body. Ultimately, engaging the bandhas allows a person to perform more advanced yoga poses and attain benefits mind, body, and spirit.
Some benefits of engaging and releasing the bandhas include:
- Promotes the production and release of increase of fresh blood by temporarily halting the blood flow
- Facilitates the removal of dead and old cells by flushing them away
- Strengthens and rejuvenate the organs because of better blood flow and more supply of oxygen
- Calms the mind through steady and controlled breathing techniques and lets the person master single point concentration
- Helps in regulating your digestive, hormonal and other internal systems.
- Removes blockages and purifies them, thus allowing the self to balance and harmonize
The Four Main Bandhas in Yoga
Our bodies have four bandhas in total- three are considered principal locks and the fourth ties all of them together. The locks are found in different parts of the body and each has its own functions. The four bandhas are:
Mula or Root Bandha
Have you ever been stuck in a situation where you have to hold your pee? Notice that when you have to hold it in for a while, there are a group of muscles in your groin area that contracts to prevent you from urinating. For males, their root bandha is in the area between your anus and testes. For women, this spot is at the bottom of your pelvis just behind the cervix. The medical term for this part of the body is perineum.
Contracting the muscles on the above-mentioned areas will activate the Mula bandha. You can do this whether you are standing, sitting or even in an asana or meditative position. Initially, part of your anal sphincter might also contract, but with consistent practice, your body can leave this part aside and focus solely on the root muscles.
Once you have mastered activating this bandha at some degree you can incorporate it into your yoga practice. Ideally, you need to hold it during the entire one and a half session or until the exercise is over. Doing so will make your energy flow upwards into some of the most important organs in your body.
Thus, also allowing the energy flow to the inside of you and facilitate a feeling of lightness while boosting your stamina. It also stimulates other systems such as endocrine, excretory, genital and even the pelvic nerves. Activating the root bandha is also known to relieve depression and constipation.
Uddiyana or False Inhale Bandha
The second of the four bandhas is called the Uddiyana or literally “to rise up or fly.” It is also called false inhale bandha. This lock is focused on the diaphragm and is achieved by contracting your abdomen into the rib cage. You have to hold your breath while pressing your abdominal wall inward and the contents of your abdomen are on a standstill.
To do this, first, stand on the floor and part your feet two feet away from one another, bend your knees and place your hands just above your knees. While keeping your elbows straight, you need to transfer your upper body weight into the arms. Then slowly exhale, before holding your breath out and don’t apply the throat lock. Draw your abdomen in and up and keep it firm. Hold this position for a few seconds before releasing the abdomen. After which you can breathe naturally and return to your original position.
This bandha has several transformative aspects in yoga and gets more useful as you advance in this type of activity. By moving the energy upwards through force, it allows you to move more naturally and with less effort. The stance also massages your lower back particularly its deeper internal muscles.
It is also believed that the Uddiyana bandha can remedy stomach ailments such as indigestion and constipation. During the exercise, it also increases your metabolism by stimulating your digestive juices. Moreover, it also relieves stress and tension while balancing your adrenal system. Finally, it’s one of the best methods to get well-sculpted abs.
Jalandhar or Throat Bandha
The term “Jalandhar” is actually a combination of the words “jalan” throat net and “dharan” or stream. This bandha controls the surge of energy in the blood vessels and nerves of the neck. Unlike the previous two bandhas, the throat lock requires to be practiced with a specific breathing combination. It also doesn’t require a complicated pose and can be done even when just sitting down.
To do this simply sit in an asana or a normal seating position with your trunk, neck, and head erect. Slightly lift up the upper rib cage and sternum and bring them closer to your chin. Place your chin on notch between your two collarbones. If you can’t reach it, simply place a rolled piece of cloth under your chin. Do not make any tense movement and breathe evenly up to the extent of your lungs for at least five breaths before raising your head and going back to your starting position.
There are many benefits in doing this simple bandha. It puts you in a relaxed mental state that can relieve of your anger and stress. By compressing the sinuses and arteries of the neck it also better regulate the respiratory and circulatory systems. Furthermore, t also helps balance your metabolism and thyroid gland.
Maha or Ultimate Bandha
The combination of all three bandhas is called the maha or great bandha. Do note that you need to have practiced and mastered all three previous bandhas first before performing this one.
To do the ultimate bandha, first, sit on a comfortable position with your legs crossed and place the palm of your hands on your knees or thighs. Inhale and exhale only through your nose. Inhale a bit and hold your breath for a while before engaging the Mula Bandha. Then, find the Uddiyana Bandha. Inhale again before lifting your chest and engage you Jalandhara Bandha. Retain this posture as long as you could while pressing your palms down.
The best thing about performing Maha Bandha is it gives all the benefits of the three principle bandhas. If you are engaged in other sports activities such as swimming or running, this bandha can also improve your performance.