The bandhas are energetic locks in the body. Working on your bandhas means exert a physical action (opening or closing these passages) to affect our pranic body or vital life force. You’ll hear this magical Sanskrit term mentioned in yoga classes all the time, so it’s important to know the meaning and understand how to do it.
What Is A Bandha?
Bandhas are locks or seals that are used to control the flow of energy (prana) in the body. The word “bandha” comes from the Sanskrit word “bandh,” which means to lock or bind. The practice of bandhas involves contracting certain muscles in the body, which helps to direct and contain the flow of energy within the body.
What is The Purpose Of Engaging Your Bandhas?
The purpose of engaging your bandhas is to cultivate and conserve energy in the body. Bandhas help to regulate the flow of prana. Additionally, bandhas can be used to deepen your yoga practice, as they help to stabilize the body and provide a solid foundation for more advanced postures.
Benefits of Engaging Your Bandhas
There are several benefits of engaging your bandhas:
- Improved posture and alignment: Engaging your bandhas helps to improve your posture and alignment by stabilising the body and creating a strong foundation.
- Increased energy and vitality: Bandhas help to cultivate and conserve energy in the body, which can increase overall energy and vitality.
- Better digestion: Engaging your bandhas can stimulate the digestive system and improve digestion.
- Reduced stress and anxiety: Bandhas can help to regulate the nervous system, which can reduce the feeling of stress and anxiety.
- Enhanced concentration: By regulating the flow of prana, bandhas can enhance concentration and focus.
The Different Types of Bandhas
There are six main bandhas in yoga:
Mula bandha, also known as the root lock, involves contracting the perineum muscles inward and upward to direct energy flow to the rectum, stimulating the pelvic muscles and urogenital organs. Men engage the area between the testes and anus, while women involve the pelvic floor muscles behind the cervix. You may also feel the root lock engage slightly when looking at the tip of your nose.
Jalandhara bandha, or the throat/chin lock, inhibits the flow of Prana in the neck area. To engage this lock, sit with your back straight, press your palms into your knees, and pull your chin toward your neck while inhaling through your nose. You can also enhance its effects by curling your tongue against the roof of your mouth in Khesari mudra.
Uddiyana bandha, also known as the false inhale, involves lifting the diaphragm to stimulate digestion and relieve stomach upsets and abdominal pains. Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart, bend forward, and pretend to inhale without taking in air. Hold the lock as long as possible before taking a deep breath through your nose.
Hasta bandha, or the hand lock, can help to reduce wrist pain during certain yoga poses. To engage this minor lock, spread your fingers far apart on the mat and let the area where your thumb and pointer finger meet carry the most weight. Then, lightly grip the mat with your fingertips.
Pada bandha, or the foot lock, connects your body with the earth by placing the soles of your feet on the ground to support your weight.
Maha bandha, the great lock, involves engaging the three major locks simultaneously. Start with Mula bandha, exhale completely, then activate Jalandhara bandha, and finally Uddiyana bandha. Disengage each lock in reverse order to release the Maha bandha.
Precautions & Contraindications
While bandhas can provide many benefits, they should be practiced with caution, and it is important to consult with a qualified yoga teacher before attempting to practice them on your own. Here are some precautions and contraindications to keep in mind:
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women should avoid practicing bandhas.
- High blood pressure: People with high blood pressure should avoid practicing jalandhara bandha.
- Hernias: People with hernias should avoid practicing uddiyana bandha.
- Menstruation: Women should avoid practicing mula bandha during menstruation.
In conclusion, bandhas are a powerful tool for enhancing your yoga practice and improving your overall physical and mental wellbeing. By engaging your bandhas, you can cultivate and conserve energy, improve your posture and alignment, and reduce stress and anxiety. However, it is important to practice bandhas with caution and under the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher.