Bandhas (Locks)

bandhasBandhas are Yogic locks using contraction of the muscles and breath holding. During this practice, energy flow and blood flow to certain areas of the body is blocked. As the Bandha is released, energy and blood rushes strongly through the body and these areas that were blocked, flushing away dead cells. This is a process that is said to improve circulation and rejuvenate the body. It also is used to release blockages in subtle energy centers in the brain, Nadis and Chakras. Once energy is able to flow freely, mental chaos and stress is relieved and inner peace and balance can be achieved.

Be sure to read information and practice breathing techniques and Mudras before attempting full Banda practice. 

There are four types of Bandhas:

Mula Bandha - Root Lock

This lock can be done sitting, standing or during asana (yoga poses). The muscles of the pelvic floor (the prineum, between the anus and genital area) are contracted and gently lifted upward. Initially think of keegal exercises (contracting the muscles that stop urination) and the sphincter muscles. Try not to tighten the buttocks or squeeze the thigh muscles. Eventually you will hone in get a feel for the contraction and lifting of the pelvic floor. 

Initially try this: While sitting in a meditation posture and concentrate on your root chakra at the base of the spine. Inhale to a count of 6. Hold the breath for a count of 4 and slowly exhale. Repeat 3 times. Then inhale deeply, raising the shoulders, placing hands on the knees as tilt your torso slightly forward. At the end of inhalation, gently contract the pelvic floor (anal) muscles upward and hold the breath as long as you comfortably can. Exhale slowly and completely as you release the contraction and bring your body back to center. Eventually try to continue the lift through increasingl cycles of inhalation and exhalation, starting with 3 and working up to 5 or 6 before releasing. Take 5 or so breaths after releasing the Bandha before starting again.

I know this sounds strange but it really does strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor and affects the retention of energy within the body. It is actually recommended that once mastered, Mula Bandha should be held throughout your entire yoga practice. Yoga is all about energy and it’s flow. This creates and energy flow that moves upward so it stays in the body rather than ‘leaking out’. It also activates and balances the Root (Muladhara) Chakra, our foundation center, security, stability and groundedness. This practice makes you more alert and energized as it creates stability, aides in balance and suports overall core strength.

Contraindications: Because it provides increased energy, it can possibly result in hyperactivity. Should be avoided during menstruation and with guidance during pregnancy.

Below are 2 short videos explaining the Mula Bandha:

Uddiyana Bandha - Abdominal Lock

This lock is translated as ‘upward flying’. It can be done sitting, standing or during asana (yoga poses). Here we are lifting the diaphram up and back towards the spine. After a full exhalation, abdominal muscles are contracted, pulled in and up under the ribs. This practice is best on an empty stomach. It is also important to stop if feeling strain or labored breathing.

Initially try this: While sitting in a meditation posture and concentrate on solar plexus chakra just above the navel.  Inhale to a count of 6. Hold the breath for a count of 4 and slowly exhale. Repeat 3 times. Then inhale and fully exhale and hold the breath out. With back straight, raise the shoulders and tilt the body forward slightly, and place the hands on the knees. Pull your abdominal muscles in and up into the abdominal cavity as muchas possible and hold as long as you comfortably can. Release by softening the contracted muscles and slowly lean back into your original position. Then take in a full, gentle inhalation. Breath normally here for a while and then repeat process 3 to 5 more times. Eventually you can inhale and exhale while maintaining the lock, holding for five cycles of breathing before release. The number of cycles can be increased with practice. 

Uddiyana bandha engages and tones the core abdominal muscles. It also activates and balances the 3rd (solar plexus) chakra center. Initially it should be practiced, and after mastered, incorporated with the other bandhas, asanas, pranayamas and mudras. 

Contraindications: high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma, pregnancy, stomach or intestinal ulcers, hernia, glaucoma, menstruation

Jalandhara Bandha - Chin or Throat Lock

Jalandhara Bandha translates translates as ‘web’ or ‘net’ lock. Here we gently lower the chin and close the glottis (ujjayi breath) enough to hear the breath in and out, sounding like waves of the ocean. It can be done sitting, standing or during asana (yoga poses).

Try it: Concentrate on the Throat Chakra (Vishuddhi Chakra) at the base of the throat. Inhale fully, raising the shoulders, placing hands on the knees as you tilt your torso slightly forward. Press your chin down gently stretching the back of the neck straight. Keep the level and centered. Keep the lock loose and relax the muscles of the face and brow. Do not strain or force the head down. Gently smile. Contract the back of the throat (as when whispering) just enough to create an ocean sound as the breath goes in and out like ocean waves. Practice this Bandha individually and then when mastered, try incorporating it with the other bandhas, asanas, pranayamas and mudras.

The Jalandhara Bandha energizes and balances the Throat (Vishuddhi) Chakra. It improves concentration and may be therapeutic for thyroid dysfunction and respiratory disorders. It also aids in releiving stress.

Contraindications: Consult a Doctor for thyroid problems.

See video below

Maha Bandha - All three Bandhas Practiced Together

BandhasMaha Bandha is also referred to as ‘The Great Lock’. It consists of the application all three of the above Locks together with the breath held out. It is often practiced after meditation, asana practice, pranayama (breathing exercises), and while using mudras and mantras. 

Only once the other three Bandhas have been mastered, should this comprehensive Banha be pursued. 

Begin in Lotus Pose with your hands on your knees or thighs.  Inhale and exhale deeply and completely. Hold the breath out. Engage the Mula Bandha. Engage the Uddiyana Bandha. Then, inhale slightly as you lift the chest and engage the Jalandhara Bandha. Hold and press hands down as long as is comfotably possible. Then, lift the head, inhale, and release the Bandhas.

The Maha Bandha brings the body into a healing state of balance, regulates the endocrine system, and provides the benefits of all three of the included Bandhas. 

Contraindications: Use the same precautions given for each of the individual Bandhas.