Lock In Your Energy Flow With The Bandhas
I first heard the word Mula Bandha while taking a Kundalini Yoga class. This is very common in the breathwork and Mantra part of the practice. The practitioner said, “Activate Mula Bandha, big breath in, let it out and pull in your sex organs as if you are stopping the flow of urine”. Right there I was engaged and encouraged to find out more about this. After all, this is yoga and there is a treasure chest of meaning behind all things in Yoga practice.
The Bandhas as I have come to understand them and practice them mean simply to LOCK. With engagement and practice, the Bandhas can help move the flow of life energy within and throughout the body. Many people taking Yoga as a physical practice may not understand ideas pertaining to energy flow but the Bandhas play a significant role for us physically that also should be understood and utilized.
There are three major Bandhas plus the "Great Lock:"
• Mula (Root) Bandha (Lock) or “Root Lock” refers to the contraction of the perineum muscle that is located between the genitals and the anus. When this particular bandha is engaged, you will feel a slight pull on the inside of the thighs, similar to what you feel when trying to stop the flow of urine. There are some Yoga Postures that engage Mula Bandha like Mountain Pose and Downward Facing Dog.
• Uddiyana (Fly or Move-Up) Bandha (Lock). We engage this bandha by placing three fingers below the belly button and pull your lower abdominal muscles slightly in and upward. This contraction will automatically move your pelvis in a tilt forward position. This movement perpetuates an upward action that protects the lower back and strengthens the lower abdominal muscles. This can be utilized during Cat-Cow Asana but is typically engaged on as a stand-alone practice and a great way to start your asana routine.
• Jalandhara (Bearing or Supporting) Bandha (Lock). This Bandha is the “chin lock”. Engaging this Bandha is done by Inhaling deeply and holding the breath. This Bandha is rarely done with other postures but Bridge pose comes to mind as one that engages Jalandhara. It is really its own thing and typically done as seated breathwork. In an upright seated position place your hands on your knees, lift your shoulders and lean slightly forward. Press your chin against your chest so the windpipe becomes closed or locked. Hold the breath for as long as you can comfortably. Take a long exhale returning to your starting seated upright position.
• Maha Bandha or the “Great Lock” is when all three locks are practiced at once. To practice all three first be in a seated position. I actually like to do this in Hero’s Pose. Draw the pelvic floor upwards to engage Mula Bandha. This automatically leads to the abdomen drawing in and engages Uddiyana Bandha (just be aware of this engagement). Finally, drop the chin to the chest and drawback to complete the Maha Bandha. The object is to then hold the breath for longer periods as you continue in this practice.
The practice of Bandha is to be weaved into the entirety of yoga practice and philosophy in order to have their maximum effect. Here are a few of the benefits of this practice when incorporated into your Yoga practice.
• stimulation of energy both external and internal
• stimulates the flow of energy through the body
• Improves digestion
• prepares the mind for meditation
• improves concentration
• helps to relieve depression.
There is nothing but good that comes out of this practice. Grab yourself a Zen Space, some fine incense, and your favorite eco-friendly Yoga Mat or cushion and be on your way to better health! And don't forget to grab a perfect cup of tea after.
The link below is a somewhat extensive video on the Bandhas by The Blissful Athlete