Bandha or energy lock are another interesting and subtle concept in yoga. Let’s find out what it is.
The fact is that in addition to physical training of muscles and joints, yoga pays great attention to the accumulation and redirection of energy. At a certain stage, it is even more important than asanas practice. Subtle energy flows are constantly circulating in our body. We have many energy channels, and the main one is sushumna. Sushumna is located in the center of the spinal column. This is a channel for Prana and Apana movement. Prana is an external energy, the energy of life and Cosmos, while apana is the energy released by a person. Apana is a descending energy, responsible for excretory processes in the human body, it is generated in the very first chakra – muladhara. Unlike prana, it is active at night.
If to try to explain shortly the essence of bandhas, then we can say that these are techniques helping to combine and balance prana and apana, these two powerful streams. Through practicing and mastering bandhas, the yogi directs prana and apana, and unite them in sushumna. It helps to awaken his kundalini energy. After all, it is not enough just to get energy through practice, we have to be able to hold it and direct.
Bandha is consolidation and termination of the asana. Ideally, it is advisable to practice asanas or to finish them with one or another bandha. That is, receiving energy in a certain asana, the yogi concentrates and fixes it, and also controls its movement with the help of bandhas. That is why it is called precisely energy locks.
Types of Bandhas
There are only three main bandhas: jalandhara bandha (throat lock), uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock) and mula bandha (root lock). The execution of all three locks at the same time is called maha bandha (great lock).
On the physical level, bandhas involve and train muscles which can hardly be trained in everyday life. They kind of get our body together. In addition, bandhas are especially important in the practice of pranayama beacuse they are closely associated with Kumbhaka – breath-holding.
Jalandhara Bandha (Throat Lock or Chin Lock)
From Hatha Yoga Pradipika we can find out that Jalandhara Bandha is performed by lowering our chin to our chest. It’s second name is throat or chin lock. It helps to prevent aging and death.
In general, we can perform bandhas in any comfortable position. The most suitable asanas are Vajrasana, Sukhasana or Padmasana (lotus position). So:
How to do Chin Lock ?
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Concentrate your attention on the crown, close your eyes.
- Try to drag the top of the head as high as possible. Doing that you should automatically feel how your chin drops slightly to your chest. It is important that the first concentration should be on the stretching the neck upwards.
- Inhale, and as you exhale, “close” the throat by lowering the neck and pressing it to the chest.
- Concentrate now on the center of the neck, in the area of vishuddha chakra.
The benefits of jalandhara bandha:
- It reduces intracranial pressure;
- While holding the jalandhara bandha, the thyroid gland is massaged. It starts to actively produce thyroxine, a thyroid hormone important for normal metabolism. Thus, practicing a throat lock improves metabolic function.
- Energetically, this lock stops the movement of a certain type of energy responsible for our youth. Thus, its practice helps against the anti-aging process;
- Improves the body physics in general as all the energy processes are interconnected .
Also, a neck lock helps to hold breath for a longer period of time, which is important when performing certain pranayamas.
Hypertension and thyroid problems.
Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock)
Uddiyana bandha or abdominal lock engages abdominal muscles, helps to create a strong core, activates Manipura chakra.
How to do Uddiyana bandha?
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Concentrate on breathing. Inhale and after exhaling, make the throat lock, close the throat.
- Pull the diaphragm and retract the stomach as much as possible. In the place of the solar plexus, should be a small cavity, which means that there is no air in the lungs, the diaphragm is tightened.
- Hold your breath as long as you can. Concentrate on the solar plexus – the manipura chakra.
- Then smoothly (very smoothly) inhale and fill the lungs with air.
Practice uddiyana bandha ONLY with an empty stomach. Last meal should be not less than 2 hours before.
Benefits of uddiyana bandha:
- It helps to get rid of all the stomach and intestines disorders: constipation, diarrhea, colitis.
- Improves blood circulation, massages internal organs.
- Stimulates the adrenal glands, improves hormonal processes.
- A person becomes more energetic and active.
Pregnancy, menstruation, peptic ulcers and hypertension.
Mula Bandha (Root Lock)
Mula bandha is the most important energy lock in the initial stages of the yoga practice. The root lock is connected with the root chakra – muladhara, and it is very important to learn how to work with it, because it is the center of our survival in this world.
How to do Mula Bandha?
- In any convenient position, concentrate on a point in the coccyx area.
- Inhale and exhale, squeeze the muscles of the anus and perineum. The feeling should be as if you are connecting the muscles of the anus and the pubic ones. Of course, this is physically impossible, it is just easier to explain what needs to be done.
- Keep the squeezing for a while.
- It is useful to perform about 20 cycles during practice.
Benefits of the root lock:
- It regulates the sexual sphere, holds the sexual energy, can help in delaying ejaculation.
- Massage of internal organs, the release of sex hormones increases. Apana moves up, the heat in the body rises, this lock is very important for awakening the kundalini. This lock, as a powerful impulse, pushes apana to prana, directs it to sushumna, awakens our kundalini. A man practicing a mula bandha is not aware of instincts and lower emotions, he knows how to control his sexual energy.
It is very useful for pregnant women to perform this lock. While practicing it, women need to focus on the area of the cervix (it is believed that its contraction and relaxation occurs while performing mula bandha). This lock will help with the childbirth, it will facilitate the process.
Also, in general, regular practice of this bandha, further enhances the sensations during the sex, as the muscles of the perineum are trained.
It is noteworthy that the practice of bandhas must be regular and systematic. Consider it primarily as energy processes. Try to feel the rise of energy to the higher centers, to realize and feel the world. The practice of bandhas will help a lot with this.
Maha Bandha (Great Lock)
Maha bandha is a complex energy lock when Jalandhara, Uddiyana and Mula bandha are performed at the same time. It should be practiced only after each of the three bandas has been properly mastered.
Maha bandha enhances the auspicious effects of each bandha separately. It also stimulates the flow of psychic energy and plunges into a state of meditation.
How to do a great lock?
- Take a comfortable sitting position, in one of the asanas used for pranayama and meditation.
- Deeply inhale and exhale.
- Perform alternately Jalandhara bandha, Uddiyana bandha and Mula bandha.
- Hold the breath as long as comfortable.
- First release Mula bandha, then Uddiyana bandha and Jalandhara bandha.
- After that, take a breath.
- Restore the breath.
- Heart diseases.
- Gastric or duodenal ulcer.
With high intracranial pressure, it is recommended to perform Maha Bandha only under the supervision of an experienced instructor.
Do not overhold your breath. Of course, the effect of practice is proportional to the breath retention time. However, the increase in the duration should occur smoothly and without haste.
You should not perform more than 9 cycles of maha bandha during one yoga training.