You must have probably heard about the bandhas, the internal energy locks, when you have participated in yoga sessions or training.
What exactly is the meaning of bandhas?
‘Bandha’ in Sanskrit means’ lock.’ Bandhas are used to temporarily “freeze” the flow of energy into and to a specific area of the body, which is a bandha’s objective. The “lock” is broken, and as a result, the energy circulates more quickly throughout the body. This is beneficial to one’s general health as well as vitality.
Bandha, which translates to “lock,” is produced physically when a sphincter and particular muscles connected to it are constricted. A ring-shaped muscle within the body called a sphincter relaxes or contracts, and a pathway in the body is opened or closed by this action. A digestive system sphincter, for instance, controls how food travels from the esophagus to the stomach, through the intestines, and out the anus. In the human body, there are over sixty sphincters.
In yoga, “bandhas” are energy locks used to direct and control the flow of prana, or life force energy, within the body. There are four main bandhas in yoga: the mula bandha, the uddiyana bandha, the jalandhara bandha, and the maha bandha.
- Mula bandha, or the “root lock,” is located in the pelvis and is activated by contracting the pelvic floor muscles.
- Uddiyana bandha, or the “upward flying lock,” is located in the abdomen and is activated by exhaling and drawing the abdominal muscles inward and upward towards the spine.
- Jalandhara bandha, or the “throat lock,” is located in the throat and is activated by drawing the chin down towards the chest and lifting the sternum.
- Maha bandha, or the “great lock,” combines all four bandhas.
In yoga, bandhas are often used in conjunction with the breath and can be incorporated into various asanas (yoga poses) and pranayama (breathing exercises). They are believed to help channel and direct the flow of prana in the body, helping to improve physical and mental well-being.
How Are the Four Bandhas Used?
Even now, many instructors instruct their students to use bandhas while doing asanas; historically, bandhas were only used when performing pranayama.
Asana requires breathing. However, bandhas need to hold their breath; hence it is impossible to employ bandhas while performing asana.
Therefore, you can only use bandhas when breathing in the asana. Do you ever have to hold your breath when the teacher asks you to?
Feeling at ease with the locks can take practice because they can be uncomfortable. Find a stable, comfortable sitting position with your spine extended before beginning.
Benefits of Bandhas
The bandhas’ application causes muscular tissue to contract, stimulating the organs and glands in the affected area. Mula Bandha, for instance, engages, tones, and enhances the functionality of the pelvic floor muscles.
- Increased blood flow: Engaging the muscles in bandhas can help improve circulation and increase blood flow throughout the body.
- Improved digestion: The contraction and release of muscles during bandhas can help to stimulate the digestive system, improving the digestion of food and eliminating waste.
- Reduced stress: The practice of bandhas can help to calm the mind and reduce stress, as it requires focus and concentration.
- Improved posture: Engaging the bandhas muscles can help improve posture by strengthening the core and back muscles.
- Enhanced yoga practice: Bandhas can enhance the effects of certain yoga poses and support proper alignment in poses where balance is required.
Benefits of Energy
By stifling the energy surrounding them, bandhas also energize the chakras. Prana circulates more effectively throughout the body when chakras are activated by bandhas, which enhances both physical and mental energy.
What are the Five Pranas?
Prana is typically thought of as energy. Good and bad! All energies are not created equal. The battery and food both contain energy. However, these are different sorts of energy. Batteries cannot take the role of food as a source of energy for people.
Life force or vital energy is referred to as prana. These forces or energies are necessary for us to do life’s tasks. What do you think of as life activities? How can you tell if someone is still alive? You can tell because they move, speak, breathe, and think. Right? Therefore, we refer to these activities as life activities. Prana is the energy or power that we need to perform these tasks.
The five main pranas provide energy for five various types of life activities
- The power needed for excretion, such as sweating, peeing, etc., is called apana.
- The power needed for metabolism and digestion is samana.
- Prana is the power needed to pump the heart.
- Vyana is the force that is necessary for motion and circulation.
- Udana is the force needed to move the upper body, such as when talking, thinking, or moving the eyes.
We may enhance how well these pranas function in the body using bandhas. The function, regeneration, and healing of the body’s systems are optimized by optimal prana flow, enhancing one’s physical and mental well-being.
TYPES OF BANDHAS:
- Mula Bandha
You can use internal or exterior breath retention when performing mula bandha.
Mula Bandha with internal retention application:
- Feel first supported, at ease, and sitting.
- Imagine that you need to urinate and go to the bathroom, but you cannot.
- Your pelvic floor muscles reflexively contract when you try to hold in urine and feces.
- Learn to activate those muscles comfortably by experiencing that experience.
- Inhale for four counts to start the bandha, then hold the muscles lightly for eight to twelve counts.
- Exhale while relaxing the pelvic floor.
Mula Bandha warnings:
- It’s crucial to remember that you shouldn’t overwork or over contract the muscles in your pelvic floor.
- Just a light squeeze will do.
- Your upper body needs to be relaxed and stable.
- Uddiyana Bandha
- You can either stand or sit to practice this.
- Place your hands firmly on your thighs while standing, keeping your legs apart and bending your trunk slightly forward.
- Feel first supported, at ease, and sit down.
- Start by carefully exhaling to clear the lungs and stomach.
- Exhale until there is no more air in your lungs.
- Suck the navel in and up until the lungs and stomach are empty.
- Consider sucking on some noodles with your lips.
- The abdomen rests against the rear of the body, high in the thoracic cavity, and the diaphragm rises naturally into the thoracic cavity as a result.
- Hold your breath and your abdomen firmly for 8 to 12 counts.
- Exhale and relax the abdomen.
Warnings regarding Uddiyana Bandha
- It is necessary to practice this without eating.
- Keep in mind that you are not breathing while holding this lock.
- You are engaging in external retention, or Bahya Kumbhaka (holding the breath out of the body).
- Only try to hold your breath in this posture for as long as you can comfortably do so with breathing. Occasionally coughing when learning is normal.
- Note that external retention is required to apply this bandha. It is impossible to perform this bandha after inhaling (internal retention).
- Jalandhara Bandha
- To apply Jalandhara Bandha with internal retention.
- Feel first supported, at ease, and sit down.
- Inhale and fill the lungs to about two-thirds full. Retain the breath.
- Drop the chin to the chest as you lift the sternum toward the chin, and then exhale
- Swallow your saliva to help to feel into the bandha.
- Inhale the four counts with the tongue flat against the roof of the mouth.
- Release your breath and bring the chin to its original position.
- Exhale and release the bandha.
- Maha Bandha
When three locks are applied in external retention, it is termed Maha Bandha. This is very powerful, as all three locks are applied in the external retention.
Cautions for Maha Bandha
- This should be practiced only when comfortable with the above three individual locks.
- Receive guided pranayama practices for clarity & energy with master teacher Ram Jain for free
What Happens During a Bandha?
Why are bandhas even utilized? In the past, bandhas were used to control the astral (energetic) body’s prana or life power. We employ muscle contractions to establish both a physical and an energetic lock because the astral and physical bodies are intertwined and because we are more accustomed to managing our physical bodies.
Bandhas are a means of controlling prana, or life force, and locking energy. Prana gives all physical and mental activity energy, which controls inhaling and exhaling. Advanced pranayama techniques do this through the breath, which is the proper approach to manipulating prana.
The definition of pranayama is the expansion of the life force.
Control of the breath, retention, and locks affect the prana and our body’s capacity to hold onto more of it. Our overall health and vitality improve as our capacity to hold onto more life force does. Keep in mind, nevertheless, that effective (advanced) pranayama should only be performed and managed with the right intentions and under the supervision of a knowledgeable teacher.
When Should you Avoid Bandhas?
Even though generally beneficial, in some cases, bandhas may aggravate your condition or illness. You should not attempt to apply bandhas if:
- You are pregnant
- You have blood pressure disorders
- If you have any abdomen illness or condition
- You have intestinal disorders or hernia
- If you suffer from any heart disease
- You suffer from anxiety or panic attacks
Myths and Truths About the Bandhas
M: Anyone Can Use Bandhas
T: You require a particular level of mental and physical control to use bandhas. Bandhas were traditionally only taught to those who had an excellent regular practice.
M2: Bandhas can only be used for good, not for harm.
T2: When performed improperly, bandhas can have adverse effects like any other workout. Under the direction of a qualified teacher, they should be studied and practiced there.
M3: You Need to Use Force to Apply Bandhas
Once you understand, bandhas turn out very subtle and mild. Applying them shouldn’t cause you to experience any additional stress.
You must perform them appropriately if you employ excessive force or extra muscle contraction.
Bandhas can utilize prana and chakras to help the body and mind when they are executed correctly. The bandhas can thus be a helpful instrument for achieving peak health and energy. Bandhas include both physical and energetic components, and hence they must be used under the instruction of a skilled and qualified teacher.
Always exercise caution and patience when using the bandhas.