You may have heard of yoga bandhas in your yoga class. You may have even experienced Mulabandha. But, do you understand and know what yoga bandhas are.
Yoga bandhas are locks of energy in different parts of your body. The most important bandhas are: Mula bandha, Uddiyana bandha and Jalandhara bandha. Before practising yoga bandhas, you need to be familiar with postures and pranayama to hold the bandhas with ease. Yoga bandhas can help you raise your energy and increase the progress of your yoga practice.
Bandhas can help you release energy blocks in your body to experience different emotions and feelings with each bandha. Bandhas will help you to re-energise your body. You can start implementing bandhas into your yoga practice and become familiar with how you feel when you retain the breath in or out.
What Are Bandhas?
Bandhas are body locks used in yoga once you reach an advance practice. Once you have practised breath control for a few months, you can start practising breath retentions and bandhas. Traditionally, bandhas are practised during pranayama. But, some types of yoga use them during asana as well.
You can think of bandhas as contractions you made at will in different parts of your body to contain the prana or life energy generated during pranayama or asana. When you do a bandha, you do breath retention; you hold the breath in or out. Bandhas aim to move or retain energy through your body in a specific way.
The bandhas locate at the digestive sphincters of your body. Sphincters are circular muscles that open and close to regulate the passage of fluids and solids. Sphincters work automatically; you don’t need to think about contracting or relaxing them during the digestion process. The autonomic nervous system controls these processes.
In yoga, we used the awareness to control the opening and closing of the sphincters at will. This contracting at choice is called bandha. The three main sphincters used in yoga are the upper oesophagal, lower oesophagal, and anal.
- The upper oesophagal sphincter is Jalandharabandha located at the pharynx.
- The lower oesophagal sphincter is Udiyanabandha located just under the diaphragm in the stomach area.
- The anal sphincter is Mulabandha located in the anus, pelvis and sex organs.
These three bandhas can be applied separately or all at the same time. When you use them all together, it’s called Mahabandha or great lock.
There are another two less-known bandhas called Padabandha or foot lock and Hastabandha or hand lock.
Importance of Bandhas in Yoga
Bandhas in yoga are used to help you gain control of the energy in your body. The first aim is that you can physically control the open and closing of the bandha.
When you reach an advance practice, not only physically but mentally and spiritually, you will be able to control it with your mind at will.
When you start practising yoga, bandhas is essential not to overdo them. Little by little, you will be able to control each bandha. Remember not to strain yourself while doing a bandha. If you do, chances are you are still ready to do bandhas properly, and you can cause damage to yourself. So, take it easy. You will be able to do it at the right time.
The importance of bandhas in yoga is that they can help you achieve control over your energy, over the prana in your body. So you can use this energy to maintain mental, physical and spiritual alignment. You will be healthy and full of life.
As you practice these energetic locks, you may experience energetic or emotional blockages. With practice, performing the bandhas will become more comfortable, and you will release the blockages of energy in your body.
Yoga Bandhas Benefits
Bandhas help you control the way energy moves in your body. This energy can help dissolve emotional blockages in your chakras. Yoga bandhas can help you bring more strength and stability.
Controlling the bandhas can help you activate and tone the sphincter muscles and the muscles around the sphincters. The bandhas allow more prana flowing throughout your whole body, optimizing its function, regenerating and healing your body more effectively.
Mula bandha can help activate the pelvic floor muscles and stimulate the reproductive organs at a physical level. At an energetic level, Mulabhanda can stimulate the root and sacral chakras.
When you create an energetic lock, those areas concentrate all the prana, and when the bandha is eased, the energy expands and travels to all other areas of the body.
Uddiyanabandha acts at a physical level, toning the stomach muscles and balancing the adrenal glands. Uddiyanabhanda can help you to relieve stomach ailments such as indigestion, reflux, and constipation. At an energetic level, uddiyana bandha will help you move energy upward, making twists and jumps easier to achieve.
Jalandharabandha can help you with sinus issues, thyroid and metabolism problems. As a side effect of practising Jalandhara bandha, you will feel more relaxed and connected with your heart. At an energetic level, jalandhara bandha can help you release the energy accumulated for not speaking your truth.
The three main bandhas: Mulabandha, Uddiyana bandha, and Jalandhara bandha, can help you contained the energy that flows through Sushumna Nadi. Applying bandhas will help you move in the journey of chakra awakening to reach the universal consciousness.
You must not practice bandhas if:
- You are pregnant
- Have blood pressure problems.
- Have an abdominal condition, an intestine disorder, or a hernia.
- Have heart disease.
Yoga Bandhas and Pelvic Floor
Mulabhanda is the lock that can help you tone and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic muscles become weak with age, after pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, obesity, high impact exercise, constipation, heavy lifting, surgery in the pelvic area, and tumours.
You may be more familiar with the thought of weakened pelvic floor muscles, but ligaments and tissue around the muscles also become weak. This weakness can become dysfunction and affect your life.
The common symptoms of weak pelvic floor muscles are urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse. These symptoms are because the pelvic floor muscles contain the passages for the urethra, vagina and anus.
You can use mulabandha to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. You can practice mulabandha while retaining your breath in or out.
To apply the mulabandha or root lock with either internal or external breath retention, you first need to breathe in and contract your anus, sex organs and pull them in and upwards. You can imagine you are trying to avoid peeing or pooing. This action engages your pelvic floor muscles.
Here Is How to Practice Mulabandha:
- Sit with your back straight cross-legged or on a chair.
- Close your eyes (optional).
- Take a deep breath in and out and repeat at least three times.
- Inhale to begin, hold the breath in and apply mulabandha.
- When you practice mulabandha, focus on contracting your anus, sex organs and feel the pelvic floor going in and up.
- Hold the breath for 5-10seconds if you are a beginner, or hold it for as long as possible while still being relaxed and in control.
- Exhale and repeat up to 10 times.
Uddiyana bandha means upward contraction, from Uddiyana upward and Bandha contracting or binding. Uddiyana bandha brings energy to your digestive system. It also moves energy up towards the heart chakra.
You can apply uddiyana bandha to move between poses. It brings core stability and will help you to move between postures with more ease. It will help if you do mulabandha before applying uddiyana bandha.
Here Is How to Practice Uddiyana Bandha:
- Stand or sit in a cross-legged position.
- Take a deep inhale and exhale slowly.
- Inhale and hold the breath in for as long as it’s comfortable.
- Exhale completely and hold the breath out.
- Pull your belly inwards towards the spine.
- Hold the bandha for 10-15 seconds or for as long as you can comfortably retain the breath.
- Release the bandha slowly and inhale.
Jalandhara bandha means throat lock from the Sanskrit word Jal meaning throat and bandha, which means contracting or binding. Jalandhara bandha keeps the energy contained in the spine from the base of the spine to the throat.
Jalandhara bandha helps to move the energy to the upper chakras. It can help you concentrate better during meditation. Jalandhara Bandha is mostly used in pranayama and meditation.
You can apply jalandhara bandha with internal and external breath retention.
Here Is How to Practice Jalandhara Bandha:
- Stand or sit cross-legged.
- Take a deep inhale and exhale completely for at least three times.
- Place your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth.
- Bring your chin in towards the chest.
- Inhale to begin, keep the breath in and contract your throat.
- Hold the breath for as long as it is comfortable.
- To end, bring your chin to its normal position and breath out slowly.
Maha bandha is the great lock. Maha bandha combines the three main bandhas simultaneously; you apply Mulabandha, Uddiyana bandha and Jalandhara bandha while keeping the breath out.
The maha bandha is used during meditation and pranayama to quiet the mind.
Here Is How to Do Maha Bandha:
- You can practice maha bandha in a sitting position, either cross-legged on the floor or a chair.
- Take a few deep breaths to ground yourself into the practice.
- To begin, inhale deeply and exhale completely.
- Once you exhale entirely, apply mulabandha first, then uddiyana bandha and finally do the jalandhara bandha.
- Hold the breath out for as long as you comfortably can.
- Release each bandha slowly and inhale, starting with jalandhara bandha, then uddiyana bandha and finally mulabandha.
- Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Hasta bandha is a bandha done with the hands. It consists of opening the palm with fingers wide apart, the inner arch of the palm is lifted slightly and placing them on the floor. The fingers carry the weight of your body. Hasta bandha can prevent strain and wrist injuries.
Hasta bandha connects you to the ground through your fingertips.
You can apply an hasta bandha whenever you have to place both hands on the floor, like in a downward-facing dog—practising the hasta bandha as a cupping posture for your hands will help you to avoid resting to much weight on your wrists.
Yoga Poses and Bandhas
In traditional yoga, the bandha practice is associated only with pranayama practice. Some Western yoga schools apply bandhas while doing asanas, such as Kundalini yoga, as thought by Yogi Bhajan.
Using a yoga bandha while performing asanas consists of applying the lock and holding the breath in or out. You must hold the breath for as long as you can while still being relaxed. Then you can release the lock and start another round.
Mula Bhanda Poses
Remember you can apply mula bandha with the internal or external breath retention.
Here are some poses you can do while applying mula bandha:
Chair Pose or Utkatasana
Practice for at least five rounds of inhalation and exhalation. Concentrate on activating your mulabandha.
Practice for up to 10 cycles of inhalation and exhalation. Bring your attention to your mulabandha.
Garland Pose or Malasana
Hold the garland pose and repeat up to 10 rounds of inhalation and exhalation.
Standing Mountain Pose or Tadasana
Inhale and exhale, hold the breath either in or out and repeat for up to 10 times.
Uddiyana Bandha Poses
Remember uddiyana bandha is always applied with the breath out.
Here are some poses you can do while applying uddiyana bandha
- Apply uddiyana bandha when you jump back into chaturanga.
- Hold the breath exhale slowly and repeat up to 10 times.
Downward-facing dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Apply mulabhanda before applying uddiyana bandha.
- Inhale and exhale all the air out. Then apply the bandhas. Repeat the bandhas up to 5 times.
- The connection between mulabandha and uddiyana bandha helps connect both areas physically and energetically.
Seated Forward Bend Pose or Paschimottanasana
Apply mulabandha while you are sitting upright, and when you start bending forward, apply uddiyana bandha. Repeat up to 5 times.
Jalandhara Bandha Poses
You can use jalandhara bandha mostly in pranayama and meditation. Remember, you can practice jalandhara bandha with internal or external breath retention.
Here is a pose you can practice using jalandhara bandha:
Easy Pose or Sukhasana
- Inhale and sustain the breath in for as long as you comfortably can while applying jalandhara bandha.
- Release your chin and exhale slowly. Repeat up to 3 times.
Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of what yoga bandhas are and how to apply them.
Practising bandhas takes some time. In the beginning, you may not feel like anything is happening. But it takes time for you to perceive the subtle energy moving through your body. Soon enough, you will be able to control your body and constrict the areas without effort.
If you think you are making too much effort while performing any bandhas, slow down and don’t strain yourself. Like everything else in yoga, it will take some time to develop the needed awareness to include bandhas in your yoga practice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Bandhas in Yoga?
Bandhas are physical constrictions you made at will in your body; they are better understood as energy locks. Bandhas help you hold the energy for a certain amount of time in a particular area of your body.
What Is the Purpose of the Bandhas?
Bandhas aim to help you move or retain energy in your body in specific ways depending on the bandha you are applying
How Do You Engage Bandhas?
You need some awareness of the area you are to apply a bandha to constrict that area while holding the breath.
Where Are the Bandhas Located?
The three main bandhas are mulabandha, uddiyana bandha and jalandhara bandha. Mulabandha is at the pelvis, sex organs and anus area. Uddiyana bandha is just below the diaphragm. Jalandhara bandha is at the throat area.
What Does Bandha Mean?
Bandha in Sanskrit means to lock, constrict, or bind.
What Is Root Lock in Yoga?
The root lock in yoga refers to the mulabandha. It consists of constricting the anus, sexual organs and pelvis while holding the breath in or exhaling entirely and holding the breath out.