What are the bandhas?
Posted on April 25 2017
Put simply, the Bandhas are the activation and engagement of muscle fibers, in strategic areas in the body, that support in the toning and lifting of the systems of the body against the natural laws of gravity.
The three major bandhas, and their approximate locations in the body are:
- Mula Bandha - the pelvic floor muscles
- Uddiyana Bandha - the abdominals up to the diaphragm
- Jalandhara Bandha - the throat
There are also two minor bandhas
- Hasta Bandha - the palms of the hands
- Pada Bandha - the soles of the feet
Mula Bandha - Root Lock
Mula Bandha is your “Root Lock”. This bandha is a diamond shape hammock of muscles that spans the space between the bones of the pubis, the sitting bones and the coccyx. Activating and engaging these pelvic floor muscles brings much needed attention to the space between the pubis and the coccyx. This awareness of the space between the pubis and coccyx in yoga practice can help alleviate pre-existing tightness, tension and/or lower back pain and can counteract any future possibility of lower back injury - both on and off the mat.
Uddiyana Bandha - Upward Flying Lock
Uddiyana Bandha is the active engagement of abdominal muscles. You'll hear it taught in class as something like “draw your navel in towards your spine and up towards your ribcage”. It is engaged at the bottom of an exhale. This both tones and creates space for the abdominal organs as the diaphragm is drawn upwards under the ribcage. This toning increases the efficiency and productivity of the diaphragm muscle. Increasing the range of motion of the diaphragm also ensures that dukkha remains in the lung sacs is successfully massaged up and out. In addition to supporting, toning and lifting our insides activating Uddiyana Bandha enables us to fly!
Jalandhara Bandha - Throat Lock
Jalandhara Bandha is the “Throat Lock”. Engaged after the sequential order of Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha, the muscles of the front of the neck draw the chin towards the lifted superior portion of the sternum stimulating the thyroid. One of the main physiological benefits of engaging the throat lock is the stimulation of the thyroid which balances the regulation of hormones responsible for efficient metabolism (growth and maturation).
Hasta and Pada Bandhas
Two minor bandhas that play an important role in injury prevention throughout modern day active yoga practices are the bandhas of the feet (Pada Bandha) and the hands (Hasta Bandha). It is common knowledge among yogis that postures need to start from the ground up. Creating a strong and stable foundation will increase the benefits of each and every pose. While standing, even before fully engaging Mula Bandha, it is wise to bring awareness to the four corners of the feet and the energetic lift of the arches by the muscles on the inner and outer lower leg.
In postures that require the hands to hold the weight of all or most of the pose (Plank, Arm Balances etc.) before fully engaging the other bandhas to support the internal environment, it is wise to start with what is touching the earth, root down through the pads and mounds of the thumb and fingers, and energetically draw/suction upwards through the center of the palms, creating a lift upwards through the hands, wrists and lower arms.
Maha Bandha - The Great Lock
Engaging all three major bandhas (Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandhara) is known as Maha Bandha or “The Great Lock”. The benefits of engaging all three are also incredibly “great” for every system in the body. Activating Maha Bandha increases the strength of the diaphragm and the efficiency of the respiratory system, tones the heart and increases the efficiency of the cardiovascular system, stokes the digestive fires and tones the abdominal organs increasing the efficiency of the systems of assimilation, digestion and excretion, and the stimulation of the thyroid and other endocrine glands increases the overall wellness and efficiency of the bodies natural ability to grow, mature and heal itself.
Also, as a key component of the practice of Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), practicing Maha Bandha is quite relaxing for the nervous system as all energy is focused on the dynamic equilibrium of the internal environment rather than the chaos of the external environment with its uncontrollable influences and circumstances.
In ancient yoga texts Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandhara bandhas are often illustrated in seated postures such as Sukkhasana (Easy Pose) and a straight back variation of Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee Pose), and moots the time in a pranayama practice before meditation. In modern day yoga practices we find ourselves in so many different postures, shapes and transitional movements that it is hard to find the balance between strength (gross muscle activation) and softness (subtle muscle activation) necessary to fully engage our bandhas. But quoting Pattabhis Jois, “With practice all is coming.” Activating and engaging our three major bandhas greatly supports and inspires a safe and graceful yoga practice.
|Exploring the spine through movement, strength and mobility. Starting with the subtle work of the bandhas. We then delve into the practice of uddiyana bandha and nauli kriya|
|You will be encouraged to pull the weight up and out of your hands and to engage your bandhas and core|
|How do I jump thru and jump back?! How do I do handstands?! When will I float?! The seemingly magic of bandhas that allows us to fly is a gradual process that is developed over time with steady practice.|