Bandhas are an intrinsic part of yoga practice, just like Pranayama and Mudras.
I practiced yoga asanas for over a year before I truly understood how to use all my Bandhas with my breath. Once you learn, it takes your practice to a whole new level and you can experience the Divine Kundalini energy within.
The word bandha in Sanskrit means to ‘hold’, ‘tighten’, or ‘lock’. Bandhas are physical tightening or locking actions of the body that aim to lock the prana, or life force, in particular areas and redirect their flow, for the purpose of spiritual awakening. All dedicated yogis should incorporate bandhas into their yoga and pranayama practices to enhance the effects - physical, spiritual, and mental - of the practice. They help you move in and out of asanas more freely, hold poses for longer, and manage new positions. They also help regulate your internal systems, such as the sexual, hormonal, digestive, etc. However, it is said Bandhas should be mastered before incorporating into your practice. [Note: do not practice bandhas while pregnant]. Bandhas
There are three principle bandhas, with a fourth that ties them all together:
Moola Bandha Moola means root, and this is the root lock. It is done by contracting the muscles of the pelvic floor. For females, this means contracting the muscles that stop you from peeing, and for males, contracting the area between the anus and the testes. This bandha should be held throughout the whole of your asana practice, as it allows the kundalini to flow upwards, leaving you with that feeling of ‘floating’ when you finish a class. Uddiyana Bandha Moving up from the pelvis we have the second bandh, uddiyana. It is the lock of the diaphragm, stomach, and abdominal area. To perform this banda, start by standing up and exhaling completely. Without inhaling, you will feel like your abdominal wall and core internal organs get sucked up and back towards your back. Your waist gets smaller with your ribs protruding. To exit, inhale and raise your arms to the sky, then exhale gently bringing your arms down. This bandha aids with digestion and stomach ailments, tones the abdominal organs, and releases stress. Jalandhara Bandha This is the throat lock, which controls the flow of energy through the neck. To perform this bandha, sit up tall in Sukhasana or Vajrasana, hands on your knees, inhaling deeply and bringing your chin to touch your neck. You should be having a double chin. Lift your sternum slightly, press down on your hands to straighten your elbows, and push the chin back further. To exit, simply lift the chin and inhale the remainder of air before exhaling. This bandha helps balance the thyroid and metabolism. Maha Bandha This is a combination of the first three bandhas performed together. Sit comfortably in Sukhasana or Vajrasana, and inhale deeply and exhale completely. With empty lungs, engage the three bandas, starting with moola bandha, then uddiyana bandha, then, lifting your chest slightly, find jalandhara bandha. Performing Maha Bandha gives you the benefits of all three bandhas and regulates the entire endocrine system.
Granthis are knots within the psychic body. There are three of them. These knots prevent the free flow of prana along the sushumna nadi (energetic cord running along the spine) and impede the awakening of the chakras and rising of the kundalini, or life force. This is why we employ Bandhas - to break down and transcend the knots. Each bandha acts on an associated granthi. Brahma Granthi (associated with moola bandha). When this granthi is transcended, the kundalini is able to rise beyond the first two chakras (the mooladhara and swadhisthana chakras) and transcends the instinctual patterns associated with those chakras (survival instinct, the urge to protest, instinctive knowledge). (You can find more information on chakras on my website). Vishnu Granthi (associated with uddiyana bandha). When this granthi is transcended, the kundalini is able to rise beyond the next two chakras, manipura and anahata, and one is no longer bound by physical, mental, and emotional attachments. Energy and emotions become more universal rather than personal. Rudra Granthi (associated with jalandhara bandha). When this final knot is transcended, the kundalini rises beyond chakras 5 and 6, vishuddhi and ajna chakras. When this granthi is pierced, individuality dissolves, ego identification is left behind and the experience of pure, unmanifest consciousness emerges. --- If you are a beginner to Yoga then please only practice Bandhas with a certified Yoga teacher or book a private coaching session with me to learn and experience how to use your Bandhas. For a variety of video classes that you can practice at home, please visit my Practice Online membership area on my website! Please do let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.