A bandha is a technique used in Hatha Yoga and associated with the practice of exercises and asanas. Each is a muscular lock and can be practised separately or in combination with various asana as guided by your teacher.
There are three main bandhas plus the Mahabandha which is a combination of them. The technique is to use muscular contractions or locks designed to seal off certain energy flows and to stimulate others. They are fundamentally helpful in reducing tension and stress, muscular strain, functional problems and nervous irregularities. They importantly also assist in balancing the glandular system.
The three locks are related to the base of the spine, the dorsal or solar plexus region, and the throat or upper spine. General practise of the bandhas along with other physical disciplines help to maintain health and well being. A bandha can also be deliberately practised in order to cure or to relieve particular symptom of disease.
One must be individually taught how to use the bandhas which are very useful health aids, but caution must be taken because they are quite potent in affecting re-direction of one’s body energies.
Whilst applying a contraction or bandha the use of breath control is also used – sometimes requiring inhalation, sometimes exhalation, and sometimes a suspension of breath. Bandhas are usually practised one at a time but with the Mahabandha or great lock, can be taken simultaneously.
1. Mula Bandha – pulling up the muscles between the anus and the scrotum or the vagina. The region between the navel and the anus is contracted towards the spine and pulled up towards the diaphragm. The contraction is maintained for maximum duration, usually about 10 deep breaths or a minute or two and it can be repeated several times.
This is used to relieve sexual tension, and is practised sitting, lying, or standing. It helps to tone up the pelvic floor, and to correct prolapsus, prostate troubles and bladder weakness.
This can be practised doing various asanas such as good-standing posture (Tadasana), headstand (Sirshasana), shoulder stand (Sarvangasana) and others. It can also be consciously done by tightening the buttocks when walking normally.
It is a traditional practice for longevity and opens the psychic gateway for elevating lower energy, as does a water lock, upward to the solar plexus or Manipura chakra.
The bandha is practised to increase one’s energy for expression through daily work and industry, or conserved for spiritual release in expanded higher consciousness or devotions.
2. Uddiyana Bandha encourages prana to fly up through the Sushumna nadi, the main channel for the flow of nervous energy which is situated inside the meru-danda or the spinal column. The practice is generally considered to promote youth and vitality. It is considered of great importance in the practice of Kundalini Yoga.
This lock releases prana or energy upward towards the heart or the Anahat chakra.
Physically it aids digestion and bowel function, relieves constipation, and certainly reduces nervous tension and emotional stress centred at the solar plexus region. Although a simple technique can be outlined, it is advisable to receive personal instruction to ensure all aspects of this complex muscular contraction are accurately performed as the stance of the body is important. The contraction is done after a complete exhalation of air from the lungs, and there must be no strain upon release.
3. Jalandhara Bandha or the Chin Lock is perhaps the simplest of them. Here the neck and throat are contracted and the chin is made to press towards the chest to the notch between the collar bones and the top of the breast bone. It is generally taken in a seated position but can also be performed whilst in Shoulder Stand or Sarvangasana.
Take a deep breath, contract and press the chin downward exerting pressure and retaining the breath for about 10 seconds, before releasing gently. It can be repeated twice only and it is important to relax afterwards.
This lock helps the lymphatic glands, thyroid and parathyroids and also the thymus function and stimulates various autonomic centres situated in the brain stem. It helps to flush out any accumulated wastes through improved circulation to these areas. In addition to the general tonic effect it is recommended for relieving sore throat, and sometimes asthma.
As a preparation for meditation, assume a seated position with upright spine and during practice of Jalandhara Bandha, concentrate upon the Vishuddi chakra. This bandha is designed to clear the bridge between the energies of body and brain.
4. Maha Bandha or Maha Mudra is also known as Bandha Treya . It combines the three bandhas – to help longevity, restore energy – and to refresh the entire psyche. It is practised in conjunction with asanas or as a sole discipline. It is usually advised before one takes headstand or Sirshasana.
Mudras are particular positions of the hands and the body in order to establish powerful and special energy patterns, similar to electrical circuits. Each one a symbolic representation of particular desired psychological or spiritual qualities.
The complex system of hand positions is a specialized art used in classical Indian dance. Their study demands considerable dedication and personal guidance although some of the simpler ones are regularly practised in general classwork. The hand positions are known as Hasta Mudras, and designed to directly affect the brain and thought patterns through establishing particular connections relating to the nervous system. This technique facilitates certain moods and states of consciousness and are regularly used in preparing for Meditation.
Mudras involving the physical body are positions assumed for the benefit of body and psychic nature and are designed to seal or direct energies at will. Special Mudras to aid expansions of consciousness in meditation are usually transmitted through personal tuition from Guru to pupil.