In yoga philosophy, it is believed that prana is essential to all forms of life. Also known as “life force,” or “energy,” prana is present in the universe, in nature, and within us. In order to conserve and harness our prana, we need a clear grasp and control of our bandhas. But what are the bandhas?
The word “bandha” means lock, to tighten, or to block. As its name suggests, then, a bandha is an “energy lock” that helps us control and contain your prana. In the simplest sense, activating your bandhas help conserve the ever flowing life force within us, and prevent our prana from “leaking out.”
After all, unregulated prana can lead to stress, fatigue, and even depression and anxiety. If your prana is well-balanced and sustained within you, you can expect to feel stronger and energized.
When you learn how to engage and activate your bandhas, you’re able to sustain your prana and direct it effectively across your body.
The 3 Kinds of Bandhas
1. Mula Bandha
Your Mula Bandha (also known as your root lock) simply consists of engaging your pelvic floor muscles. For women, drawing up your pelvic floor muscles provides the same sensation as holding in your urine.
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help in protecting your reproductive organs, support sexual health, and provide core control and stability.
In your asana practice, drawing in your Mula Bandha helps provide stability in arm balances like crow. It is also essential when hopping to handstand and forearm stand.
Energetically, your root lock helps draw in and support your root chakra. Your root chakra supports feelings of grounding and connection to reality. Activating your mula bandha helps support feelings of focus and concentration.
It also helps deliver prana into the central channel, or your spinal column.
2. Uddiyana Bandha
The ancient yogis also engaged their core. Uddiyana Bandha is also known as your upward abdominal lock. According to Yoga Journal, it is best activated on an empty stomach and during an exhalation.
Uddiyana Bandha helps energy rise up your solar plexus chakra, which helps you connect with feelings of strength, personal power, and confidence. It also intensifies the energy coming from your Mula Bandha. It helps strengthen and stimulate your abdominal muscles and diaphragm.
Additionally, it massages your internal organs and promotes improved digestion.
Although you can always activate Uddiyana Bandha during core workouts and any yoga pose, one way to really connect with this bandha is through Nauli Kriya, a cleansing ritual that helps detoxify your digestive system.
3. Jalandhara Bandha
Jalandhara Bandha, or your throat lock, seals in downward energy. It is connected to the throat chakra, which promotes communication, self-expression, and satya (or practicing honesty). Activating this bandha helps balance this energy center, and it also helps support throat and thyroid health.
To activate Jalandhara Bandha, simply drop your chin down and draw it close to your chest. Lift your sternum to your chin, exhale, then swallow. Hold this lock for as long as you can or during meditation, then release the breath.
Activating Jalandhara Bandha also helps pull the energy downward and connect it with the energy coming from your Uddiyana Bandha.
Since it involves flexing the neck, it helps release tension in the cervical spine and boosts circulation across the back of your neck. It also supports respiratory health, and helps you breathe better.
4. Maha Bandha
Putting all the three bandhas together, this one is called the “Great Lock.” Maha Bandha is activated when all three bandhas are. Connecting with this ultimate bandha has a plethora of health benefits, from strengthening the immune system, balancing the hormones, and boosting metabolism.
To find Maha bandha, first engage Mula Bandha. Inhale, draw up the pelvic floor muscles, then exhale and activate Jalandhara Bandha. Tilt the chin down and draw the sternum up, feeling the stretch at the back of the neck.
Then, draw in Uddiyana Bandha. This will entail drawing in your belly from the pit of your lower belly all the way up to the ribcage.
Having all three bandhas engaged opens up Maha Bandha. The release of these bandhas will invite more oxygenation and circulation across the body. To properly let go of each bandha, release Uddiyana, Jalandhara, then Mula.