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The “Bandha “refers to the internal muscular-physical ‘lock’ that, with practice, one can intentionally engage as necessary. We engage these locks to redirect the flow of energy within the body. 

Why do we practice Bandhas?

Bandhas play an important role on both the physical and spiritual level. Physically engaging bandhas during the practice offers support during movement within and between individual postures. The second important role of the bandhas is directing the flow of energy within the body. Through the practice of asana (movement), meditation (mindfulness), and pranayama (breath), one learns to tap into and direct the flow of energy in various directions for various purposes. Bandhas create a container within the body to make the most out of this energy.

The Bandhas

Mula Bandha (Root Lock) - The first of three interior body "locks" used in asana and pranayama practice to control the flow of energy.

Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock) - The second of the three interior body “locks” used in asana and pranayama practice to control the flow of energy.

Jhalandara Bandha (Throat Lock) - The third and last of the three interior body "locks" used in asana and pranayama practice to control the flow of energy. Jhalandara bandha can be practiced alone or in conjunction with mula bandha and uddiyana bandha.

Traya Bandha – Three or Tri Lock - (sometimes called Maha Bandha) - When the three classic bandhas are practiced together they are called tri-bandha.

Instructions for Bandhas

Mula Bandha - (Root Lock)

Pronunciation: Moola Baun-da

To activate mula bandha, exhale and engage the pelvic floor, drawing it upwards towards your navel. If you don't know how to access the pelvic floor, think of it as the space between the pubic bone and the tailbone. Initially you may need to contract and hold the muscles around the anus and genitals, but really what you want is to isolate and draw up the perineum, which is between the anus and genitals. Do not hold your breath. Engaging mula bandha while doing yoga poses can give the postures an extra lift. This is especially useful when jumping.

Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock)

Pronunciation: Oo-di-ana Baun-da

Uddiyana bandha can be practiced alone or in conjunction with mula bandha. To engage this bandha, sit in a comfortable cross legged position. Exhale your breath, then take a false inhale (draw the abdomen in and up without taking in any breath.) Draw the belly up underneath the rib cage. To release, soften the abdomen and inhale.

Uddiyana bandha tones, massages and cleans the abdominal organs. If you are familiar with mula bandha, you will see that the drawing up of the pelvic floor naturally leads into the drawing up of the abdomen. This is how the bandhas work together.

Jhalandara Bandha (Throat Lock)

Pronunciation: Jal-an-daura Baun-da

To engage this bandha, sit in a comfortable cross legged position. Inhale so the lungs are about two-thirds full, and then hold the breath in. Drop the chin down, and then draw the chin back closer to the chest so the back of the neck does not round. Hold as long as is comfortable and then bring the chin up and release the breath. To practice in conjunction with the other two bandhas, first draw the pelvic floor upwards, engaging mula bandha. This leads to the abdomen drawing in and up under the ribcage (uddiyana bandha). Finally, the chin drops to the chest and draws back into jhalandara bandha. When practiced together, the three locks are known as Maha Bandha, the great lock.

Traya Bandha – Three or Tri Lock

Classically tri-banda or bandhas three (traya-bandha) is the utilization of the three major bandhas of mulabandha, uddiyana bandha, and jalandhara bandha within an overall sequenced order. Classically mulabandha is usually performed first, then uddiyana, then lastly jalandhara.

Exhale all the breath out applying mulabandha, uddiyana bandha, and cap it off with jalandhara bandha in that order. Play with accentuating mula and uddiyana bandha here. Hold the breath out while the torso and spine remains long.

Release jalandhara first, then uddiyana, then mulabandha, as you inhale drawing the air down into the lower abdomen as the diaphragm and abdomen expands.

At the end of the inhale apply mulabandha first and then cap it off with jalandhara bandha (binding the prana inside) while lifting the spine and torso (crown raises up toward the heavens).

Increase this inner and feeling of internal space playing with mulabandha and jalandhara bandha while holding the breath in (antar kumbhaka * see explanation below *) without any strain.

Before any tension or stress (or when the lift has peaked) , then release the jalandhara bandha first, then the breath and mulabandha, while implementing uddiyana bandha slowly until all the air has been expelled.

Repeat as above 10 times. Be gentle and go for the vital healing energy.

Antara kumbhaka

Antara Kumbhaka means full container. It refers to the part of the breath when the lungs are full of air. It can be done passively or with a lock called Jalandhara Bandha.

Introduce the technique after inhalations have been mastered and harmonized rhythmically.

Once the lungs have filled with air cease forcing it in. Many practitioners try too hard when inhaling and as a result strain the nervous system. This can shorten the time the practitioner is able to retain after inhalation.

Using too much force when entering this kumbhaka results in a negative effect on the exhalation. The karma goes on to effect the pause after exhalation and the next inhalation. Avoid bad karma in breathing by entering antara kumbhaka with attentive care.

It is nice to allow this time of change to occur without the lock. This way feels like continual expansion even though the lungs are not filling with air.

When the lock is performed the air is trapped and gripped. This causes more pressure as the expansion is decreased by the lock.

Try antara kumbhaka without holding the breath instead allowing a large amount of time to pass as the lungs change direction. Continue to open the lower parts of the lungs as if air continues to enter even after the lungs resists the air. This is an energy expansion technique. This allows the time of the kumbhaka to increase as the entrance into its peak is approached with delicacy.

"Master bliss at the top of the breath before practicing the antara kumbhaka."

B.K.S Iyengar on pranayama during his 75th birthday teachings.

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