The Sanskrit word Bandha means to bind, bond or lock. Bandhas are designed to move and store Pranic energy in the body. They can be practiced on a subtle level or strongly activated. More subtly, they aim to lock prana in particular areas and redirect the energetic flow into sushumna nadi (the main psychic energy channel along the spine) for the purpose of spiritual awakening.
On a physical level they deepen the awareness of muscles in the body that normally go overlooked and maintain a healthy spine and organs. Bandhas form the core strength of the body and are engaged to provide internal support. As with other yogic practices, it is important to follow the precautions and contraindications.
There are 3 main bandhas:
Located at the top of the throat. Achieved by lowering the chin slightly while raising the sternum.
Practice of this lock regulates the flow of prana to the heart. This bandha occurs naturally in postures like Salamba Sarvangasana and supported Setu Bandhasana. This lock correlates with Ujjayi breath and the vibration of the breath at the back of throat.
- helps regulate the circulatory and respiratory systems
- aids in thyroid function, and regulating metabolism
- mental relaxation relieves stress, anxiety and anger
- helps develop meditative introversion and one-pointedness
Located in the lower abdominal area, uddiyana bandha means “flying upward” referring to its effect on prana. Engaged by lifting the muscles about two finger distance below the navel in and up.
Practice of this bandha causes pranic energy to fly upwards through sushumna nadi. During asana practice, it is not possible to engage this lock to its more extreme engagement used in cleansing techniques (Kriyas), as it restricts breathing and movement; instead it is performed on a more subtle level to enhance core strength and stability.
- relieves constipation, indigestion, stimulates the digestive fire
- tones and massages the abdominal organs, and improves circulation to the core area
- helps remove lethargy and soothes anxiety and tension
- helps distribute energy throughout the entire body
Practice of this bandha redirects prana from the lower region upwards. This bandha correlates to the root of the spine. It is located in the perineum and the deep transverse perineal muscles, a part of the pelvic floor. The muscles are between the anus and genitals. Different practices of this bandha will engage more or less muscles.
- stimulates pelvic nerves and tones uro-genital and excretory systems and relieves constipation
- helps benefit post-natal women to rebuild the muscles after childbirth and also benefit men and prostrate health
- helps relieve depression
This bandha is a combination of jalandhara, uddiyama, and mula bandha practiced at the same time. External breath retention may be applied and helps to create a meditative state.