How to Experience the Bandhas

Bandha is translated to mean lock. Similarly to the way the locks of the Panama Canal fill to hold water to lift a ship from one level to the next, the bandhas contain and move energy upward through the core of the body. Using the following 4 bandhas can provide a physical way to interact with the energetic flow of prana where it is most concentrated along the central axis of the spine. What begins as muscular locks begins to transform physical energy into mental, emotional and spiritual energies as prana streaming into the chakras.

1.   Mulabandha
The Sanskrit word Mula means root or foundation. Mulabandha is a contraction of the muscles around the perineal body in the male and the cervix in the female,

Energetic Effects :
  • Stabilizes the pelvic floor, supporting all balancing postures
  • Releases lower back, tones abdominals, stabilize forward bends, releases spine
  • Draws from core strength in twists
  • Grounds sitz bones in seated postures, allowing relaxed length in spine

Avoid When :
  • Heavily menstruating or severe cramping
  • Can relieve minor cramping or congestion

2.   Uddiyana Bandha
Uddiyana Bandha is engaged by lifting the organs of the abdominal upward and inward. The lift is easier to apply after a full and complete exhalation and applying Mulabandha. A helpful image is that of swallowing your navel, bringing it up and in toward the spine. The soft organs of the belly are lifted into the lower chest cavity as the diaphragm is dynamically drawn upward, creating a vacuum in your chest. Uddiyana Bandha is often combined with stomach pumping, Agni Sara Dhauti.

Energetic Effects :
  • Massages and tones abdominal organs and glands
  • Stretches the diaphragm
  • Develops core strength and allows superficial muscles to relax
  • Using abdominal muscles allows lower back to relax and lengthen
  • Use in inversions for lengthening spine
  • Use in forward bends to bend from hip hinge
  • Use in twists to differentiate segments

Avoid With :
  • Recent surgery
  • Chronic condition in abdomen
  • Unmedicated high blood pressure
  • Full stomach
  • Pregnancy
  • Heavy menstruation, cramping

3.   Jalandhara Bandha
Jalandhara Bandha is performed by tucking your chin and simultaneously elongating the back of the neck. This allows you to hold your breath for longer periods of time while feeling the more subtle movements of prana throughout your system.

Energetic Effects :
  • Aids in holding breath longerFacilitateas alignment of head, neck and shoulders
  • Induces deep, internal concentration
  • Heightens all sensorial awareness
  • Intensifies pranic energy by compressing breath in torso

Avoid With :
  • Headaches, sinus infection
  • Sore throat, ear infection
  • Neck injuries or chronic cervical pains
  • Unmedicated high blood pressure

4.   Maha Bandha
Although the 3 bandhas above are presented individually for the purpose of differentiating awareness of their regional effects, all three are aspects of the Maha, or great bandha. With practice, you will notice that one bandha naturally matures into the next.

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Amba Stapleton
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