Good morning Yogis! We just wrapped up practice of each of the Limbs of Yoga. Before we will begin a series on more advanced specific Asanas, I want to cover a couple of subtle techniques – Bandhas, often called Yoga Locks or Binds, and Mudras meaning seals, marks or special hand gestures. The primary benefits and reasons for Bandhas and Mudras are for altering the flow of energy during particular Asanas. This discussion behind these subtle techniques is beyond our short and sweet daily practices, but please see the links for more detailed information on the philosophy behind each practice.
Bandhas – Yoga Locks or Binds
I have been familiar with using Bandhas in both dance and Pilates, which I studied before beginning Yoga. Most Yogis use three primary Bandhas from Ashtanga, and combine all three for the fourth Maha Bandha or Great Lock. Some Yogis also consider grounding Hand and Foot Bandhas in this category. We will cover the traditional Ashtanga Bandhas, but please check out more info and instructions for Hasta (Hand) and Pada (Foot) Bandhas .
Bandha activation is commonly hinted at with instructions by Yoga Teachers in beginner classes, for example lifting the pelvic floor or tightening the core. See below for more details to activate each of the primary Bandhas and how to activate all three for the Maha Bandha.
Mula Bandha – Root Lock
This is the lock referenced with ‘lifting your pelvic floor’ and is similar to Keigel exercises and Pilates’ pelvic floor activation. You can also think of this as moving energy up from the root and into your navel. Activating this Bandha during Asana practice can help give a sense of weightlessness moving between standing poses and especially ‘floating forward’ on the ma . You can activate the Mula Bandha by inhaling and tightening the pelvic floor inward and upward towards the navel, then relaxing.
Uddiyana Bandha – Upward Abdominal Lock
This is the lock often hinted at with ‘activating your core’ but takes this a step further. This Bandha is famous for a picture of a man performing this bind in a manner his ribcage protrudes intensely. Activating this Bandha during Asana practice can help give a sense of balance moving between poses. You can activate the Uddiyana Bandha by inhaling deeply, then exhaling completely so your stomach sucks in. Then, ‘inhale’ slightly without actually breathing air, and activate the diaphragm locking downward towards the navel. Then slowly exhale to relax the lock and breathe normally.
Jalandhara Bandha – cHIN Lock
This lock is automatically performed by many beginner Yogis without realizing it is a Bandha! This Bandha is activated by bending the head forward until the chin presses into your neck or chest. This Bandha is activated during Hot Yoga Pranayama, and in certain Asanas. Jalandhara Bandha keeps energy channeled downward.
Maha Bandha – Great Lock
This Bandha is a combination of the previous three, and is an advanced energy and meditation technique. To properly perform this, you first activate the Jalandhara, then Uddiyana, then Mula Bandha and hold all three. Then release Mula, Uddiyana, and Jalandhara in that order.
Check out our Top 5 Yoga Mats and Equipment for Newbies!
Please comment to share your experience! What did you think? Have you used Bandhas before in your practice? Always remember, be kind!