Prana, the breath, moves along energy channels, Nadis, in the body. Chakras are wheels that store energy. If the prana does not move through the bodily machinery correctly, it can transfer energy ineffectively, making the practice of yoga challenging, inefficient, and less beneficial than it has the potential to be. There are three bandhas: Jalandhara Bandha; Uddiyana Bandha; and, Mula Bandha. Bandhas are best learned and practiced under the supervision of an informed instructor.
JALANDHARA BANDHA – jala: net, web, lattice, mesh. The neck and throat are contracted, resting the chin between the collar bones at the top of the breastbone. Jalandhara regulates the flow of blood and prana to the heart, the glands in the neck and head together with the brain. When doing breathing exercises, pranayama, or poses that promote Jalandhara Bandha, such as Shoulder Stand, Sarvangasana, proper activation of this bandha avoids pressure in the head and dizziness. PRACTICE: Sit tall with alignment in the spine, broaden the chest, and gently pull your chin down and chest forward until they come close or meet. Breathe deeply. Ujjai breath is a way to engage the back of the throat and work up to Jalandhara Bandha.
UDDIYANA BANDHA – uddiyana: flying up. Lift the diaphragm up and pull the abdominal organs back toward the spine (low belly moves in and up + floating ribs pull back). To be performed only between complete exhalation and new inhalation, when breath is momentarily paused. Exercises diaphragm and abdominal organs, offers a gentle massage and toning to the heart. Not to be practiced between complete inhalation and the start of exhalation. This will result in strain on the heart, diaphragm, and eyes. “It is said that Uddiyana is the best of bandhas and he who constantly practices it as taught by his Guru or master becomes young again.” – B.K.S. Iyengar. PRACTICE: Sit tall in a cross-legged position. Inhale deeply, exhale fully, pull the low belly between the navel and the pubis in and up, and keep floating ribs (bottom front of the rib cage) from protruding. Release to inhale deeply.
MULA BANDHA – mula: root, source, origin or cause, basis or foundation. Lift the pelvic floor, or more specifically, engage the Kegel muscles, those that are used to stop the flow of urination. Be sure not to engage the gluts to do this. Activating Mula Bandha unites the upward breath, prana vayu, and the downward flow of breath, apana vayu. PRACTICE: Sit on the heels with proper alignment in the spine. Inhale, pause breath and lift the pelvic floor as you lengthen the waist and groins. Exhale and release. If you notice you are lifting away from your legs, you are engaging gluts and legs and flattening the lumbar spine, rather than finding the subtlety of Mula Bandha.
“With the mastery of the three band gas, the yogi is at the crossroads of his destiny. One road leads to bhoga or the enjoyment of worldly pleasures; the other leads to Yoga or union with the Supreme Soul.” – B.K.S. Iyengar