Bandhas: Yoga Interior Locks

One of the most important concepts in yoga is ‘Bandha’. Bandha is a Sanskrit word which means ‘lock’ and also can be regarded as ‘to bind’. Bandhas are basically the locks applied during the practice of pranayama to retain the breath inside or outside of the lungs. This process of retention of breath is called as kumbhaka.

Practice of pranayama includes three things – inhalation, retention and exhalation. The process of retention is called kumbhaka and the instrument for kumbhaka is Bandha. Kumbhaka is accomplished by adopting Bandhas. Without using Bandhas breath cannot be retained. Here the importance of Bandhas can be understood clearly.

 Significance of Bandhas

To understand the importance of Bandhas the basic understanding of pranayama is needed. Pranayama is the process by which prana (air, wind, vital force or energy) is controlled. Thus the purpose of practicing pranayama is, to control the flow of prana, to have control over the mind. The mind can then be concentrated on to the path of self-realization. Now it is very clear that having control over prana is important to achieve the goal of ‘moksha’. For that pranayama is practiced but during the practice how the breath is held inside and kept outside not allowing it to enter to our body or into the lungs.

Bandhas are the instruments through which the prana or the breath is held inside or outside of the body. Bandhas bind the prana at a particular junction of nadis (chakras) and take control over the quantity and intensity of flow of prana. This withholding practice of breath increases the lung capacities thus increasing the metabolic activity of the body. At subtle level it gradually decrease the rapid nature of mind because the prana or the breath and mind have a direct correlation between them. Both are interrelated to each other. Thus it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Bandha is an essential factor in the path of spiritual journey.

Types of Bandhas

Yogic scriptures describe four types of Bandhas. These four types are explained as follows:

Mool Bandha (perineum retraction lock)

Moola Bandha is the practice of contracting the perineum region by which the flow of prana is reversed.

Steps to practice for Mool Bandha

  • Sit in any comfortable meditative pose, preferably in Siddhasana.
  • Keep the hands on your knees either in jnana or chon mudra and close the eyes.
  • Keep your spine erect and make yourself completely relaxed.
  • Initially try to concentrate on the perineum region.
  • After few minutes of concentration start to gradually contract and release the muscles of the perineum/cervix.
  • Contraction will last for a few seconds.
  • Practice this for few more times.
  • Keep the breath normal.
  • The technique can also be practice by holding the breath inside or outside as far as possible.
  • This is the practice of Moola Bandha.

Benefits of Mool Bandha

  • It is a useful practice for urinary disorders.
  • Useful in many of problems related to reproductive organs.
  • Stimulates the Mooladhar chakra.
  • Reverses the flow of Apana prana and directs it upwards.

Precautions

  • It should not be practised during pregnancy.
  • It should not be practised during periods.
  • The practise is prohibited in some chronic disease and disorders.
  • A yoga therapist or a teacher must be consulted before start practising if suffering from any health problem.

Uddiyan Bandha (abdominal retraction lock)

This is the practice of holding the breath and contracting navel chakra.

Steps of Uddiyan Bandha

  • Sit in any comfortable meditative pose, preferably in Siddhasana.
  • Keep the hands on your knees either in jnana or chon mudra and close the eyes.
  • Keep your spine erect and make yourself completely relaxed.
  • Concentrate on your navel for few seconds.
  • Inhale deeply through the nose, then exhale completely and forcefully.
  • Having fully exhaled, pull the abdomen and stomach inward towards the spine and up.
  • Try to hold it for few seconds.
  • When urge is felt to take the breath then release the contraction of abdomen muscles slowly and inhale slowly.
  • Ease your breath and feel free.
  • Continue the practice for few more times.
  • This is the practice of Uddiyan Bandha.

Benefits of Uddiyan Bandha

  • Helps to reduce belly fat.
  • Practice is very much useful for some digestive disorders.
  • Stimulates the navel chakra (Manipur chakra).
  • Increases the digestive fire.

Precautions

  • People suffering from intestinal ulcers and hernia should not practice this technique.
  • This practice is prohibited for the people suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma or raised intracranial pressure.
  • It is an advanced practice and it should only be taught to capable or healthy practitioners.

Jalandhar Bandha (throat lock)

  • Sit in any comfortable meditative pose, preferably in Siddhasana.
  • Keep the hands on your knees either in jnana or chon mudra and close the eyes.
  • Keep your spine erect and make yourself completely relaxed.
  • Concentrate on your throat for few seconds.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply and retain the breath inside.
  • Lower the chin so that it touches the chest, or more specifically the collarbone.
  • Hold for as long as is comfortable.
  • Then slowly raise the head.
  • Ease your breath and feel free.
  • It can be practised for five rounds.
  • Jalandhar Bandha can also be practiced with external retention.
  • This is the practice of Jalandhar Bandha.

Benefits of Jalandhar Bandha (throat lock)

  • Voice is nourished through this practice.
  • Helps to cure hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
  • Regulates the flow of hormones.
  • Stimulates the vishuddhi chakra.

Precautions

  • People suffering from cervical spondylitis should not practice Jalandhar Bandha.
  • People suffering from severe headache should not practice this technique.
  • Suffering from any chronic disease or disorder, first consult to a good yoga teacher or therapist then start practising.

Mahabandha (great lock)

It is thus named because it is the practice comprising of all the three Bandhas. In mahabandha all the three Bandhas are adopted at a time.

Steps to practice for Mahabandha (great lock)

  • Sit in any comfortable meditative pose, preferably in Siddhasana.
  • Keep the hands on your knees either in jnana or chon mudra and close the eyes.
  • Keep your spine erect and make yourself completely relaxed.
  • Now inhale slowly and deeply then exhale completely.
  • Once the breath is fully exhaled retain the breath outside.
  • Retaining the breath outside first adopt moolabandha, then Uddiyan Bandha and then finally Jalandhar Bandha.
  • Try to be in this position, breath retained outside with the three Bandhas.
  • Then when you start feeling uncomfortable then first remove Jalandhar Bandha then Uddiyan Bandha and moolabandha at last.
  • Ease your breath and relax.
  • This is the practice of mahabandha.

 Benefits of Mahabandha (great lock)

  • Same as of all above three Bandhas.

Precautions

  • Same as of all above three Bandhas.

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