Yoga has many different practices to help you strengthen your practice. This happens through your mind and through your body. One of these practices is called ‘Bandhas’, or energetic locks. There are three energetic locks that this article will explain: Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Banhda, and Jalandhara Banda.
The Mula Bandha, or Root Lock, starts inside the area of the pelvis: the sacrum. To activate the lock, activate and lift your pelvic floor muscles (also known as a ‘Kegel’ exercise). The contraction of these muscles should be gentle and held continuously. This can be done during any Pranayama (breathing) exercise and specific Yoga Asanas (poses) such as chair pose, boat pose, or a deep Yogic squat. By practicing the Mula Bandha, the impurities of our energy (Mala) are lifted up to the fire. The energy is sent up the spine towards higher stages of consciousness.
The Uddiyana Bandha, or Flying Upward Lock, is located in the diaphragm, which is the space between the navel and spine that creates the energetic and physical funnel. To activate this lock, inhale deeply and fully exhale. Straighten your spine and hug the belly in towards the spine. Do not release the breath. Hold this bandha for 10-15 seconds before softly releasing the abdominals. This bandha is used during the majority of a Yoga Asana flow. By practicing this lock, the impurities are held in the fire and it burns them. This lock brings lightness to your Yoga practice and fire to the digestive system. Energetically, the Bandha moves our energy and awareness to the higher realms of the heart chakra which brings less stress and more love into our every day lives.
The Jalandhara Bandha, or Throat Lock, is located in the neck and chin. It is mostly used during Pranayama and Meditation practice and is activated by straightening the entire spinal column including the neck and gently pulling the chin down and in. Close your eyes and hold this lock as long as you are comfortable. By practicing this lock, we prevent those cleansed energies from becoming impurities again. Practicing this lock during meditation will move and hold our energy in the upper chakras. It will increase the potency of your meditation and concentration practice.
To combine all Locks simultaneously is known as the Maha Bandha, or Great Lock. To activate the great lock, sit in a cross-legged position with a straight spine. Take a few gentle breaths, then take a deep breath and as you exhale, activate your pelvic floor, hug the lower abdominals in, and gently pull the chin to your chest. Hold this position for as long as you are comfortable and then release. You can practice this as many times as you like, increasing the duration of the hold as you proceed. Only practice the Great Lock when you are comfortable with each Lock individually. The ultimate benefit and goal of the Maha Bandha is to calm the fluctuations of the mind. This Lock is generally practiced in meditation and Pranayama practices as they cannot be practiced in the majority of Yoga Poses.
Practicing the Yoga Bandhas will not only purify your energy and calm you mind, but it will also bring you closer to your inner self. I highly recommend practicing these Locks at the end of all Meditation and Pranayama practices.