It may not always feel like it (I’m talking to you, Mondays), but there is a constant flow of energy that runs through the body. When you feel healthy, strong and vibrant this energy or prana is moving unencumbered; when you feel sluggish, downhearted or sick it has become stagnant, even blocked.
To get this vital energy working at its optimum you don’t need to down a gallon of coffee or dunk your head in a bucket of ice water; all you have to do is learn to engage the bandhas.
So What Is a Bandha?
The term bandha refers to one of the three areas in the body that work as energy locks. When you engage one (or all three) of these locks the energy is temporarily trapped; upon release of the lock, the accumulated energy flows forth like the opening of a floodgate and clears out the blockage.
This gather-and-release technique is easy to perform with breath retention and muscular contraction.
Jalandhara Bandha – Throat Lock
To perform the throat lock, sit comfortably in a crossed-legged position. Slowly inhale through the nose, hold the breath and then lower the chin to the chest (you’ll create a double chin). Hold for as long as is comfortable, raise the chin and breathe.
Jalandhara bandha stimulates the circulatory and respiratory system; it stretches the neck, strengthens the thyroid and helps to balance the metabolism.
Uddiyana Bandha – Abdominal Lock
To perform uddiyana bandha stand with your torso rounded forward, hands on your hips and feet slightly apart; or sit in a comfortable crossed-legged position, bend slightly forward and keep the arms loose at your sides. Inhale deeply through the nose, exhale forcibly and suck your abs up and in expelling as much air as possible. Pause and hold the breath without straining and then slowly release.
The stomach lock not only strengthens the abs, but also improves digestion and elimination by stimulating blood flow to the belly. It also improves the immune system.
Mula Bandha – Root Lock
To engage the root lock, sit comfortably in a crossed-legged position. Relax. Take a breath through the nose; slowly exhale and gently engage the muscles of the perineum.
The perineum (also referred to as the pelvic floor) is the area between your anus and the vulva (girls) or scrotum (guys). Work from the back to the front and imagine you are contracting the muscles to avoid passing gas and then furthering the contraction to hold back urine. This is a subtle squeeze and lift; your butt cheeks should remain relaxed. Breathe normally, hold for 10 seconds and then release.
Activating the mula bandha rejuvenates the entire body and calms the nervous system. Core strength is affected as well as incontinence and sexual function issues.
Practice the energy locks to strengthen, purify and renew your energetic flow. Over time your breathing will become more efficient and you’ll be able to hold the lock longer.
Once you have mastered the three locks, have a go at the Maha Bandha or Great Lock. Exhale fully and perform each bandha in tandem working your way down the body for a complete system overhaul.
The bandhas are a great tool to use before meditation to calm the mind and activate the chakras. —Karen