Our Topic of the Month for July are the Bandhas! Wherever you practice yoga, you have probably heard the word Bandha, and like I did, smiled and nodded your head like you totally understood what the bizarre word meant - without really knowing. In Sanskrit, the word bandha means to lock, hold, or to tighten. These 3 different body “locks” can help further your practice, and not just the physical postures, but calming the mind, focusing on the breath, and honing in our concentration. The bandhas help us root down and lift up, while centering our energy to the midline of the body.
The Mula Bandha is awkward and a little silly to explain, kind of like happy baby pose. Whenever you are cuing someone into it, or being told to how to get into the posture, you feel a little goofy and don’t really understand the benefits. BUT, then you are in the blissful state of happy baby, rocking back and forth, shining the soles of the feet to the sky, and it all makes sense. The Mula Bandha is the contraction of muscle whenever you have to pee, but you gotta hold it. That pull up and hold in sensation is the locking of the Mula Bandha, or root lock, and should be utilized throughout the entirety of your practice. Crazy, I know, but when you think about it you are keeping the energy flowing upward and this creates a lightness in the body that stems from our core.
The Uddiyana Bandha comes next, and in Sanskrit uddiyana means to fly up, or rise up. This lock encourages the rise of energy through the body, and by pulling the belly button up and in we are locking in the diaphragm, stomach, and abdominal organs. The Uddiyana Bandha can help create a greater amount of lightness in the body, by moving the energy upward with more force, and allow more of an opportunity to take flight in more advanced postures. With the abdominal wall pressing the organs and tissues of the abdominal cavity backward, this lock can create a soft massage for the deeper internal muscles of the lower back. Not to mention, can take those crunches and core work to a whole new level, and flatten out the belly.
The Jalandhara Bhanda is not used as often as the first two, and is rarely used alone, but performed in combination with specific pranayama, or breathing practices. In Sanskrit, jal means throat, jalan means net, and dharan means energy of flow. The bhanda is refered to as the throat lock, and control the flow of the energy to the nerves and blood vessels of the neck. By pressing the chin firmly to the chest, slightly lifting the sternum, and dropping the shoulders we engage this throat lock, that can also be used as a trigger for mental relaxation or for stress or anger relief.
Try utilizing one or two of these in your next practice, and always feel free to ask your instructors questions! We are here to help guide you in your practice, and provide some tools to not only allow you to be more knowledgeable and aware during your practice, but to begin to let the benefits of yoga make their way into other aspects of your life than just the physical. Namaste ~