Bandhas: The Key to a Healthy Life
Yoga has a beautiful way of connecting our body and mind and helping us to have a better balance in our lives. But, it also includes modalities that help the energy in our bodies flow. One such modality is called bandhas. Also known as “energetic locks,” bandhas direct the body’s energy flow and play a pivotal role in our physical and spiritual well-being. Though it can take years to activate the bandhas, once triggered they strengthen your yoga, pranayama, and other mindfulness-based practices. Essentially, the bandhas lock your energies and redirect them to the body parts where they are most needed.
There are four major bandhas main types of bandhas in our body (three major bandhas and on that is a combination of all the major bandhas). While there is two minor bandhas, we will focus on just the major ones.
Mula Bandha or Root Lock
The Mula Bandha helps the energy flow toward the direction of your navel through the pelvic region. It stops energy from moving downwards.
Benefits of Mula Bandha Yoga
- Strengthens the muscles in the pelvic area
- Relieves hemorrhoids and congestion in the pelvic area
- Enhances the body-mind connection
- Adds stability in yoga poses
- Calms the nervous system
- Relaxes the mind
- Keeps the energy intact during meditation
- Helps to recognize and experience the bliss and happiness
- Activates and purifies the Muladhara Chakra
- Awakens consciousness
How to do the Mula Bandha
For a perfect Mula Bandha or Root Lock, pull the perineum inward. To attain this posture, sit straight in a meditative pose. Then, inhale and concentrate on contracting your anus and the pelvic floor. Try to draw your pubic bone upward and inward. Following that, exhale and unlock the lock slowly. Repeat it ten times. Continue to practice this until you master in isolating the perineum while it contracts. The Mula Bandha can be practiced in any yoga pose that involves deep core exercise. The best yoga poses to practice Root Lock are Utkatasana (Chair Pose), Navasana (Boat Pose), and Malasana (Garland Pose).
Uddiyana Bandha or Upward Abdominal Lock
The abdomen is considered to be the core of our body and Uddiyana Bandha helps energy generation from this core. It boosts upward energy with the help of Mula Bandha and downward energy with the Jalandhara Bandha.
Benefits of Uddiyana Bandha Yoga
- Increases stamina
- Strengthens and cleanses the body
- Improves functioning of the intestine and stomach
- Effective in treating diabetes and obesity
- Good for constipation and gastric problems
- Keeps the kidney healthy
- Balances the enzymes produced by the liver
- Strengthens the immune system
- Balances the body and mind
How to do the Uddiyana Bandha
The Uddiyana Bandha or Stomach Lock is located between the spine and navel. The practice helps bring fire to your digestive system and generates ease in the yoga poses. As the stomach is the powerhouse of the body, this lock establishes calmness in your everyday life. To attain this lock, inhale and then hold your breath. Be mindful of sitting in a straight position and pull the belly toward your spine. Keep this position without releasing your breath. After 10–15 seconds, release the breath slowly and soften the abdomen. The best yoga poses to practice Uddiyana Bandha are Sirsasana (Headstand), Virasana (Hero), Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), and so on.
Jalandhara Bandha or Throat Lock
When you keep your chin locked toward your chest, this bandha stops the upward flow of the energy and instead, directs it downwards.
Benefits of Jalandhara Bandha Yoga
- Improves the health of your spine
- Enhances blood circulation
- Regulates the heart rhythm
- Improves functioning of the thyroid gland
- Improves concentration
- Long-term practice can help to get rid of a double chin
- Facilitates blood circulation through the vocal cord, which makes it beneficial for orators and singers
How to do the Jalandhara Bandha
The Jalandhara Bandha or Throat Lock is mostly practiced during meditation and pranayama. This lock helps hold energy in the upper chakras. When practiced regularly, it improves your concentration. Sit tall in a comfortable position, placing your hands on the knees. Then, lengthen the back of the neck and touch the chest with your chin. Next, close your eyes, relax your mind, and keep breathing normally. Hold on to the position for as long as you feel comfortable.
Maha Bandha or Great Lock (Combination of Mula, Uddiyana, and Jalandhara Bandhas)
To activate this bandha, one has to engage the Mula Bandha, Jalandhara Bandha, and Uddiayana Bandha together. When the Mula and Jalandhara Bandhas are triggered simultaneously, the upward and downward energies meet at your navel. When you apply the Uddiyana Bandha along with other two major bandhas, it activates your Prana Shakti or life force energy that governs all physical functions.
Benefits of Maha Bandha Yoga
- Combines benefits of the Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha, and Jalandhara Bandha
- Activates the pineal gland and regulates endocrine glands
- Rejuvenates the cells of the body and fights against anti-aging
- Calms the mind
- Enhances concentration, which helps in the practice of meditation
- Awakens Prana Shakti and improves the sense of awareness
How to do the Maha Bandha
Maha Bandha, the combination of all the bandhas, is the ultimate lock that provides the benefit of all the other bandhas at the same time. The great lock can be practiced only with limited yoga poses. It can also be done with pranayama and meditation. Sit in a comfortable position and inhale slowly. After practicing the breathing exercises, take a final inhalation and exhale the air slowly. While exhaling, try the Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha, and Jalandhara Bandha simultaneously. Remain in this position for a few moments and the release the locks slowly.
Though bandhas might cause some unease to a beginner, these energetic locks reap great benefits with practice. They effectively shape patterns of energy in the mind and body to maximize output and lead a blissful life.