January 24, 2018
An Introduction to Bandhas: The Inner Body Locks in our Yoga Practice
By Stephanie Scavelli
To maintain the flow of kundalini energy upward from our root to our crown we move through our yoga practice with attention to the inner bandhas. The Bandhas are points of holding within our musculature, specifically at our perineum, abdomen and throat. In yoga we call these mula bandha, uddiyana bandha and jalandhara bandha, respectively.
In Sanskrit bandha means to lock, to hold, or to tighten.
Jalandhara bandha, or ‘throat lock’, helps contain the sweet nectar of our minds from falling into the fires of the abdomen where we engage ‘core lock’ or uddiyana bandha. Mula Bandha, or ‘root lock’, engages a muscular net at the base of our groin which upholds the internal organs. Holding the bandhas draws energy into the body to oppose the tendency of gravity which is drawing our limbs and organs downward.
Mula bandha is located at the perineum which is the area between the anus and the genitals. Root lock is to be held throughout the extent of the yoga practice and as often through out our day as well. Root lock supports the muscles at the base of the hip bones where there is an opening in the bones. Subtle engagement of root lock strengthens and tones the muscles that hold up our internal organs.
Uddiyana bandha is located in the core of the abdomen. To engage uddiyana we exhale all the air out and using a sucking action without inhaling we suck our bellies in and up into the lower rib cage. I find that a yoga practice that includes a pranayama exercise that engages uddiyana bandha leads to better digestion and better breathing.
Jalandhara bandha is located at the throat. In the simplest instruction, in root lock we tuck our chins to our chest. Holding this lock clears the energy around my throat and I can feel it stimulate my lymphatic system throughout the chin and ears. In this hold, tucking the chin helps me assess my immune status by bringing awareness to my lymphatic organs at the throat.
Pranayama Practice for the Bandhas
In this practice we bring focused awareness to the throat, abdomen and perineum to learn how to engage the inner locks or bandhas. Through this practice we start to build an awareness of and reminder to engage the bandhas.
Sit in a crossed legged position
Place a block of folded blanket beneath your bottom to elevate the hips above the knees.
Rest the palm of the hands on the tops of the thighs.
Bring awareness to your posture. Lift through the chest. Pull the elbows back. Lengthen through the spine.
Inhale to a count of four. Exhale to a count of four.
Inhale to a count of four. Exhale to a count of five.
Now to start to engage your ujjayi breath as you continue to inhale for four and exhale to six.
Tuck the chin. Open the back throat. Engage throat lock. Chin to chest for the remainder of the exercise.
Continue to inhale four and exhale until you get to a count of 8.
Engage mula bandha with a subtle tighten of the muscles at the sitz bones. Hold this as we continue.
Once we reach a count of 8 on the exhale, exhale all the air out.
Draw the belly button in towards the spine to fully deflate the lungs.
Then, pull the belly in and up into the lower rib cage without drawing in any breathe. Hold.
Until we feel the gentle reminder to breathe.
We relax the tummy out before we again inhale. One. Two. Three. Four.
Exhale all the air out to a count of 8.
Again, suck the belly in and up then relax belly before taking the next breathe.
Continue this one more time.
Maintain the throat lock and root lock throughout the exercise.
About the Author
Certified Yoga Instructor Stephanie Scavelli practices a plant-based diet and traditional herbal medicine. She laughs endlessly at the adventurous whit of the animation series Rick & Morty. She wears minimalist, barefoot-inspired shoes and her favorite dessert is her sister's Oatmeal Crusted Vegan Pumpkin Pie. Stephanie lives in Westchester County, NY with her daughter Juniper. For yoga classes and workshops near you visit www.yogaforager.com.