The bandhas are energetic locks in the body. They are utilized to gain control of the flow of energy, prana, or life force, in your body. Understanding and engaging the bandhas creates an added depth to your yoga practice.
The bandhas can be extremely beneficial for the brain, the Nadis (energy channels), and the chakras. They purify, remove blockages and harmonize and balance the self.
BKS Iyengar uses a metaphor related to electricity to explain the flow of energy in the body of how the bandhas can help. Similar to how electricity needs to be channeled through conductors, fuses, and switches, to end up in the right places, prana (life force energy) in the body needs to be contained and dispersed to the right places in the body to maximize the flow of energy and not drain the body and nervous system. The bandhas are like the circuits and switches that help conduct the flow of energy.
The bandhas can also benefit circulation, as bandhas temporarily halt the flow of blood, so when released there is an increased flow of fresh blood, which flushes away the old cells and stagnant energy and activates the organs to strengthen, renew and rejuvenate your body.
There are three bandhas. Mula bandha (the root lock), Uddiyana bandha (the abdominal lock), and Jalandhara bandha (the throat lock). Here is an overview and understanding of Mula bandha, is the first one to explore and the foundation for the other two.
Engaging Mula bandha, the root lock, during your yoga practice conducts the flow of energy upwards, instead of downwards. It creates a flow from your pelvic area upwards. It can create a lifted feeling in your asana practice and have you feeling lighter on your mat and in your limbs.
How to engage Mula bandha: While there is no particular organ or specific point (these are energy centers), you will feel the effects of engaging the bandhas in a real way.
One other important thing to remember when engaging and practicing all of the bandhas is that less is more. You do not need to engage too much or struggle to experience the bandhas.
Mula bandha is an upward engagement between your anus and sex organs. For many, it is the muscles that you engage when you stop yourself from urinating. Imagine a needle going through an embroidery hoop and pulling upwards. That is the energy that Mula bandha creates in your body. It can be easy to leak energy out through your pelvic floor and lose a lot of your power and force in your yoga postures, and the simple act of engaging Mula bandha will reverse this.
Practice either seated or standing and on an inhale, feel this upward pull of energy from your pelvic floor, like a thread going upwards through your midline. Don't worry about doing this perfectly, just feel an upward sensation from your pelvis. Hold for three breaths.
Now, disengage this pelvic lock, and sometimes upon letting mula bandha go, you can really feel the release of energy downwards and get an understanding of how effective Mula bandha is. Add this over time to all of your yoga asanas for more support and maximizing the benefits of your practice.
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