In the last blog post, I talked about the concept of Kumbhaka – कुम्भक – (breath retention). A natural extension of Kumbhaka is the concept of the Bandhas – बन्ध – (energy locks). The bandhas are a very important part of the pranayama techniques as they help balance out the prana (the vital life force) in the system. As per the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, bandhas help us cleanse the chakras and allow the Kundalini Shakti (the dormant creative power) to awaken. The kundalini can then start its journey toward its final destination- the Sahasrara Chakra (thousand petal lotus) – abode of the supreme consciousness represented by Lord Shiva, at the crown of the head.
There are three bandhas which are practiced as a part of the pranayama routine:
- Mula Bandha – मूलबन्ध – (root lock)
- Uddiyana Bandha – उड्डियान बन्ध – (navel lock)
- Jalandhara Bandha – जालन्धर बन्ध – (chin lock)
These bandhas are normally applied while holding the breath, either at the end of inhalation or at the end of exhalation. The root lock and the chin lock can be applied both at the end of inhalation as well as after exhalation. However, the navel lock can be effectively applied only after a complete exhalation. These locks are maintained as long as the breath is being retained. The locks should be released before resuming the breathing cycle. When all the three locks are applied together at the end of exhalation, it is called "Maha Bandha" or the Great Lock.
Mula Bandha (Root Lock)
To apply the root lock, squeeze the perineum area inward from all sides and then lift the anus muscles upward. The awareness during the root lock is focused at the Muladhara Chakra (the root chakra), located at the spot which as about the width of two fingers above the anus.
Jalandhara Bandha (Chin Lock)
The chin lock is applied by lowering the chin to the chest while lifting the sternum upward. While holding the lock, a gentle pressure should be maintained with the chin against the chest.
Uddiyana Bandha (Navel Lock)
As mentioned above, the navel lock is effectively applied only after a complete exhalation. At the end of exhalation, try to suck the belly all the way back toward the spine. While holding the navel lock, the chin lock is simultaneously applied.
The application of the three bandhas can be practiced by practicing a simple breathing technique called the Ujjayi Pranayama. In an earlier blog post, I talked about the Ujjayi breathing technique, the ocean-wave sounding breath which is done by constricting the passage of air at the epiglottis area. Ujjayi Pranayama is done while using the ujjayi breathing technique.
- Sit in a comfortable cross-legged sitting posture, keeping the spine upright, arms and shoulders relaxed.
- Keep the eyes closed so you can stay focused on the breathing pattern.
- Take a long, deep inhalation using the Ujjayi breath.
- At the end of inhalation, close both the nostrils – right nostril with the right thumb and the left nostril with the ring finger.
- Apply the root lock and the chin lock while you are retaining the breath.
- When you are ready to exhale, release the locks, keep the right nostril closed with the right thumb, and exhale slow and deep through the left nostril.
- At the end of exhalation, retain the breath out and apply all the three bandhas.
- When you are ready to inhale, release the bandhas and repeat the breathing cycle.
- Make sure that the breathing is smooth, deep and soft throughout the cycle and at no time feels strained in any way.
- Continue for about 5 to 6 breathing cycles.
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Click on the play button to listen to the audio recording of some of the Sanskrit sounds in this post
- Kumbhaka –
- Mula Bandha –
- Uddiyana Bandha –
- Jalandhara Bandha –