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A Beginner’s Guide to Bandhas

Yoga | Yoga for Beginners

You may have heard of the different bandhas during your yoga class. The teacher is asking you to hold a certain bandha and harness the energy within. But what does it all mean?

Bandhas are energetic locks that bind, hold and move the energy within the body to stimulate nerve conduction. The bandhas intensify the reduction of waste in the body, they build energy and help with maintaining concentration and mental clarity. They can make us more grounded, stable and balanced.

There are three main bandhas in the body, and the fourth bandha is the usage of all of these three bandhas together.

Mula Bandha

Mula means root, so Mula Bandha means a root lock. This bandha contracts the muscles in the pelvic floor, toning the organs in this area. For men, focus on contracting the area between the anus and the genitals. For women, concentrate on the pelvic floor muscles and think long lines to the bathroom.

To practice this bandha, sit comfortably and focus on squeezing the entire pelvic floor area, and slowly start to pull upwards. Hold for few breaths, and then release slowly from the top down. Repeat 10 times to start with.

This bandha is connected with the Muladhara chakra, and it seals the energy from the earth at the base of the body. It makes the energy within to flow upwards, which will provide us with extra strength and stamina. It helps us concentrate, it stimulates the pelvic nerves and can alleviate sexual disorders and constipation.

Note: If you are pregnant or menstruating, it's best to avoid this practice.

Uddiyana Bandha

The Uddiyana Bandha, or the stomach lock, is situated between your pelvic floor and the diaphragm. It moves the subtle energy upwards within the body, while creating a massage for the internal organs.

To perform the Uddiana Bandha, stand with your feet hip-width apart, inhale deeply, and with an exhale fold forward and place your hands on your thighs. Pull your abdomen towards your spine, as if sucking everything from the stomach in. Keep as long as it feels comfortable, and come out with a deep, long inhale.

The Uddiyana Bandha tones and massages the abdominal organs, and influences the upwards energy flow within the body. This bandha is connected with the element of air, and the heart chakra. When we compress and release the abdominal, we are improving the circulation of blood in this area, which can help with indigestion, constipation and it works the abdominal muscles as well.

This Bandha is best to be done on an empty stomach and with fully exhaled lungs. Avoid if you have ulcers, hernia or if you are menstruating or pregnant.

Jalandhara Bandha

The Jalandhara Bandha, or the chin lock is located on the chin and neck area, close to the throat chakra. This bandha controls the energy in the neck and connects the head with the heart.

To practice this, sit cross-legged, with your hands on your legs. Inhale deeply, straighten your back, close your eyes and while keeping the back straight, place your chin close to your chest so that your throat and windpipe will become closed. You can lift up your chest slightly to make the lock tighter. Hold the breath for as long as you can, after which you can raise the head and exhale long and steady while returning to the starting position. You can repeat 3-4 rounds.

This bandha stimulates the thyroid which balances metabolism, and it can cure diseases in the throat. Avoid if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or you are pregnant.

Maha Bandha

Also called the Great lock, this is the combination of all the three bandhas. This should only be practiced once all the other bandhas have been mastered. This bandha is practiced in the order of Jalandhara Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and finally the Mula Bandha.

The breath is held as long as it feels comfortable, and the bandhas are released in the same order they were practiced. The great bandha is beneficial for the nervous system, internal organs and it has a positive effect on the mind.

Next time you hear the word bandha, you will know to focus on your internal energy, and you can focus on harnessing this energy within the body. Start practicing slowly and explore the effects the bandhas have for you.

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