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Bandha

In this article, I have explained what is bandha or lock? Traditionally, Bandhas were classified as part of mudras. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika deals with bandhas and mudras together and other  ancient tantric texts also do not make any  distinction between the two. Bandhas are also used in the practice of  mudras and  as well as pranayama techniques. Their locking action, however, reveals them as a fundamentally important group of practices in their own right.

The Sanskrit word bandha means to ‘hold’, ‘tighten’ or’lock’. These definitions precisely describe the physical action involved in the bandha practices and their effect on the pranic body. The bandhas aim to lock the pranas in particular areas and redirect their flow into sushumna nadi for the purpose of spiritual awakening.

Bandhas may be practiced individually or incorporated with mudra and pranayama practices. When combined in this way, they awaken the psychic faculties and form an adjunct to higher yogic practices.

what is bandha or lock
What is bandha or lock?

Bandhas and the granthis

There are four bandhas:

1.Jalandhara Bandha ( Throat Lock)

2. Uddiyana Bandha (Abdomin Lock)

3. Moola Bandha ( Perineum Lock)

4. Maha bandha ( Combination of the first three bandhas)

The first three bandhas directly act on the three granthis or psychic knots. There are three granthis (Psychic knots) in our body, they are: Brahmagranthi, moola bandha is associated with the brahmagranthi. Vishnu granthi: Uddiyana bandha is associated

with Vishnugranthi and Rudra granthi:  Jalandhara bandha is associated  with rudra granthi The granthis prevent the free flow of prana along sushumna nadi and thus helps to the awakening of the chakras and the rising of kundalini .Brahma granthi is the first knot and it is associated with mooladhara and swadhisthana chakras. It is linked with the survival instinct, the urge to procreate and with deep, instinctive knowledge, awareness and desire. When brahma granthi is transcended, the kundalini or primal energy is able to rise beyond mooladhara and swadhisthana without being pulled back down by the attractions and instinctual patterns of the personality.

The second knot is vishnu granthi, associated with manipura and anahata chakras. These two chakras are associated with the sustenance of the physical, emotional and mental aspects of human existence. Manipura sustains annamaya kosha, thephysical body, governing the digestion and metabolism of food. Anahata sustains manomaya kosha, the mental body, and pranamaya kosha, the energy body. Once vishnu granthi is

transcended, energy is drawn from the universe and not from   the localized centres within the human being.

The final knot is rudra granthi which is associated with vishuddhi and ajna chakras. Vishuddhi and ajna sustain vijnanamaya kosha, the intuitive or higher mental body, and

represent the transformation of an existing form, idea or concept into its universal aspect. When rudra granthi is pierced, individuality is dropped, the old ego awareness is left behind and the experience of unmanifest consciousness emerges beyond ajna chakra at sahasrara.

1.Jalandhara Bandha (throat lock)

To Perform Jalandhara Bandha at first sit in the padmasana  or Siddha/ siddha yoni asana, make sure your head and spine is straight and the knees should be in firm contact with the floor. For those who cannot do this in this position may perform jalandhara Bandha in a standing position too. Place both hands on the knees then close your eyes and relax the whole body.  Inhale slowly and deeply, and retain the breath inside, while retaining the breath, bend the head forward and press the chin tightly against the chest.Straighten the arms and lock them firmly into position, pressing the knees down with the hands. Simultaneously, hunch the shoulders upward and forward. This will ensure that the arms stay locked, thus intensifying the pressure applied to the neck.Stay in the final position for as long as the breath can be held comfortably.Do not strain.Relax the shoulders, bend the arms, slowly release the lock, raise the head and then exhale. Repeat this  3 times when breathing comes in normal position.

Variation: There is a simple and subtle form of jalandhara bandha is practiced in kriya yoga where the head is simply bend forward so that neck is pressed with chin. This variation of jalandhara bandha is commonly practiced in association with Pranayama practices.

Conditions of breathing during the practice of jalandhara bandha: This practice is performed during internal breath retention. It may also be performed with external breath retention.

Awareness:  Physical: On the throat pit and sensations connected with breath retention.

Spiritual : On the Vishuddhi Chakra.

When to Practice this bandha: This bandha is ideally performed in conjunction with mudras, bandhas and pranayamas. If practiced on its own, it should be performed after asanas and Pranayama practice and before the meditation.

Contra indications:

People suffering from cervical spondylosis, high intracranial pressure, vertigo, high blood pressure or heart disease should not practice jalandhara bandha.

Benefits:

The full form of jalandhara bandha compresses the carotid sinuses, which are located on the carotid arteries, is the main arteries in the neck. The simple variation of the jalandhara bandha exerts subtler pressure on the carotid sinuses. These sinuses help to regulate the circulatory and respiratory systems. Normally, a decrease in oxygen and increase in carbon dioxide in the body leads to an increased heart rate and heavier breathing. This process is initiated by the carotid sinuses. By artificially exerting pressure on these sinuses,this tendency is prevented, allowing for decreased heart rate and increased breath retention.This practice produces mental relaxation, relieving stress, anxiety and anger. It develops meditative introversion and one-pointedness. The stimulus on the throat helps to balance thyroid function and regulate the metabolism.Technique I:

Moola Bandha: Technique I:  (perineum contraction)

Stage I:  A suitable posture to practice moola bandha is a siddha/ siddha yoni asana so that pressure can be applied to the perineal/ vaginal region.

Close the eyes and relax the whole body.Become aware of the natural/ spontaneous breathing for some time. Bring whole of the awareness on the perineal/ vaginal region. Slowly  Contract this region by pulling up on the muscles of the pelvic floor and then relaxing them.

Continue to briefly contract and relax the perineal/vaginal region as rhythmically and evenly as possible.

Stage 2: Slowly contract this region and hold the contraction.

Continue to breathe normally; do not hold the breath.

Be totally aware of the physical sensation.

Contract a little tighter, but keep the rest of the body relaxed.

Contract only those muscles related to the mooladhara region.

In the beginning the anal and urinary sphincters also contract, but as greater awareness and control is developed, this will be minimised and eventually will cease. Ultimately, the practitioner will feel one point of movement against the heel.

Relax the muscles slowly and evenly.

Adjust the tension in the spine to help focus on the point of contraction.

Repeat 10 times with maximum contraction and total relaxation.

Technique 2: Moola Bandha with internal breath retention: At first, Sit in a Siddha/ siddha yoni asana and place the palms on the knees.

Close the eyes and relax the whole body for a few minutes. Inhale deeply, retain the breath inside and perform jalandhara bandha.

Maintaining jalandhara, perform moola bandha by slowly contracting the perineal/vaginal region and holding the contraction as tightly as possible. Do not strain. This is the final lock.

Hold it for as long as the breath can comfortably be retained.

Slowly release moola bandha, raise the head to the upright

position, and exhale.

Practise up to 10 times.

Breathing: The above practice may also be performed with

external breath retention.

Awareness: Physical -­‐ while taking the final position and performing jalandhara bandha, awareness should be directed to the breath. In the final position the awareness should be fixed at the place of perineal contraction.

Spiritual: on the breath and then on mooladhara chakra during contraction.

Contra-­‐indications: This practice should only be performedunder the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher. Moola bandha raises the energies very fast, and can precipitate symptoms of hyperactivity if wrongly prescribed or if preliminary preparation is not enough.

Benefits: Moola bandha bestows many physical, mental and spiritual benefits. It stimulates the pelvic nerves and tones the uro-­‐genital and excretory systems. Intestinal peristalsisis also stimulated, relieving constipation and piles. It is also beneficial for anal fissures, ulcers, prostatitis, some cases of prostatic hypertrophy and chronic pelvic infections. Because this practice releases energy, it is also effective in the treatment of psychosomatic and some degenerative illnesses. Its effects spread throughout the body via the brain and endocrine system making it very beneficial in cases of asthma, bronchitis and arthritis. It also relieves depression. The perfection of this practice leads to a spontaneous realignment of the physical, mental and psychic bodies in preparation for spiritual awakening. Moola bandha is both a means to attain sexual control (brahmacharya) and to alleviate a multitude of sexual disorders. It enables sexual energy to be directed either upward for spiritual development, or downward to enhance marital relations. It helps to relieve sexual frustration,suppression of sexual energy and feelings of sexual guilt.

Practice note: Moola bandha is the contraction of certain muscles in the pelvic floor. It does not contract the whole perineum. In the male body the area of contraction lies between the anus and the testes. In the female body, the point of contraction is behind the cervix, where the uterus projects into the vagina. On the subtle level it is the energising of mooladhara chakra. The perineal body, which is the convergence point of many muscles in the groin, acts as a trigger point for the location of mooladhara chakra. Initially, these areas are hard to isolate and it is recommended that ashwini and vajroli mudras be perfected first in preparation for moola bandha.

Note: The Sanskrit wordmoolameans ‘root’, ‘firmly fixed’, ‘source’or ’cause’. In this context it refers to the root of the spine or the perineum where mooladhara chakra, the seat of kundalini, the primal energy, is located. Moola bandha is effective in releasing brahma granthi and for locating and awakening mooladhara chakra. For further details refer to the Bihar School of Yoga publication “Moola Bandha.”

Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal contraction)

Sit in siddha/siddha yoni asana or padmasana make sure the spine is straight and erect and the knees heavely downwards in contact with the floor.  One can also use cushion to sit comfortably with buttocks are raised. Then place the hands on the knees with flat palms. Close the eyes and relax the whole body. Take a deep breath through  the nostrils. Exhale through the mouth gently with a whoosh and make your lungs empty as much as possible. And hold the breath outside. Slowly Lean forward and press down on the knees with the palms of the hands. Straighten the elbows and raise the shoulders, allowing further extension of the spinal cord.

 Gently bring a head down and press the chin  to the upper chest to perform a jalandhara bandha.  Contract the abdominal muscles inward and upward. Hold the abdominal lock and the breath outside for as long as you can without straining.

Then release the abdominal lock, bend the elbows and lower the shoulders.

Raise the head and then slowly inhale.

Remain in this position until the respiration returns to

normal, then begin the next round.

Breathing: Uddiyana bandha is performed with external breathretention only.

Duration: Practise 3 rounds in the beginning and graduallyincrease to 10 rounds over a few months as the system becomes accustomed to the practice.

Awareness: Physical -­‐ on the abdomen and on synchronisingthe breath in coordination with each step.

Spiritual -­‐ on manipura chakra.

Precaution: Uddiyana bandha is an advanced technique andshould be attempted only under guidance, after attaining some proficiency in breath retention, as well as jalandhara and moola bandhas.

Contra-­‐indications: Persons suffering from colitis, stomach orintestinal ulcer, diaphragmatic hernia, high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma and raised intracranial pressure should not perform this practice. It should also be avoided by pregnant women.

Benefits: Uddiyana bandha is the panacea for many abdominal and stomach ailments, including constipation, indigestion, worms and diabetes, provided they are not chronic. The

digestive fire is stimulated and the abdominal organs are

all massaged and toned. The adrenal glands are balanced, removing lethargy and soothing anxiety and tension. It improves blood circulation to the whole trunk area and strengthens all the internal organs.

Uddiyana bandha stimulates the solar plexus which has many subtle influences on the distribution of energy throughout the body. It creates a suction pressure which reverses the flow of the sub-­‐pranas, apana and prana, uniting them with samana and stimulating manipura chakra. Then there is an explosion of subtle force which travels upward through sushumna nadi.

Practice note: Uddiyana bandha must always be practiced onan empty stomach and the bowels should also be empty. Agnisar kriya is an excellent preparatory practice.

Note: The Sanskrit worduddiyanameans ‘to rise up’ or ‘to fly upward’.This practice is so-­‐called because the physical lock applied to the body causes the diaphragm to rise towards the chest. Uddiyana is therefore often translated as the stomach lift. Another meaning is that the physical lock helps to direct prana into sushumna nadi so that it flows upward to sahasrara chakra.

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