Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The beginners' guide to the bandhas

The bandhas are the energy locks that can direct the flow of prana.  

Engaging the muscles of the perineum, at the base of the torso, by contracting them will activate mula bandha, the root lock. These muscles form a hammock between the two sit bones, the tailbone and the pubic bone. In this area also is located the root chakra, an energy vortex, so by activating the root lock, we can also balance the root chakra, which is grounding and stabilising.  In terms of your yoga practice mula bandha can be engaged to give pelvic stability so for instance it can be practiced in standing poses. The subtle contraction of mula bandha can help protect the lower back - this is especially important when transitioning between yoga standing poses.  Mula bandha is also useful to help maintain pelvic stability in seated meditation.  The upward direction of energy is said to help gain enlightenment.

See how it feels:-

It takes practice to be able to isolate the muscles required to engage mula bandha and practice mula bandha without gripping. For men mula bandha is the area between the the anus and the genitals, for women it is the area behind the cervix. Try practicing mula bandha in Tadasana, Mountain pose. Close or lower your eyes and try to tune into any sensation in your pelvic floor as you breathe.  You may notice that as you breathe in, your pelvic floor relaxes, as you breathe out, the pelvic floor lifts.  If you are finding it difficult to tune into any sensations in the pelvic floor muscles, try gently contracting them several times.  Now breathe in deeply and relax the pelvic floor. Breathe out and gently lift the pelvic floor. Hold that lift as you breathe in, then breathe out and gently lift the pelvic floor a little more like going to the next floor in an elevator.  Breathe in and fully relax the pelvic floor. With practice you may be able to reach the 'next floor in the elevator'.  

The naval lock or Uddiyana banda (meaning to 'fly up') is engaged by drawing the navel in and up. You should practice the lock at least two hours after eating to avoid indigestion.  It is engaged on the out breath and creates core stability in the core in poses such as Balancing Cat, Warrior 3, Tree pose etc

See how it feels:-

Sit in a cross-legged position and place your hands on your knees (sit on a block if your knees are higher than your hips). Breathe in, soften your abdomen, breathe out, round your spine and draw your navel in and up.  Breathe in to come back to your start position.

There are two more locks for when you become more advanced in your practice, Jalandhara Bandha, the throat lock and Maha Bandha, which is the engagement of all three bandhas.

You might also like:-
Making sense of the bandhas which has a short video on the bandhas

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