The Library


                        The Bandhas
Also known as the `locks` are utilised in the control of prana in the body.  The bandhas work in the physical/energetic(prana) fields of the individual.  Often the bandhas are used in conjunction with pranayama methods, either singly or in combination.

Although just three bandhas are commonly used in modern yoga in the west several more can be considered.  Of all the bandhas those associated with the chakras have most relevance to modern yogis.

MULA BANDHA is the practice of drawing in the muscles of the pelvic floor, the perineum et al.  The exercise known as Kegels (after Dr Kegel) uses the muscles to maintain and improve the tone of the pelvic floor muscles.  There a series of one second contractions is followed by holding the contraction for ten seconds, before repeating the cycle for several times.  In Astanga Vinyasa Yoga (Power Yoga) gentle contraction of the pelvic floor muscles is maintained throughout the series as a part of Ujayii breathing.

The psycho/physical purpose of Mula Bandha is to prevent the downward loss of prana from the body, while at the same time holding the upward flow of energy in the legs in that region of the body.  The need for energy (not just physical) in this area is apparent when one considers the functions centred here, and also the fact that the buttock, hip and thigh muscles together are the largest and most powerful muscles of the body.

UDDIYANA BANDHA is the upward drawing of the abdomen.  This exercise uses and tones the diaphragm muscle - vital in full and powerful breathing.  By manipulating the abdominal organs it provides a stimulating massage aiding peristalsis.  Normally this exercise is only used when the stomach is empty (early morning is ideal), and after full exhalation.  In a few exercises, including Maha Mudra, it is employed when the lungs are full locking pranic energy in the chest.

ARDHA UDDIYANA or NABHI UDDIYANA is the drawing in of the  lower abdomen only.  In some Eastern disciplines this is the location of the Hara centre.  In general these transverse muscles of the abdomen should be held in gentle tension at all times preventing the downward slumping of the lower abdomen (TV Belly - a symptom of those who slump in their sofas for too long watching TV).  This hold is also a feature of Ujayii breathing.

JALANDHARA BANDHA, the chin lock, involves lifting the upper chest and collar bones whilst drawing the chin back and down to put pressure on the glottis (voice box).  Practice of this bandha opens the upper lungs, lengthens the abdomen and helps to correct sagging upper back and shoulders.  Prana is said to be prevented from rising from the torso and being lost from the body.  Note that yoga postures such as the shoulderstand and bridge bring the head neck and chest into the same but an inverted position.  Again in Ujayii breathing partial closure of the throat resulting in a deeper sounding breath and easier control of the breath is used.

TRAYA BANDHA is the use of the three bandhas together - Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandhara in such exercises as Maha Mudra pranyama.

THE BANKERS POSE, gripping the upper chest with the fingers, thumbs tucked under the armpits, elbows raised, is a bandha affecting the Anahata chakra.  Physically it lifts, opens and expands the  front of the chest.

AJNA BANDHA focuses on the Third Eye in the centre of the forehead.  The tongue touches the top back of the teeth.  The eyes closed are turned up to look into the Third Eye and the eyebrows slightly lifted.  This bandha is said to concentrate pranic psycho/spiritual energy in the head and direct it towards Sahasrara chakra.