The 3 Main Bandhas in Yoga and How They Can Improve Your Practice


The 3 Main Bandhas in Yoga and How They Can Improve Your Practice

I was a pretty new yoga student when I first heard about bandhas in yoga. My teacher said they could help me improve my practice, but I didn’t really know what that meant. I had no idea how to engage them or even what they were!

There are three main bandhas in yoga- Mula bandha, Uddiyana bandha, and Jalandhara Bandha. All three bandhas can be engaged and activated and each bandha has the potential to improve your yoga practice.

After some experimenting, I found that engaging my mula bandha helped me stay focused and present in my practice. It gave me a sense of grounding and stability. Uddiyana bandha helped me to focus on my breath and find length in my spine. And Jalandhara Bandha helped me to connect with my core and stay steady in poses.

Bandhas can definitely help you improve your yoga practice! Try experimenting with each one to see how it can influence your practice.

The first two bandhas, mula badha and uddiyana badha, are commonly referenced in ashtanga yoga classes. Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear ‘engage your bandhas’ at some point in the class.

In this blog post, I will discuss what each bandha is, how to activate it, and some of the benefits you may experience from using it! I hope this information helps you on your journey to deepening and improving your yoga practice.

What Are Bandhas In Yoga And What Do They Do In The Body?

Bandhas are energetic locks that are located in different parts of the body. There are three main bandhas in yoga- mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, and Jalandhara Bandha.

Mula Bandha

Mula bandha, also known as root lock, is located at the base of the spine and is often engaged by drawing the pelvic floor up. This bandha can help to improve your focus and concentration in your practice. It can also help you to find more stability and grounding.

How To Activate Mula Bandha

To activate mula bandha, start by finding a comfortable seat. You can sit on a block or blanket if you need some extra support. Once you’re seated, take a deep breath in and as you exhale, draw the pelvic floor up. You can imagine lifting the muscles up and in, as if you were stopping yourself from going to the bathroom. Hold for a few breaths and then release. You can do this a few times until you feel comfortable with the bandha.

Mula bandha - located at the base of the spine, engaged by drawing the pelvic floor up.

Uddiyana Bandha

Uddiyana bandha, also known as upward abdominal lock, is located at the solar plexus and is often engaged by drawing the belly in towards the spine. This bandha can help you to focus on your breath and find more length in your spine.

How To Activate Uddiyana Bandha

To activate uddiyana bandha, start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, draw the belly in towards the spine. You can imagine that you are trying to touch your belly button to your spine. Hold for a few breaths and then release. You can do this a few times until you feel comfortable with the bandha.

Uddiyana bandha - located at the solar plexus and is engaged by drawing the belly in towards the spine.

Jalandhara Bandha

Jalandhara bandha, also known as chin lock, is located at the base of the throat and is often engaged by drawing the chin down towards the chest. This bandha can help you to connect with your core and stay steady in poses.

How To Activate Jalandhara Bandha

To activate Jalandhara bandha, sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. You can do this bandha while sitting on the ground or in a chair. Take a deep breath in and then exhale all the air out of your lungs completely. As you exhale, tuck your chin towards your chest So that your throat is compressed. You should feel a slight pressure in your head as you do this bandha. Hold this bandha for as long as is comfortable and then release by inhaling and bringing your chin back to neutral.

Jalandhara bandha - located at the base of the throat and is engaged by drawing the chin down towards the chest.

The 3 main bandhas and how they can improve your practice

Mula bandha is located at the base of the spine and is engaged by drawing the perineum up towards the navel. Uddiyana bandha is located at the solar plexus and is engaged by drawing the belly in and up. Jalandhara bandha is located at the base of the throat and is engaged by tucking the chin down towards the chest. It is also referred to as the throat lock.

Each bandha has different benefits which can improve your yoga practice.

Mula bandha can help to increase stability and focus in your practice. It can also help to ground you and make you feel more present. Uddiyana bandha can help to lengthen your spine and increase the space between each vertebra. It can also help you to breathe more deeply and efficiently. Jalandhara bandha can help to protect the spine and neck by stabilizing the head and neck on top of the spine. It can also help you to connect with your core muscles.

How to use bandhas to improve your alignment and breath control

When bandhas are properly engaged, they can help to improve your alignment and breath control. To engage a bandha, simply contract the relevant muscles. For example, to engage mula bandha, you would contract the muscles around the base of your pelvis. Once engaged, hold the contraction for a few breaths before releasing.

Repeat this process with the other bandhas. You may find that some bandhas are easier to engage with than others. That’s perfectly normal – just keep practicing and you’ll eventually get the hang of it!

Tips for beginners on how to activate the bandhas correctly

If you’re new to bandhas, here are a few tips to help you get started:

– Start by contracting the muscles around the base of your pelvis. This is mula bandha.

– Once mula bandha is engaged, try contracting your abdominal muscles and drawing them up towards your ribs. This is uddiyana bandha.

– Finally, contract the muscles in your throat and draw your chin towards your chest. This is Jalandhara bandha.

Remember to breathe deeply as you engage each bandha. And don’t worry if you can’t hold the contraction for very long at first – just keep practicing and you’ll eventually build up your strength.

With regular practice, bandhas can help improve your yoga practice in many ways.

By now, you should have a good understanding of the bandhas and how they can help improve your yoga practice.

Which are the pelvic floor muscles?

The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that support the pelvis and help to control the bladder and bowel movements. They are located at the base of the pelvis, between the pubic bone and tailbone.

According to a US study: “Pelvic floor muscles have two major functions; they provide 1; support or act as a “ floor” for the abdominal viscera including the rectum and 2; constrictor or continence mechanism to the urethral, anal and vaginal orifices (in females)”.

The three main pelvic floor muscles that constitute the levator ani muscle are:

  1. Coccygeus (also referred to as ischiococcygeuys),
  2. Ileococcygeus and
  3. Pubococcygeus

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1115_Muscles_of_the_Pelvic_Floor.jpg

How to engage the pelvic floor

To engage the pelvic floor, start by contracting the muscles around the base of your pelvis. This is mula bandha.

An article by Healthline mentioned that “Physically, mula bandha resembles a Kegel exercise.” They go on to explain that our “pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, bowels, and womb. Weakening of these muscles due to age or childbirth can lead to urinary incontinence.”

Kundalini awakening and the bandhas

Kundalini awakening is often described as a process of spiritual enlightenment. In yoga, kundalini refers to the energy located at the base of the spine. This energy is said to be dormant in most people, but can be awakened through certain practices such as meditation and pranayama. Once awakened, this kundalini energy is said to move up the spine and through the chakras, eventually reaching the crown chakra. This process is often associated with a range of positive effects, including increased awareness, expanded consciousness, and heightened spiritual insights.

While the awakening of kundalini can be a deeply transformative experience, it is not without its challenges. The process can often be accompanied by a range of intense physical, emotional, and mental symptoms, which can be both confusing and difficult to navigate. For this reason, it is important to seek out the guidance of a qualified teacher or practitioner if you are interested in pursuing it.

In order to awaken kundalini, one must first learn to activate and control the bandhas.

What is Maha bandha

Maha bandha is a yoga practice that involves the simultaneous engagement of all three bandhas: mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, and Jalandhara Bandha. This powerful combination is said to have a range of benefits, including increased energy and vitality, improved concentration and focus, and deeper insights into the nature of reality. Maha bandha is an advanced practice that should only be attempted under the guidance of a qualified teacher.

When all three bandhas are engaged, it is said to create a strong seal that helps to contain and circulate prana, or life force energy, throughout the body. This increased circulation of energy is thought to promote a range of health benefits, including improved digestion, detoxification, and immunity. Maha bandha is also said to help quiet the mind and bring about a sense of inner peace and calm.

If you are new to bandhas or Maha bandha, it is important to start with the basic practice of mula bandha before progressing to the more advanced Maha bandha. Once you have mastered mula bandha, you can begin to experiment with adding in uddiyana bandha and Jalandhara Bandha. Remember to always practice under the guidance of a qualified teacher.

The 3 Main Bandhas in Yoga and How They Can Improve Your Practice

Energy flow and asana practice

Asana practice, or the physical practice of yoga, is often said to be just one aspect of the larger system of yoga. While asanas are certainly important, they are not the only element of yoga that can help promote a sense of well-being. The bandhas, or energy locks, are another key component of the yoga system.

The bandhas are said to help direct the flow of energy in the body. There are three main bandhas: mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, and Jalandhara Bandha. All three can be engaged and activated through specific yoga practices. When all three bandhas are engaged, it is said to create a strong seal that helps to contain and circulate prana, or life force energy, throughout the body. This increased circulation of energy is thought to promote a range of health benefits, including improved digestion, detoxification, and immunity.

In addition to the bandhas, the practice of asanas can also help to improve the flow of energy.

What are the minor bandhas?

In addition to the three main bandhas, there are also a number of minor bandhas. These include Hasta bandha, which is located in the palms of the hands; Pada bandha, which is located in the feet (foot lock); and Bhujangi bandha, which is located in the navel. While these bandhas are not as widely known or practiced as the three main bandhas, they can still be helpful in promoting a sense of well-being.

Hasta bandha helps to increase the flow of energy in the arms and hands. This can be especially beneficial for those who suffer from conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis. Pada bandha helps to increase the flow of energy in the feet. This can be helpful for those who suffer from conditions such as plantar fasciitis or bunions. Bhujangi bandha helps to increase the flow of energy in the navel. This can be helpful for those who suffer from conditions such as indigestion or bloating.

While these bandhas are not as widely known or practiced as the three main bandhas, they can still be helpful in promoting a sense of well-being. If you are interested in exploring these bandhas, it is important to seek out the guidance of a qualified teacher or practitioner.

Should I practice yoga on an empty stomach?

Given that uddiyana bandha in particular asks us to engage the belly, it is wise to have an empty stomach when practicing yoga and especially when practicing uffiyana banha in particular.

One of the benefits of practicing yoga is that it can help to improve digestion. If you practice yoga on an empty stomach, it can be even more beneficial. When you practice yoga on an empty stomach, your body is able to fully focus on the practice and reap all of the benefits.

Some people find that they feel lightheaded or nauseous if they practice yoga on a full stomach. If this is the case, it is best to wait at least two hours after eating before practicing yoga. You may also want to avoid eating a heavy meal before practicing yoga. Instead, opt for something light such as fruits or vegetables.

Conclusion

The three bandhas are important tools to help you deepen your yoga practice. If you’re having trouble with a pose, focus on activating the appropriate bandha and see if that doesn’t help you find the correct alignment and get deeper into the pose. And finally, don’t forget to breathe! Conscious breath work is essential in any yoga practice, and it becomes even more important when you start working with the bandhas. Take some time to experiment with all three of these techniques and see how they can improve your practice.

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Alexia Koletsou

Alexia Koletsou is a Level 1 Authorized Ashtanga Yoga Teacher with a Ph.D. in Science Communication. She received her blessing to teach Ashtanga Yoga in 2019, from the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India, where she has had the honor of practicing with R. Sharath Jois multiple times over the years. She is the owner of her own Shala in Greece and now shares her knowledge on yogamyoldfriend.com and her YouTube channel Alexia K Yoga.

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