The Bandhas

The five bandhas are energy locks that control the flow of prana through the nadis:

Pada bandha

Hasta bandha

Mula Bandha

Uddiyana bandha

Jalandhara bandha

+ Maha Bandha (great lock)

By understanding the bandhas, yogis find freedom in their poses because they are less concerned with how the pose looks: activation of the bandhas is an internal feeling rather than external appearance.

Engaging the bandhas is yet another technique for taking note of what happens in the present moment, but being neither for nor against the experience. The bandhas represent awareness of the physical body and promote ease of movement in the poses, but they facilitate a way to be non-reactive to the physical experience. Whether the body feels debilitated by injury or buoyant with fitness, the bandhas offer a foundation for strength in any state.

The bandhas are a reminder that physically “performing” the poses is not necessary. The poses are not to be achieved; rather they move the body through its full range of motion, whatever that range is today. By observing the bandhas, students will find grace and ease in each pose.

Pada Bandha

is at the base of the body, in the feet. Engage this bandha to draw energy up through the feet and strengthen the legs.

Exercise:

Stand in tadasana (mountain pose) and press down equally into both feet. Visualize energy from your strong and stable feet rising up and giving strength to your legs.

Sit in paschimottanasana (intense west stretch) and press equally through both feet into an imaginary wall. Use the subtle transfer of energy to engage strong legs.

Hasta Bandha

is in your hands. In the same way that standing and engaging your feet brings energy into your legs, standing on and pressing into your hands brings energy into your arms.

Exercise:

Set up in ado mukha svanasana (downdog) and press firmly into your hands. Distribute your weight equally between both hands. Now lift the centre of each palm slightly off the mat.

Next set up in bakasana (crow). Same thing. Distribute your weight between both hands. Transfer the energy and strength from your hands and imagine it dispersing equally through your arms and up to your shoulders.

Mula Bandha

is your root lock. This energetic lock is at the pelvic floor or perineum. Engaging mula bandha draws energy up into your body and then prevents it from escaping.

Exercise:

Sit in sukhasana (easy pose). Lift energetically into mula bandha by lightly squeezing the muscles at your pelvic floor or perineum. Visualize that energy drawing up and into your torso. Feel buoyant and light in your seat.

Uddiyana Bandha

is your abdominal lock. This central lock draws energy up through your core.

Exercise:

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands on your waist. Inhale deeply and then forcibly exhale. Firmly contract your abdominal muscles. Next, do a “mock inhalation”: expand your rib cage as if you are inhaling but don’t actually inhale. Imagine your navel is lifting towards your spine. Hold for 15 seconds. Perform three rounds.

Jalandhara Bandha

is your throat lock. This bandha restricts energy from escaping upwardly.

Exercise:

Sit cross-legged. Tuck your chin into your chest, creating a double chin. Lift your sternum towards your chin. Hold for 15 seconds. On the second round, engage uddiyana bandha at the same time.

Maha Bandha

is the great lock. The combination of uddiyana bandha applied with jalandhara bandha maintain energetic prana in your centre. Applying the great lock gives your poses a feeling of infinite energy, ease and lightness.

Engage the bandhas every time your practice hatha yoga. Creating and holding your energy in the bandhas takes practice and patience. Just like you continually practice your asana and slowly cultivate ease and grace in each pose; practice locking the bandhas so that over time, you feel stronger prana.