Prana (Life-Force or Energy) flows through us continually, keeping us alive. It is this flow of Prana, which regulates the functions of our body and mind. However, when this flow or pattern becomes irregular it routinely leads to various physical and mental ailments and tensions.
Our Prana, or Life-Force is much like water; it has to constantly flow through our body in order to provide a sufficient energy supply to each of our cells. Sometimes, because of our stressful lifestyle or negative thinking, this flow becomes inhibited or disturbed. When this happens, certain parts of our body get too much energy while other parts don’t get enough. The Prana may not be reaching to some places, or there may be a stagnation of the energy at one place or another. This imbalance then can lead to headaches, backaches, constipation, sexual disorders, stomach problems or any of a host of other disorders depending on type or severity of the imbalance.
Most yoga students and practitioners are familiar with Pranayama, but it is not quite so common that they recognize that Bandha is another yogic practice that is also effective when it comes to regulating this life force.
Bandha in Sanskrit is defined as “to bind, to lock or to tighten.” In actual Bandha practice, the breath is intentionally directed to a particular area of the body and then “locked” or concentrated there. The body is tightened, retaining the energy in that part for some time. This binding or locking of Life Force has numerous benefits. The bandhas help you regulate and control all your internal systems; hormonal, sexual, metabolic, digestive, eliminative and more. They also balance the adrenal system, relieving stress, lethargy and tension.
Bandhas assist in massaging of the internal organs and removal of stagnant blood. Besides that, the practice of Bandhas regulates the nervous system, slows the aging process, increases overall vitality and accelerates to spiritual development.
Additionally, Bandhas help to release “psychic knots.” Psychic knots are like whirlpools of energy that are entangled like a knot in certain areas of our body, these can occur as a result of a current life experience, or archetypal (karmic) residues (samskaras) developed over a lifetime. These knots restrict and/or prevent the natural flow of energy, leading to the imbalances mentioned above.
There are three basic Bandhas:
1. Mula Bandha,
2. Uddiyana Bandha,
3. Jhalandara Bandha.
When these three Bandhas are engaged simultaneously, it is called Maha Bandha, the great lock.
The Mula Bandha is perhaps the easiest to start with due to the fact that it’s the most familiar to us. The contraction of Mula Bandha on the deepest physical level is similar to the Kegel exercises used to correct urinary incontinence and strengthen the pelvic floor and vaginal walls after childbirth. To find the Mula Bandha, practice beginning to urinate and then interrupting the flow by stopping the urination.
Mula Bandha (aka, Anal Lock)
· Sit comfortably in Vajrasana or Padmasana (cross legged) with knees touching the floor.
· Place the palms of your hands on your knees.
· Concentrate on the Muladhara Chakra (Root center).
· Inhale deeply, completely filling your lungs.
· Hold your breath while contracting the muscles of your perineum area by drawing them upwards.
· Hold the Bandha for as long as comfortable, feeling the tightening of your muscles.
· Release contraction and exhale slowly.
· Repeat this 10 times and may be increased to 30.
As with all yoga practice, when practicing Bandhas one should also keep their awareness at peak levels. Continue listening to your body during the practice and stop at the first sign of pain or discomfort. Combining awareness, patience and practice will lead to exceptional benefits and blissful results.
*A cautionary note: Pregnant women, people suffering from high blood pressure, peptic and duodenal ulcers or heart ailments should not practice Bandhas without first consulting with a trusted health care professional.
Of related interest, click on: The Importance of the Feet & Pada Bandha in Yoga
*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.