Bandha is a yogic lock which enables a yogi to block the flow of pranic energy in order to harness its power. There are three main bandhas which are:
When we combine all the three bandhas together it becomes Maha Bandha (The Great Lock).
The three main bandhas are in strategic regions of the body and are practiced through muscle contractions:
- Mula Bandha, contraction of the perineum
- Uddiyana bandha, contraction of the abdomen into the rib cage
- Jalandhara Bandha, tucking the chin close to the chest
Maha bandha is an advanced yogic practice that involves practicing the three major bandhas together.
What the Bandhas Do
Bandhas modify the flow of pranic energy through the nadis (prana channels) and also modify nerve currents in the nervous system along with blood flow through the circulatory system.
When the bandhas are engaged they lock the body’s energy which is then directed to flow through the body to create balance and help control various systems in the body such as digestive, hormonal and sexual.
Practicing the bandhas gives a sense of stability and balance to the body while also increasing awareness. These help to lock energy in the torso and both regulate and stimulate the internal organs.
How to Practice Maha Bandha
Bandhas are advanced practices in yoga, they should be learned under the supervision of a trained and certified instructor. Usually they are learned after practicing Asanas (yogic postures) and Pranayama (yogic breathing techniques) and getting a feeling for the rhythms of the body.
- Start by sitting in a meditative posture, like Padmasana or Siddhasana. These are ideal postures for practicing any of the three bandhas but if you can’t do these then try Sukhasana.
- Keep the spine erect, inhale and exhale a couple of long deep breaths and then expel the breath out. Continue to breathe normally while relaxing the whole body.
- Put both of your palms on your knees and become aware of your breath. Lift your torso up and slightly forward, with your shoulders raised. Take slow and deep breaths and try to keep your breathing constant.
- After an inhalation, exhale forcefully pushing all of the breath out completely, and keep the breath outside.
- Simultaneously perform Jalandhara bandha (chin lock), then Uddiyana Bandha (stomach lock) and then Mula Bandha (root lock) in that order. Keep the breath outside.
- Retain the breath locks for as long as it feels comfortable, do not strain or struggle. Retaining the breath outside is called Bahir Kumbhaka. For a beginner even a few seconds is sufficient.
- During the retention you can focus your awareness on the three chakras associated with the bandhas: Muladhara chakra (mula bandha), Manipura chakra (uddiyana bandha) and the Vishuddhi chakra (jalandhara bandha). This helps the awareness in associating the bandha and chakra with the region.
- To release the Maha Bandha, first release Mula Bandha (root lock), then Uddiyana Bandha (stomach lock) and then Jalandhara Bandha (chin lock) in this order.
- Take a slow inhalation after the release and return the head to the upright position. This completes one round of the Maha Bandha.
- Keep breathing peacefully until the breath returns to normal and then repeat the process for as many times as you feel comfortable. Remember to rest after each round so that you are prepared for doing Maha Bandha.
At first just try to do it two times so you get a full experience of the Maha Bandha. After time you will get used to it and can do up to five rounds.
- A Bandha Awareness Exercise
Try practicing the three bandhas one at a time in the following order:
- Perform Mula bandha while focusing on Muladhara chakra
- Then perform Uddiyana bandha while focusing on Manipura chakra
- Then perform Jalandhara bandha while focusing on Vishuddha chakra
In this way you can be proficient in each bandha plus have awareness of the chakra and region associated with that bandha. As time goes by you can increase the duration of each bandha and chakra meditation to help gain heightened awareness for use in the Maha Bandha.
The Benefits of Maha Bandha
Maha Bandha gives the combined benefits of all the three basic bandhas and it activates their chakras: Mula bandha (Muladhara chakra), Uddiyana bandha (Manipura chakra) and Jalandhara bandha (Vishuddhi Chakra).
It revitalizes each and every cell in the body and helps prevent aging and the degenerative process.
It activates the pineal glands and thus regulates and stimulates the functioning of the whole endocrine (hormonal) system. By stimulating the Pineal and Pituitary glands in the brain their hormonal secretions are harmonized.
Physical benefits include strengthening of the autonomic nervous system and pelvic region.
It supports intestinal function, strengthens internal organs and boosts immunity.
It also promotes core strength, a sense of balance, raises the level of consciousness, boosts mental clarity and energizes the entire body.
Uddiyana Bandha reduces fat in the belly.
Maha Bandha Prepares You for Meditation
Practicing the bandhas demands concentrated focus and determination. Maha bandha stimulates all of the chakras in the body, and thus prepares the mind for deeper meditative practices.
It is practiced by yogis to attain a peaceful, introverted state of mind that leads up to meditation, and it can awaken the Prana Shakti along with the sleeping Kundalini Shakti for bringing about heightened levels of awareness.
Yogic texts call Maha Bandha the conqueror of old age and death.
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Maha Bandha Precautions
Bandhas are usually practiced with retention of the breath either inside or outside. People suffering from blood pressure problems, glaucoma, stroke, heart disease and ulcers should avoid the practice of Bandhas.
Pregnant women too should not do Bandhas.
Maha Bandha is an advanced practice and should be studied under the guidance of an expert. Only commence Maha Bandha after you have mastered the other three bandhas separately.
There should not be any strain while holding the breath, and if there is any discomfort, release the lock and breathe normally.
Don’t retain the breath past your capacity since this may cause complications in the body. Hold it for as long as you feel comfortable.
General Advice on Maha Bandha
For maximum benefit, practice these bandhas on an empty stomach.
Avoid Mula Bandha if you have breathing difficulty.
Consult with your doctor before practising Bandhas, if you have any recent medical concerns then be sure bandhas are allowed for you.
It is advised to implement a pranayama or breathing exercise for a stronger hold of the breath, prior to indulging in any bandha practice. Practitioners should take care not to overdo the practice. The yogic locks should be released if you feel any discomfort while holding the breath.
The bandhas can be used to revitalize energy levels and holistic restoration of the body, mind and soul, along with releasing any harmful clogs in the body.
Bandha or locks hold an important place in the yogic practices. Connecting with these locks tends to be challenging at first, but with practice and experience an awareness develops bringing control and stability to the poses and the body.
The bandhas are related and have intimate connection with each other. The practitioner masters the various locks, one at a time. and when he is capable to do all the three locks, then the Maha Bandha is practiced.
These locks control the flow of energy in the body, in the same way a dam controls the flow of energy of a river, harnessing all of its power. The bandhas are an important step before taking up the higher practice of meditation and Samadhi.
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