I) Jalandhara Bandha – Throat lock which prevents prana from escaping the upper
Jalandhara bandha
1. Sit comfortably in siddhasana or padmasana). Place the palms of the hands on the knees and allow the whole body to relax. Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose and retain the breath. Lower the chin so that it touches the collarbone. At the same time, straighten the elbows and raise the shoulders. Hold the breath and the position for as long as comfortable. Then release jalandhara bandha by slowly raising the head and relaxing the shoulders. Exhale in a very slow, controlled manner. Practice five rounds, breathing normally for a few minutes between each round. Then practice five rounds with external retention (exhale and hold).
2. Visualize the throat as a net that captures the breath as it comes up.
3. Notice when the chin is tucked how easy it is to see your navel.
4. Pay attention to the opening of your throat while simultaneously locking the chin.
5. Link all the bandhas and follow the flow of breath unobstructed while maintaining the locks in the body. Notice any change in energy level or effects on your thoughts.
Jalandhara bandha is the water pipe lock. It binds the network of subtle energy channels. Engaging Jalandhara bandha is useful for alleviating diseases of the throat. It also improves the quantum of prana in the thoracic region. By pressing the chin to the chest, prana is captured, preventing it from escaping the upper body. Many major nerve fibers pass through the neck; when jalandhara bandha is performed it exerts pressure on them and the flow of nervous impulses to the brain is restricted. These impulses collect in the cervical plexus, and when the bandha is released they flood into the brain. The force of these impulses helps to activate higher centers in the brain, those that function with creativity and intellect.
II) Uddiyana Bandha – Abdominal retraction lock which forces prana up the shushumna nadi.
1. Stand with feet about two feet apart. Bend the knees slightly and rest the hands above the knees, with the thumbs facing inwards and the fingers outwards. The spine must remain straight, not curved; the head should be kept up and eyes open. Inhale deeply through the nose, then exhale quickly through slightly pursed lips, but don’t be forceful. Having fully exhaled, bring the chin to the chest ( jalandhara bandha), raising the shoulders. Pull the abdomen and stomach inward toward the spine and up. Hold for a few seconds. Before inhaling, relax the stomach and abdomen, raise the head and stand straight. Then inhale through the nose slowly and with control. Before repeating another round, breathe normally for a minute or two. Start with three rounds and over a period of a few months increase to more rounds.
2. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position ( padmasana, siddhasana or sukhasana, depending on your flexibility). Sit on a cushion so that the buttocks are raised. Keep the palms of the hands on the knees and the spinal cord upright and straight. Eyes may be open or closed. Begin as above, practicing three to ten rounds, concentrating on the natural breath for a minute or two between rounds.
3. Stand up and experiment moving from the middle of your body, try walking as if there is a string attached to your navel pulling you forward.
4. Practice the bandhas at different times during the day. Notice the effect on your energy level.
5.Notice any fears that arise when you’re practicing the bandhas.
6. Connect the breath, mula bandha, and uddiyana bandha, and try to relax while maintaining the locks.
Movement of shakti in the body is described as a bird. Shakti is the personification of the feminine form of the Divine. Through the practice of the flying bandha, the great bird (Shakti) flies upward with ease, further directing the flow of prana toward higher states of consciousness. By contracting the lower abdomen and pulling it inward and upward, toward the spine, a powerful toning effect and internal strengthening occurs. This lifting helps push up the diaphragm and expel the breath. Uddiyana bandha, the abdominal lock, also eliminates strain by helping to control the breath. Control of the breath controls consciousness. Bandhas are a means of extending control over the breath and thus are a means to extend our access to consciousness.
III) Mula Bandha – Perennial/ cervix retraction lock, when engaged, prevents apana escaping from the lower body and draws it up to unite with prana.
1. Sit in a comfortable meditative pose, preferably siddhasana. Close the eyes, make sure the body is completely relaxed and the spine is erect. For men, the area just inside the perineum has to be contracted, so it is best to concentrate on this area for a few minutes. Women should concentrate on the cervix, as it is the cervix and vaginal muscles which have to be contracted. After a few minutes of concentration, start to gradually contract and release the muscles of the perineum/cervix. Contraction should last for a few seconds. Keep the breath normal.
2. Prepare as above. Contract the muscles of the perineum/cervix and hold. Hold the contraction for till you feel comfortable, then release. Practice five times.
3. Start off with a gentle or partial contraction. Contract just a little and hold without releasing. Then contract a little more. Continue like this, gradually increasing the tension and contraction ten times until full contraction is reached. Hold the full contraction for few seconds and try to breathe normally.
Mula bandha is the force or energy created by lifting the pelvic floor and controlling the breath. It is the root lock and calls the fire within that causes everything to come alive, to move. Mula bandha increases flexibility and stimulates heat. By contracting the perineum and drawing the energy up from the base of the spine, one can intensify and direct the life energy, cultivating a
sense of heightened awareness and increasing vitality. Mula bandha ignites the flame of kundalini (cosmic energy), the serpent power. By bringing awareness to the core of the body, mula bandha helps prevent injury. It guides you to move from your center, grounding you so you can become light and fluid in your yoga practice.
IV) Maha Bandha – Great lock (Bestower of great siddhis)
Sit in siddha or padmasana with the palms pressing on the knees. The spine should be straight. Breathe in slowly and deeply through the nose. Exhale forcefully and completely through the mouth. Hold the breath outside. Sequentially perform Jalandhara, Uddiyana and Moola Bandha at end. Inhale slowly when the head is upright. This is one round.
Maha Bandha gives the benefits of all three bandhas. It affects the hormonal secretions of the pineal gland and regulates the entire endocrine system. The decaying, cell of the body is rejuvenated. It soothes anger and introverts the mind prior to meditation. It leads to the merge of prana, apana and samana in agni mandala, which is the culmination of all pranayamas.