Two months ago, I began teaching a yoga class entitled, “Exploring Yoga Postures,” at Samdhana Karana Yoga, a non-profit yoga studio in Tacoma, Washington. At first, I had plenty of ideas to explore, and, then, the first 5 or 6 weeks ended. It occurred to me that I could explore things I was interested in, and, at the time, I was interested in what was happening in my forward fold (uttanasana), which happened to be an engagement of the bandha trifecta: mula, uddiyana, and jalandara.
Halt. Stop. Whoa. What the bandha?
Essentially, bandhas “join together”1 muscle groups, which provide support in all the right places and activate associated chakras. They are also celebrated as a way of harnessing prana, vital life force or energy, and not spilling it all over the place, which leads to embarrassment and injury. There are three principle bandhas: mula (root), uddiyana (flying up), and jalandara (chin). The root lock stabilizes the pelvis and lower back by firmly, but lightly, engaging the pelvic floor, lower abdomen, and inner thigh muscles. It prevents the proverbial bowl, the pelvis, from spilling water all over the place. Uddiyana bandha strongly engages the diaphragm, by drawing it up towards the thorax, and the abdominal wall muscles, by moving them back towards the thoracic spine and thus supporting the abdominal organs. Often practiced with the ujjayi breath, the chin lock elongates the back of the neck while moving the chin towards the collarbone’s central notch. Each serves an essential function and can be practiced by itself through an individual asana or prana exercise.
Becoming familiar with and practicing the bandhas with asana can be especially rewarding. Mula bandha lifts and supports the pelvis and is especially useful in standing poses. Mula practiced with uddiyana will, not only, provide a safer place for forward folds but, also, a strong support in inversions as it prevents the thoracic spine from falling forward. Jalandara is essential in bridge and shoulder stand, elongating the neck while allowing the shoulders to hold the body’s weight. Each is a practice in subtlety and balancing effort with ease, as is all of yoga.
Ask your yoga instructor for help and guidance in practicing the bandhas. It will change your practice forever…maybe.
*Obscure reference to Jean Luc Goddard’s Bande à Part.
1Iyengar, BKS. Light on Yoga. 1995. pg. 436.
Next, I’ll be writing about forward folds or the mula bandha or both or something else. Stay engaged.
- Hatha Yoga Bandhas, Yoga-Age.com
- Lauren Imparato, Bandhas for Beginners, mindbodygreen.com (Please note that this article excellently illustrates the location of mula bandha, between the genitals and anus, which you may or may not be entirely comfortable with but were advised.)
- BKS Iyengar, Light on Yoga
- Many other yoga books, instructors, and videos. Be wise and thoughtful in your selection.