Hatha Yoga Bandhas
- Part One: The Classical Bandhas
- Mula Bandha: Muladhara Chakra (Brahma Loka)
- Uddiyana Bandha: Manipura Chakra (Vishnu Loka)
- Jalandhara Bandha: Vishuddha Chakra (Rudra Loka)
- Traya Bandha (maha bandha)
- Utilizing the Three Basic Bandhas with the Breath, Pranayama and Advanced
- Part Two; Adjunctive Bandhas
- Jivha Bandha
- Ajna Bandha
- Swadhi Bandha
- Nabhi Bandha
- Hri Bandha
- Conclusion: Paramananda Bandha
There are three classic bandhas; mula, uddiyana, and jalandhara
bandha. When practiced together they are called tri-bandha. They are practiced
together or individually at specific times during kriya, asana, pranayama, mudra,
visualization, and meditation practice. They also occur spontaneously especially
in children, but also in yogis who can allow themselves to be moved by the evolutionary
transformational force, the kundalini. Some do not have any outward flows (in
these areas where the bandhas are configured wholistically) and therefore do
not need to practice those bandhas, or if they did, there would be little effect.
Bandhas bound/bind back the dissipative energy and as such they
are the embodied aspect of pratyhara (restraining the dissipating outward flow
of prana while bringing it back from the periphery toward the center in order
to achieve union (in the center). The fifth limb in ashtanga yoga, pratyhara
in turn acts similarly as a powerful vehicle for tapas (increasing the spiritual
fire) and is its energetic counterpoint as our energy is no longer dissipated
nor distracted into dualistic externalizations. As such pratyhara is the general
operating principle while the specific bandhas work at specific energy circuits.
The activation of the bandhas which will be shown later, not only effect the
body and the energy, but thus also the mind and spiritual centers because the
mind rides on the horse of wind (prana).
The practice of pratyhara thus reverses the outward flow of
mind into the illusory world of the sense objects where objects appear dualistically
as separate from self, i.e., the world of I and it. Because the mind cannot
move without prana, bandhas are utilized to efficiently and quickly reverse
the outward flow while activating inner flow and has the ability to quickly
establish the objectless meditative state and inner supportive energy flows
necessary to create synchrony with and enter into turiya or samadhi.
Bandhas are the internal energy valves which thus when activated
allow the energy to flow through the area activating the dormant potential of
spirit while embodied. another way of saying this is that the rigidity of a
chronic spiritual disconnect can be disrupted through bandhas, pranayama, and
pratyhara quickly providing the pathway for the spiritual reconnect. Although
commonly called locks, bandhas act as such only in so far that they prevent
the outward flow (dissipation) of the energy, but a better translation would
be valves because they direct the internal energy flow to irrigate the nadis
and activate the energy body. Used in synergistic conjunction with asana, pranayama,
visualization, mudra, and meditation practice they act as a powerful adjunctive
Just as it easy to view vairaga only in its negative aspect,
so too it is more valuable to view the implementation of the bandhas as much
more than a withdrawal, but a redirection of energy which has an innate intelligence.
Thus they activate and catalyze the healing energy vortexes within the body/mind
which can be implemented consciously through a conscious hatha, kundalini, or
laya yoga practice, but are also often performed naturally and spontaneously
through grace or as a result of fortuitous action or karma. Bandhas then can
be the spontaneous co-arising intrinsic result of the creative and evolutionary
activity which acts both endogenously as well as throughout all of nature.
Although bandhas are most commonly described in anatomic terms
in relationship to certain body parts, muscles, glands, and organs, bandhas
it is far more valuable to approach them as essentially an internal energy re-configuration,
which in turn creates the template or energy pattern which aligns and activates
a corresponding physical, emotional, psychic, and spiritual constellation or
circuitry. As such it not only restrains or binds/bounds the dissipation of
energy outward or often downward, but rather redirects it in a healing and energizing
manner tuning and aligning it with the back body, energy body, vajra body, light
body, or rainbow body potential, as a whole system constellation, moving the
energy from the periphery to the center -- inward and upward activating and
catalyzing the inner alchemical transformative processes associated with the
chakras, the sushumna (the central channel), kundalini, so that we may abide
in our natural pure intrinsic state (swarupa). In this respect the bandhas are
also associated with the evolutionary progression through the granthis (knots)
and lokas (spiritual realms) which will be discussed later.
Bandhas, thus bind the energy from leaking out, but it thus
should never be viewed as a muscle contraction. The word, bandha, is
more effectively refined as an interlock (to lock in and interconnect inner
systems) rather than as the more common definition of a lock, which carries
with it a negative connotation of locking out, damming up, restraining, constraining,
forcing, excluding, repressing, etc. It thus should be made clear that the bandhas
are not physical locks, but energy locks which connects and harmonizes one's
vital energy with the inner constellations, the outer constellations, and the
universal eternal source of all energy. In order to learn about this activation
and harmonization, we have to learn about the subtle energy, inside, outside,
and non-dual unborn Source (the inherent potential energy within all things).
But like asana practice, also in bandha practice we most often must first learn
about the subtle internal energy, by first performing the physical, coarse,
and external aspect (coarse energy). Then later once we become aware of the
presence of the internal and more subtle energetics, we can forgo the coarse,
gross, physical learning tools.
When the bandhas are mastered, progress in asana, pranayama,
mudra, and meditation are greatly accelerated with the result allowing us to
abide in the heart of samadhi faster, easier, longer, and more completely .
The bandhas are associated with the three granthis (knots) and as such provide
the motive power to unlock spiritual dimensions or lokas as well (Brahma Loka,
Vishnu Loka, and Rudra Loka or Nirmana Kaya, Sambhoga Kaya, and Dharma Kaya).
Thus the three classic bandhas of mulabandha uddiyana bandha, and jalandhara
bandha, can be said to provide the keys to unlocking these three granthis, respectively.
Part 1 Classical Bandhas
The following description is coincident with the esoteric tradition
of hatha yoga (three bandhas). Here will be introduced the idea that there are
many bandhas, each one capable of moving the energy upward (or restraining its
downward motion) to the next chakra. When yogis enter sahaj samadhi these bandhas
occur naturally. The mulabandha connects us with the earth energy, grounds us,
moves the earth energy up from the muladhara chakra to the swadhistana (or otherwise
prevent it leaking out the muladhara) while moving the sky and sun energy down
to connect with the earth. .
Likewise swadhi bandha connects the energy from the swadhistana
chakra up to the manipura chakra and down to the muladhara chakra. Uddiyana
bandha moves the energy up to the heart (anahat) chakra and down to the swadhistana.
Hri bandha moves the energy up from the heart to the throat chakra and down
to the manipura. Jalandhara bandha moves the energy up to the third eye from
the vishuddi (throat) chakra and down to the heart (anahata chakra) or air center.
The ajna bandha moves the energy up from the ajna chakra to the crown (sahasrara)
and down to throat (vishuddi).
Swadhi, hri, and ajna bandhas have not been previously detailed
in classical hatha yoga literature as such, but none-the-less their discussion
will also be presented. Their synchronistic efficacy need only be explored and
experienced by anyone pursuing authentic hatha yoga sadhana. The bandhas are
trouble free and most efficacious when practiced from the bottom up; having
formed a firm base at the root (base) chakra – the muladhara first.
Muladhara Chakra and Brahma Granthi
The root (mula) lock moves the earth energy up through the muladhara
chakra system connecting above it to the water chakra (swadhistana), while also
serving as the valve connecting sky energy or spirit below it to the center
of the earth. Mula bandha keeps the energy flowing between the body and the
earth in a non-dual direction (neither only up, nor exclusively down), while
it is the sushumna which connects the earth energy of embodied existence (at
the muladhara) with the unborn formless realm of sky (at the crown of the head).
The muladhara chakra is the most important chakra in hatha, kundalini, and tantric
yoga as well as the most mysterious. It is where our dormant potential and animal
power resides and it is from here the kundalini becomes activated and enters
into the central channel (sushumna) activating the super-conscious network.
This is not some archaic myth or fantasy, and should not be ignored nor demeaned,
but rather its knowledge is essential to success in hatha yoga. Mulabandha is
designed to keep this energy flowing in this region.
Here it is noteworthy that in yogic literature, the goddess
kundalini is pictured as lying dormant in the muladhara chakra in the form of
a serpent coiled three and a half times around a lingam. The symbol for this
chakra is a downward facing triangle normally, but when the chakra is activated
(by an activated kundalini) the triangle reverses upward pointing!
The best preparation for mulabandha is aswini
mudra in order to tone up the nerves, glands, and muscles of the area. For the
male it is the upward turning (like a triangle) of the space about one inch
above the perineum. The perineal space actually becomes indented, domed, or
sucked in and up creating empty space for the front of the pubic bone and sacrum
to move toward each other. It is the same for the female except that the center
of the action occurs at the cervix being drawn up and in. This is not a pelvic
tilt (anterior or posterior which occurs between the humerus and pelvis and/or
between the trunk and pelvis), but rather mulabandha occurs deep within
the moveable elements and energetic dynamics of the pelvic girdle itself. It
is an energy dynamic more than a muscle movement.
It might be sufficient to point out that aswini, vajroli, and
sthula basti are only preparations to get in touch with and move the energy
in the pelvic and urogenital diaphragms (root chakra and water chakra areas).
In other words these practices are only there to help us get in touch with locked
and stagnant energy, rigidity, and then to activate this very important center.
In that sense these are kriyas (preparatory purification exercises).
Hence the actual bandha does not require strength in the pubo-coccygeal
muscles (pc muscles of the famous Kegel exercises), nor does it require strength
in the levator ani muscles. More correctly it requires awareness, conscious
relaxation of the region, the removal of impurities, irritants, toxins, and
energy blocks in the region -- a balanced tonification in the nerves of the
area. In the latter regard, the coarse, gross, physical, and external practices
of aswini mudra, vajroli mudra, and sthula basti may help, but this is so only
that we become aware of the more subtle, less coarse, and inner energy dynamics
that are involved -- so that the energy can move through this area unimpeded
and that the region is strong enough to withstand an increased energy flow such
as is demanded in kundalini yoga -- so it is truly balanced, functional, and
Mulabandha occurs low down in the perineum and depends upon
the energetic relationship between the sacrum/tailbone complex and the pubic
bone. It simultaneously draws the pelvis down from the torso and spine while
the pelvic diaphragm domes upward. As it was taught to me, the perineal fascia
do not contract but rather relax and are drawn upward. If that area is made
stiff, contracted or hard, it can not be drawn up. Indeed it is so subtle that
it is usually "reached" at first through the practices of aswini and vajroli
mudras which are practiced first in their coarse aspect and later in their subtle/energetic
aspects. Thus the practice naturally goes increasingly from the coarse to the
As taught in this way the bandhas are energy valves as much as locks, not muscle
contractions. They are locks in such that they prevent the energy from being
dissipated at various energy centers, but they are more valves in the sense
that they redirect these energies from being dissipated into
activating the inner circuitries at these centers and breaking up the knots
(granthis). As such many hatha yogis teach the bandhas as the means to breaking
through the granthis which in themselves operate not only in the body/mind/energy
fields, but in the more subtle realms of vijnanamaya and
anandamaya koshas and spiritual realm. In any case the bandhas should be taught
first, being the basis for the correct positioning of the postures. The bandhas
correct the asana, while the asanas refine the practice of the bandhas. Even
though the beginner will have to approximate their understanding of it, in this
way their understanding will grow.
As we progress, the more subtle internal energetic form are
integrated and put to use, while their coarse, gross, and external form are
then no longer needed. Some people do not need to go through the coarse form
( for example through grace, karma, natural propensity these mudras, bandhas,
and kriyas manifest naturally (sahaj). Thus the yoga kriyas can act as a powerful
synergist to break up previous negative programming (samskaras) imbedded in
both the psychic and cellular tissue.
The vajroli in the energetic state affects the opening of the
swadhistana chakra so that no energy gets stuck there. It is very valuable that
we do not approach vajroli mudra nor mulabandha (the latter occurs in the muladhara
chakra) as muscle contractions (at least in the West). In the West we are already
too wound up for the most part, while it the east where the "wasting diseases"
are more prevalent. Of course "most" movement involves the activation of some
muscles (except movements that take the advantage of the force of gravity) or
relaxation of a previous tense/spastic muscle, but more important for the Westerner
to know is that ALL MOVEMENT (isotonic activity) involves a corresponding relaxation
of the holding muscle (called the antagonist muscle). For most of us, it is
this relaxation (and resultant activation of the parasympathetic nervous system)
that is key to mulabandha and vajroli. This allows the energy to flow through
this area, irrigating it with chit-shakti. THEN it no longer feels trapped nor
is there a need for it to flow out and discharge its energy once the charge
gets dammed up.
Since we are addressing specifically mulabandha, the two main points to consider
then, are the sacrum/tailbone complex in the posterior of the body and the pubic
bone in the front. Through observation one may notice that most adults move
their pelvis and sacrum all at once i.e., there is no independent motion of
the sacrum and pubic bone from the rest of the pelvis (the innominate bones
of the ilea and ischium). Yet closer anatomical study shows that the healthy
sacrum is not fused with the pelvis, but forms a joint (the SI joint). Also
the pubic rami forms a joint at the pubic symphysis. More over the two ilea
are designed to move independently from each other. Thus much of the asanas,
kriyas, and mudras are designed to break up the stagnant energy and negative
conditioning that unfortunately occurs in the muladhara region.
Here we can identify at least twelve independent muscles in
ten muscle groups that connect at the sacrum and run across the ileum, ischium,
the back, to the legs, the pubis, and to the tailbone. On the posterior surface
of the sacrum are attached the iliocostalis, longissimus, multifidus, erector
spinae, latissimus dorsi, longus and brevis rotatores. On the lateral surface
of the sacrum, the gluteus maximus attaches, while at the anterior surface of
the sacrum we find the levator ani group, piriformis, and coccygeus groups.
It is valuable to note that the latissimus for example attaches all the way
up into the upper arm. It is not important to break out your anatomy books to
see all the various attachment points, but rather to be able to feel the effects
that the sacral/coccygeal complex has upon the whole body and especially upon
Mulabandha thus mobilizes the previously stagnant energy and repositions places
it into its rightful energetic and aligned place. The correct application connects
the front and back of the body, the left and right, the ida/pingala -- it aligns
the spine as well. Although the bandhas are ENERGY valves, this is too subtle
for most, thus the energy is first gotten in touch with through the physical
form of physical movement. So if you follow this so far, then you will be utilizing
your asana practice to go deeper inside -- feel the energy and especially to
feel the synergistic and mutually electro-magnetic relationship between the
pubic bone and tailbone. This is subtle at first. If one hasn't experienced
it, then of course one may not even entertain its possibility, but that is how
we grow -- entertaining the possibility -- moving from coarse/gross and outer
to the more subtle, energetic and inner. This is very much like pranayama where
the coarse breath leads us to the energy (prana) awareness and then to communion
the implicate integrating intelligence at the Source of this energy.
So too in mulabandha the tailbone and pubic bone no longer move with the rest
of the pelvis but rather form the base of the pelvis and the spine where the
physical body moves around that root foundation. Here the tailbone and sacrum
drop at the same time the pubic symphysis drops down -- they both move toward
each other INDEPENDENTLY of the rest of the ileum and ischium (heresy that this
may be). Here the sacrum moves away from occiput and the entire spine becomes
long-- in traction while at the same time the torso is lifted away from the
chest and armpits. We don't have to know the anatomical terms to know the energy
of mulabandha, but yes it has an anatomical relationship as well. This mulabandha
makes backbends, forward bends, twists, sidebends, contralateral poses, etc.
all work in a functional and energetic alignment, and in turn these poses should
make the energy of mulabandha work -- they are mutually synergistic and thus
an energetic partnership is thus engaged and is able to become fulfilled in
the practice -- all of which is self instructing if one balances and harmonizes
these energetics with this awareness in mind.
In other words Mulabandha should be found in all poses (unless one rounds the
back). When mulabandha occurs there is less effort and more energy so it is
not a contraction. Physically the fascia (pelvic diaphragm) in the perineum
lose tension and hardness and are able to dome upward but rather a lift up creating
space for the tailbone and pubic bone to move inward toward each other. As this
diaphragm domes upward, the sacrum and pubis drops downward to meet the earth
(if you are standing). So there co-exists both an upward motion and a downward
motion simultaneously occurring. Physically the pubic bone and tail bone no
longer move glued to the rest of the pelvis. Freeing up this motion is the subject
of much "technique" in the kundalini and hatha yoga literature.
A practical example of using mulabandha in a backbend,
try cobra (bhujangasana) . Laying on your abdomen and front thighs, become conscious
of the pubic bone and sacrum. Do not allow the sacrum to lift toward the lumbar
but at the same time do not allow the pubic bone to lift toward the armpits
-- both the pubic bone and sacrum do not shift but rather form the stable base
from which the front and. Do you see the tendency to move one and the other
will follow? How can you lift the spine and the torso long off the mula base
without arching or tilting the pelvis? That mutual synergy is the physical implementation
of mulabandha. One does not consciously think to contract any muscles whatsoever
in the perineum.
Similarly in standing forward bend, like uttanasana, bending forward
the pubic bone into the front groin crease toward the sacrum. Simultaneously
the sit bones (ischial tuberosities) rise up toward the sky away from the knees,
but also simultaneously the sacrum/tailbone complex sinks down toward the knees
moving in to connect with the pubic bone giving lengthening the spine and the
legs also simultaneously.
Especially in surya namaskar (sun salutations) mulabandha
is joyously "found" and established -- searched for -- throughout (I am prejudiced
against the word, held). Yes, instead of a tension it is the release of tension
-- it is a synergistic feeling -- there is a lift. Your experience of it will
change in time as your energy body changes. For me the quality of a lift-- lightness
-- ease -- effortlessness, balance, strength, and harmony are experienced. With
vajroli there is a different experience. For sure uddiyana bandha should never
be done without mulabandha, but I can not say that to do mulabandha one must
apply uddiyana bandha, although it is true that a good uddiyana bandha improves
and completes mulabandha. Mulabandha always first -- it is the foundation. Some
people teach that the ENERGY of the three bandhas should be maintained in all
poses, but physically there may not visible movement.
The conscious use of bandha as a conscious and joyous benefit
can be found in all asanas -- all the time - standing, on abdomen, on side,
on back, sleeping, twisting, working, etc. -- as part of the practice of communion.
The relationship between the perineum region configured in mulabandha to that
of the other parts of the body such as the lumbar, the spine, the occiput, the
shoulders, the armpit chest, the heart, etc. is an education in itself.
Maybe it is best to say that each bandha completes the other
and that they work synergistically very well simultaneously (see traya bandha
below). The energetic form of these bandhas can occur in antar (inner) or bahya
(external) kumbhaka (stoppage of breath) and/or throughout the day time and
dream time practices, while it is true that the coarse form of uddiyana bandha
is performed only in bahya kumbhaka (also see Tri-Bandha Below)
Yes, more detail can be given for each pose (there is always
MORE in this regard), but at the same time it is counterproductive to feed the
illusion that it is in increasing specifics that yoga is realized but rather
in unification -- in balancing, harmonizing -- dancing and celebrating creation/creator.
Traditionally, mulabandha is practiced selectively and sometimes in combination
with other bandhas at certain stages of pranayama, asana, mudra, meditation,
and tantric practice. Some modern schools recommend a light mulabandha throughout
the entire asana practice. It is one of the three bandhas in tri-bandha (together
with uddiyana and jalandhara bandha), used in most pranayama retention cycles.
Classically there exist many nadis that may have obstructions to be opened,
but only three granthis of which their location is not always agreed upon, but
which some hatha/kundalini yoga schools suggest that the three bandhas serve
as their remediation. Here mulabandha opens up the Brahma Granthi providing
knowledge of Brahma Loka.
However at the same time there exist numerous nadis which may
be obstructed and of which most hatha/kundalini schools suggest that one of
the major functions of a functional asana practice with the use of bandhas is
to open these up -- remove their blockages so that the samskaras get cleared
out, the distorted energetics cleared away, and the dormant creative/evolutionary
energy circuits become activated moving us into manifesting our greater creative
The area between the tailbone and the pubic bone is brought
together in a healthy trans-integrity or phase of synergistic equilibrium.
In order to tonify this region and get in touch with its energies
please see the practice of aswini mudra in the kriya and shat karma section.
The practice of mulabandha is very different however from aswini mudra. Following
is first a discussion on the practice with hip flexion (anterior tilt of the
pelvis). Then we will follow with a discussion of what mulabandha looks like
in hip extension (posterior tilt of the pelvis).
In forward bends occurring at the hip joint (between
the pelvis and humerus) the ASIS (Anterior Superior Iliac Spine) normally tends
to tilt forward (anteversion) over the toward the top of the thighs while the
pubic bone tilts downward and backward (posterior). Thus in normal hip flexion
(forward bend at the hip) the sit bones move back, out, and away from the back
of the thighs (the bulk of the hamstrings) at the same time that the ASIS moves
toward the front of the thighs. Normally the sacrum follows the movement of
the pelvis, but in mulabandha the tailbone actually is moved in trans-integrity
toward the pubic bone (as the pubic bone moves toward the tailbone, the tailbone
and sacrum moves toward the pubic bone attempting to meet it) at the perineal
space. Thus one may say that the sacral/coccygeal complex drops down away from
the lumbar toward the pubic bone, creating a narrowing of the space at the perineum
between the tailbone and pubic bone in a healthy dynamic energy vortex. This
movement affects both the pelvic diaphragm and the uro-genital diaphragm.
The only way that this movement can happen is that space is
created for it in the pelvic floor (near the pelvic diaphragm). If that region
remains hard and rigid, nothing can move there, but rather if it is relaxed
and softened, then the floor of the pelvic diaphragm can dome upwards creating
more space for the tailbone to move toward the pubic bone. If it's tight,
it won't budge in this way. However when the perineum domes or lifts upward,
the trans-integrity between the two form a stable base for the spine (which
rests on top of the sacrum) and hence the rest of the body. Connecting to the
sacrum are no less than 10 separate muscle groups which attach to the back,
the legs, to the other parts of pelvis (such as the pubic bone, ischium, and
Similarly in a backward bend occurring at the hip joint
as in hip extension the ASIS tends to tilt back away from the front of the thighs
in retroversion or posterior tilt, tending to tuck the tailbone and sit bones
under, around, and up toward the pubic bone, but if we allow for the posterior
tilt of the sacrum to occur, simultaneously bring the pubic bone back
to meet the tailbone, we have mulabandha. Here the front of the thighs remain
long from the ASIS, but the pubic bone does not raise up toward the navel as
it moves away from the front of the thighs. Here the sacrum does not raise up
toward the lumbar spine even if the pubic bone heads away from the navel, but
rather the sacrum drops as the tailbone attempts to meet the pubic bone.
As in the example above in cobra (bhujangasana) keeping both
the pubic bone and the sacrum long from the head toward the feet, while the
feet remain in traction out and away from the hip socket. Many directions can
be given to the body to help effect mulabandha, but in the end it is an energy
lock that can be heart felt and attended to. Perhaps the main direction would
be to allow check in often at the perineal space (especially in contralateral
poses) and then effect flow and balance there. Check in at the tailbone (coccyx)
to see that it the fascia in the area is relaxed and that the bone can move
(it can even move independently from the sacrum). Line up the tailbone with
the spine if you can.
Mulabandha occurs at the bottom axis or central
connection point of the body connecting the front and back, left and right,
and bottom with top (through the connection with the spine). Mulabandha forms
the stable support of the entire torso and spine. It can provide traction on
the spine. It forms the stable base for uddiyana bandha and vajroli mudra as
well as the other asanas and is essential to traya bandha, which in turn is
essential to effective pranayama practice. It forms the basis for mudra and
long meditation sits by keeping the energy flowing in that region and taking
any strain off the lumbar and SI joints.
It activates Brahma granthi and allows us to enter Brahma Loka
(or Nirmanakaya). It tonifies, purifies, balances, and energizes, the pelvic
and urogenital region (see vajroli mudra for more specific results at the urogenital
If one tends toward constipation, constriction.
tightness of the lower abdomen, hips, pelvis, legs, and lower limbs, then the
perineal region may already be constricted and domed up already too much. Since
mulabandha balances the energy front and back, left/right, ida/pingala and allows
flow to occur, sometimes in order for this activation to occur, the area needs
to be relaxed and even drawn down slightly in order to balance and synchronize
the apana (the downward energy) and prana (upward flowing energy).
Likewise hemorrhoids are a physical symptom caused by a disturbance/distortion
or imbalanced tension of the apana and prana in the muladhara region which in
turn may be aggravated by harsh, spicy, coarse, and irritating foods as well
as by harsh, lustful, and irritating thoughts forming the precursory energetic
vectors, which influence the physical characteristics in the region, as regards
to disease or its remediation. So in this case, mulabandha is applied to alleviate
the dis-ease, distress, and ill-feelings in the muladhara, while increasing
flow, well being, ease, balance, harmony, and synchronicity.
Check in often with mulabandha to make sure that the
tailbone area is relaxed and the tailbone is free to move. Make sure that the
perineum does not tighten and it feels that energy is flowing through the energy
valve. After you are able to wag the tailbone and feel it move freely, then
check in with it to see that by aligning it with the rest of the spine, the
spine becomes long the tailbone up with the spine -- in order to catalyze synchronization
and to prevent distortion.
In functional mulabandha the pelvis is neither in classic retroversion
or anteversion, but rather it rests in synergistic synchrony as the sacrum/coccygeal
complex and pubic rami forms a trans-integrity stable base between the pelvis
and the back and the pelvis and the thighs. Thus the pelvis is perfectly balanced
and there is no strain in the spine or the groins. Here mulabandha can occur
spontaneously through shakti's grace, yet at the same time we can consciously
utilize it as a means of embracing her.
Works on the Manipura Chakra and Vishnu Granthi
Uddiyana means flying upward energy lock. It is
the bandha that moves the energy upward from the earth, water, and fire centers
into the heart (air) chakra strongly influencing the efficacy of the lower bandhas
by "making room" on top. Some claim that it helps suck the energy into the central
column. It prevents accumulated tensions, toxins, or stagnation to develop or
accumulate in the navel region. Although cleansing through its power to remove
stagnant energy there it allows stuck or distracted energy to move through this
region and up through the sushumna which is its natural uncorrupted path, hence
it helps to purify and energize not only this region, the front of the lower
spine, but also the entire body.
Preparation: Although it means flying upward, this refers to
the energy, not the navel point which remains downward and posterior (back toward
the spine). For best results and especially to first learn the effects, it is
performed standing with the feet approximately shoulder width apart and facing
forward. Take up mula, swadhi, and nabhi bandha throughout. First get in touch
with where the navel is. Take one hand in back to feel the part of the spine
that lines up opposite the navel which will be near the top of the lumbar curve
approximately at T 12 (this spot on the spine will vary according to individuals,
seasons, and conditions). Loosen up that area in back and visualize the navel
moving inward toward it, without the spine moving away from it. Try not to hunch
the shoulders or collapse the chest concentrating at the solar plexus and below.
Bending the knees slightly, place the hands
on the inside of the lower thighs with the meat of the palms resting on the
top of the lower thighs fingers pointing slightly in toward the knees. Do not
place undue weight on the hands, arms, or shoulders nor torque the knees or
legs, nor round the shoulders nor collapse the upper torso or upper back. Let
the top of the scapula sink away from the ears as the heart remains lifted.
Have the pubic bone catch the tailbone allowing the tailbone and sacrum to sink
down to find the mulabandha. Resist the tendency of the pelvis to round in retroversion
or tuck in anteversion, so keep it long and stable in mulabandha.
Keep the heart forward and lifted throughout creating more space
between the sternum and the bottom of the pubic bone in the abdomen. Resist
rounding the back and/or collapsing the front but rather keep them both long.
Even though the breath is leaving the chest and rib case and the diaphragm is
drawn up into the pleural cavity upon the exhale, the energy of the pose is
formed by keeping the back and torso long, thus creating the space for the navel
to move toward the spine and thus binding and concentrating the energy between
the navel and T 12 .
Exhaling all the breath out as above, retain the external retention
(bahya kumbhaka) and check in with mulabandha to increase the energetic effect
of uddiyana. Play in this manner exploring the energy of the bandha, and release
before any need to gasp. Straighten the knees and let the arms raise over the
head with a slight extension of the hip and back on an inhalation as a safety
counterpose. Then allow the breath to come back to normal. Repeat two more times
from the beginning (above) or check the step by step description given at the
end of this section.
Ideally the neck should remain free without compression or strain
and the throat relaxed, keeping the throat soft and relaxed, the neck long,
and the chin in (jalandhara bandha). Always precede uddiyana bandha with mulabandha
and swadhi bandha, then maintain them throughout. Do jalandhara bandha during
the external kumbhaka only if it is comfortable and there is no stress
Before there is any stress, tension, or strain either in the
breath or abdomen, release the bandhas consciously and then inhale.
Hints and Kinks:
The diaphragm has to get out of the way so it is allowed to
lift up into the pleural cavity expelling the last of the air from the lungs.
This is done by allowing the muscles of the diaphragm to completely relax. The
lower ribs actually lift upward at this point because the diaphragmatic muscles
are relaxed (when the diaphragm muscles contract the lower ribs are moved downward
and inward toward the upper lumbar vertebrae. Instead of lifting
the organs of the upper abdomen up out of the way, this lift of the diaphragm
creates the requisite space in the abdomen that permits the abdomen to move
back toward the spine, if we keep the sternum lifted from the navel and the
perineum extended down from the navel. But that's not the concentration of the
pose, but rather its precursor. As the navel folds back in toward the spine
the outward dissipation of energy at the fire chakra is bound back for alchemical
internal usage. This is the tapas energy or pratyhara of the bandha. The Vishnu
Granthis can be broken through in this manner and the blockages between the
water chakra and the air chakras are alleviated.
The more deeper benefit of the lifting of the diaphragm is in
the unobstructed and natural ability for the navel to move backward forming
a natural concavity in the abdomen below the sternum, stomach, liver, and pancreas.
There is no breathing during the classical coarse implementation of uddiyana
bandha. Try keeping the lower back lengthened between the iliac crests and the
back ribs without tucking the pubic bone up toward the navel. Here mulabandha
keeps both the front and the back long and prevents collapse. The spine moves
toward the navel as much as the navel moves toward the spine. Where they come
together is where the energy of the bandha creates the fire.
Always release the bandha before there is any strain so that
you do not gasp for breath, cough, feel strained or out of breath afterward.
Remember we are softening the abdomen, removing tension, and stress not building
it. It should be pleasant and energetic so please start very slowly, kinesthetically,
softly, and energetically. Later when you enjoy it naturally you will want to
do it longer and more often when it is needed.
If there is stress or pressure in the throat. larynx, or chest
probably the diaphragm is being over emphasized, rather than the navel point.
Relax the neck and throat allowing the chin to fall into the sternal notch in
jalandhara bandha if it is impelled. There should be no stress, but rather a
feeling of energy, fire, lengthening, and opening in the middle region. As you
exhale, the sternum will naturally want to drop and the chest collapse, while
the upper back and shoulders will want to round and hunch, but preventing that
occurrence is where the benefit of the bandha lies. The duration of uddiyana
bandha should not be prolonged to the point where its release finds us coughing
or gasping for breath at the end, but rather find a happy and pleasurable point
to end the practice before any discomfort.
Uddiyana must be preceded with both mulabandha which is maintained
during uddiyana. Try jalandhara bandha here also after uddiyana is implemented
being certain to release jalandhara immediately before the uddiyana or the pressure
and stress will be created at the larynx and glottis. (See tri-bandha below
for more on the implementation and interaction of the three major bandhas).
Uddiyana is used in vamana dhauti kriya, nauli kriya, agni sara
kriya, tri-bandha, advanced mudras, pranayama, meditation, and also while in
yoga poses (especially in forward bends). It increases the tone of the abdomen
and gastric fire stimulating the entire fire chakra area. Thus the powers of
digestion, assimilation, and immunization are naturally augmented. It opens
up blockages in the manipura chakra and thus connects the water center (swadhistana
chakra) with the air center (anahata chakra). It helps untie the Vishnu Granthi.
It completes/accomplishes mulabandha as a synergist. Although
usually done in its coarse form during and after an exhalation, when
it is done on an inhalation it completes jalandhara bandha and is often
used as such in intermediate and advanced pranayama and mudra practice. It often
occurs spontaneously in those whose natural vital energetics are active (have
not become repressed). When practiced in mudra, pranayama, and meditation it
is usually done sitting in lotus, siddhasana, vajrasana, or similar sitting
poses. For the beginner learning the the deep coarse form, it is first learned
standing. It is a great purifier of the entire abdomen by itself or when used
as an element of nauli or agni sara.
The above uddiyana bandha as classically described is to be
performed after the complete exhale (rechaka) with external retention (kumbhaka)
because this facilitates the most complete ability of the navel area abdominal
fascia to move inward toward the spine because the organs of the upper abdomen
are drawn upward and out of the way by the lifting of the diaphragm. This is
the standard and classical uddiyana bandha.
However there are some mudras, asanas, and sometimes in tri-bandha
that also ask for uddiyana bandha either while we are engaged in the breathing
process or upon the internal in-breath (puraka) retention (kumbhaka). Because
the diaphragm is not raised, this internal kumbhaka form of uddiyana bandha
is less deep and gentle (owing to fact that the diaphragm is lowered while the
lung is full) thus resisting the ability of the abdomen to contract. Here the
point is not to try to reproduce the effect of the full traditional uddiyana
bandha, but rather the benefit from its ability to invigorate, open, and energize
the back, spine, pelvis, and chest. Uddiyana when applied after in-breath retention
without strain can elicit a powerful if not more subtle effect especially if
we practice it with advanced techniques of reverse breathing, wavelike breathing,
and spine breathing with the chest elevated. Thus it greatly facilitates jalandhara
Advanced or Subtle Energetic Practice:
Another application of uddiyana bandha that is nontraditional,
yet very palatable is to apply uddiyana bandha at the end of both deep inhalation
and exhalation, of course the application after the inhalation will be less
deep. This may be helpful in pranayama practice while performing both internal
and external kumbhaka (retention of breath). In both cases mulabandha, swadhi
bandha (and in most cases jalandhara bandha should be performed at the same
time (always releasing jalandhara bandha first before remobilizing the breath.
The applications of uddiyana bandha after the retention of the full in-breath
(antar kumbhaka) should be practiced only after proficiency is established of
the more traditional type of uddiyana bandha (which is done with holding the
breath out at the end of the exhalation in bahya kumbhaka .
Uddiyana bandha greatly facilitates jalandhara bandha, especially
when done after the in-breath retention with diaphragm lifted, it raises the
energy inward and then upward, and it is curative to disorders of the small
intestines, colon, lower back, kidneys, and adrenals. Mulabandha greatly completes
uddiyana bandha and is essential to it. Coincidentally uddiyana bandha also
completes mulabandha, i.e., they are mutually synergistic.
Avoid any tension in the larynx and throat.
Avoid the compression of the upper abdomen organs that normally lie in the solar
plexus area directly below the sternum such as the pancreas, liver, stomach
area. The major fault is the creation of tension in the area which is to be
avoided. The second major fault is to round the back (also to be avoided). The
back and torso rather should be kept elongated through the intelligent application
of mulabandha In other words, the pelvis does not tilt in retroversion, rather
the pubic bone keeps its distance from the navel. The heart remains lifted up
off the abdomen, rather than collapse or fold into it.
In other words, we want SPACE created in the abdomen as the
navel goes toward the spine. While the diaphragm raise up into the pleural cavity
, the abdomen should not collapse, thus creating the space for the navel to
fold back and in toward the spine forming a concavity of the abdomen. This creation
of spaciousness of the abdomen and lift of the heart region, while the back
remains long feels like a lift and hence the name uddiyana bandha Thus the sequence
or rhythm of the flow is:
Bend the knees with the feet shoulder width apart.
- Check the mulabandha so that the sacrum and tailbone drop
down away from the navel keeping the torso and back long.
- Exhale the air out drawing the diaphragm upward into the
pleural diaphragm without collapsing the abdomen (neither rounding the lower
nor upper back nor collapsing the chest) forming an elongation of the abdomen
as space and roominess is created lengthwise in the abdomen so that the front
of the abdomen can move toward the spine as the breath is exhaled.
- Hold the breath out in external retention (bahya kumbhaka)
- Retain the bahya kumbhaka with extension and check in with
mulabandha in order to increase the effect.
- Release the bandha before there is a strong feeling to gasp
air -- and before any sensation of stress or strain letting the navel come back
forward and allowing the diaphragm to come down, keeping the back and torso
long and mulabandha.
- Let he breath come back to normal and repeat as above
Uddiyana practiced daily three times a day can be mastered in
a couple of weeks.
Chakra and Rudra Granthi
This is the throat energy valve. Here the back of the neck elongates
and the throat softens. If you are sitting, the direction of the movement is
such that the occiput moves upward (toward the vertex) away from the shoulders
(as the posterior muscles of the neck elongate and relax). Here the occiput
also moves slightly posterior (backward), so the chin drops inward as well as
downward toward the sternal arch. This movement is not linear but rather sequentially
curved, the general direction is that the hyoid bone moves toward the occiput
as the occiput lifts off the shoulders, the shoulders stay down toward the sacrum,
while the center of the chest moves forward (the middle back remaining extended).
In other words hunching the shoulders forward to get the chin to rest on the
sternum will not effect the benefits of jalandhara bandha.
Rather than conceptualizing the bandha as bringing the chin
in toward the sternal arch, it may be more efficacious to visualize it as bringing
the sternal arch up to meet the chin by moving the heart forward, sinking the
scapula, and floating the kidney points at T12 backward and upward. This occurs
by allowing the upper thoracic column to elongate and extend, thus relaxing
and elongating tight shoulder girdle, chest, and neck muscles. Since these tight
muscles are the property of the average person, attempting to force jalandhara
bandha without adequate preparation may result in neck or upper back strain,
but if one visualizes relaxation, lengthening, and softening into jalandhara
bandha while seeking out its energy flow, then no strain will ensue. In this
regard it may be wise to visualize the chin moving toward the sixth cervical
vertebra (so the sixth cervical remains inferior and moves forward (anterior).
Again the movement of the hyoid bone toward the occiput as the occiput moves
up and back may be pivotal.
Preparations are halasana (plough), shoulder stand (sarvangasana),
bridge (setu bandhu), cobra, and the like which work on either bringing the
chest up to the chin and/or extending the upper thoracic at the same time. In
these poses we should emphasize that the chin and sternal arch (the area above
the sternum) do not move apart. Shoulder openers, arm grabs in back, chest openers,
etc. are also beneficial so that jalandhara bandha can be done effortlessly,
easily, joyously, and naturally without compromising any other part of the body.
In other words avoid the common mistake of trying to force the
chin down onto an already restricted chest. Simply relax the throat and neck
by allowing the chin to drop naturally and then let the sternal notch at the
bottom of the throat raise up to meet the chin as the hyoid bone moves toward
Jalandhara connects the head with the heart or basically opens
up the throat chakra -- the body and the mind. Because of the chronic dysfunctional
nature of the separation between head and heart, the efficacy of the practice
depends on leading from the heart not the head. This ensures that the heart
stays open and there is no strain to the neck while the center of the armpits
raise up and the scapula remains caudal and depressed (anterior) rather than
being hunched upward. The back of the occiput raises straight up hinging over
the atlas without disturbing the continued erection of the back of the neck.
Even if you can not do the full bandha physically, you can still get the effect
of the throat lock by moving in these directions without straining.
As a preparation simply observe the bobbing motion of the head
and neck while performing deep diaphragmatic breath. Observe the motion of the
head and neck while performing jalandhara bandha. In pranayama practice, jalandhara
bandha is usually held at the end of a full inhalation and/or at the end of
a full exhalation (called kumbhaka where the breath is not moving). However
holding the breath (kumbhaka) is not advised until all the preliminary pranayama
practices have become mastered. If you have developed a degree of sensitivity
to the energy body, you can hold the breath only if it feels natural and spontaneous.
Do not perform this exercise if you are suffering from the residual effects
of whiplash, otherwise it is an excellent exercise for the entire body/mind.
To get its energetic effects this bobbing motion can be done very subtly almost
unperceivable to an observer, but yet containing the necessary energy.
Likewise we can get a feeling for the bandha and prepare our
energy and physical structures by holding a rolled up sock, a small bean bag,
pad, or the like in-between the chin and sternal notch while lengthening the
above mentioned distance of the occiput from top of scapula.
Some teachers teach the use of jalandhara bandha as the operator
in kumbhaka (restraining the flow of the breath so that the epiglottis closed
by jalandhara bandha preventing any air from escaping or entering the top of
the trachea. Others state that it is performed by pressing the esophagus against
the larynx thus closing off the wind passageways this way. Using jalandhara
bandha in this way may cause unnecessary strain and is not recommended (unless
your personal teacher has instructed you). One may also be aware that the energy
of jalandhara may be called forth in almost any pose (it being the preventative
for the jutting out of the chin and a remediator of arrogance. It can be utilized
in most asanas while breathing in order to relax the throat, lengthen the back
of neck, and facilitate the energy flow between through the throat chakra.
It is certain that the scalene's muscle (running from the back
of the cervical vertebrae to the front of the top two ribs are involved helping
to open up the apex of the lungs and allow more prana to penetrate into the
system and perhaps at the same time allowing the chest to raise further up.
Yet like the other bandhas, jalandhara bandha is mainly an energy lock, which
is best allowed to occur naturally and spontaneously once we clear out the obstructions
in the body/mind preventing its spontaneous expression.
Jalandhara bandha can be used energetically with all the asanas
keeping the neck long and the throat soft while connecting the energy between
the heart and third eye (through the throat). It is also associated with opening
up the Vishnu Loka or the Sambhogakaya by connecting the heart chakra with the
third eye. In pranayama jalandhara bandha is often utilized
in conjunction with the two other bandhas (in traya bandha)
The occiput is raised up and tilted slightly
backward lengthening the cervical spine from the scapula. The hyoid moves backward
and upward toward the back of the occiput. The heart moves forward as the armpit
chest raises toward the chin which finds the sternal notch. Relax the throat
and lengthen the neck so the chin can go down to meet the sternal notch, but
not forward. In other words keep the occiput back as it raises so that the chin
not only drops down, but also inward toward the spine. Create space at the back
of the occiput up from above the atlas as the chin goes down and in, without
moving the posterior superior cervical section of the neck (C1 and C2) forward
but rather keep it posterior. Simultaneously however move the lower cervical
at C6 forward (anterior) toward the chin or at least do not move it backward
away from the chin. Keep C6 down toward the sacrum. Simultaneously move the
heart forward, the kidneys backward and up, and the scapula downward away from
the occiput. See to it that the jaw is not clenched, but rather relaxed and
long so that the chin can drop. Many people have chronic TMJ problems which
jalandhara bandha may correct over time, but who may not be able to perform
jalandhara bandha until the jaw unwinds.
One may visualize that the entire skull is being lifted toward
the stars from a string attached at the lambda point (the topmost point where
the parietal bone and occiput meet). (
Classically in pranayama, mulabandha is implemented first. After
the breath has stopped. Always perform mulabandha first. Most of the time perform
uddiyana second. Then jalandhara lastly. Always release jalandhara first and
mulabandha last. The synchronization of jalandhara bandha in relation to the
other bandhas and the breath is described in detail below in the section on
the three bandhas (traya- bandha).
The above bone/muscle presentation describes the outside mechanical
form. Internally during breath retention the glottis is closed so no air can
go in and out of the lungs. When the glottis is relaxed the throat (pharynx)
opens to the lungs facilitating breathing, but when we swallow food and drink
the glottis closes the common passageway of the pharynx off from the lungs (larynx)
and opens it to the esophagus and hence the stomach instead. This is the process
of glutination. Hence we can become more aware of the full process of jalandhara
bandha by practicing swallowing, thus exercising and strengthening the glottis
allowing the air to be held out or in of the lungs. This has a corresponding
nervous system action which tones the vagus nerve. Mentally and emotionally
both the powerful breathing and eating dynamics and their equally powerful emotions
are affected by jalandhara bandha.
Jalandhara bandha helps pump the energy through the throat chakra
into the crown and keeps the energy that has risen to the crown, third eye,
and talu chakras from sinking down, leaking, or being dissipated, so it may
continue to circulate in the chakra system. Like most bandhas it is pratyhara
bringing cleansing the corrupted energy in the throat area and arms and integrating
it by bringing it back into the central channel.
Do not create stress in the neck, throat, jaw,
face, eyes, palate, shoulders, or anywhere else. Let it find a groove. Especially
avoid allowing the chin to drop forward and down while the top of the neck comes
forward, rather keep the top of the neck below the occiput erect, back, and
long, allowing the back of the occiput (above the atlas) to swivel up as the
chin moves down (rather than forward). Avoid collapsing the upper
thoracic vertebrae as well. It is suggested to breathe fully when doing bridge,
shoulder stand, halasana, knee to ear pose, and other asanas that force an extreme
jalandhara bandha, but always avoid any constrictions/tightness of the throat
as well as the breath. If you already have a flat neck (less than 10% of the
population), then make an effort that the normal "S" shaped curve of the neck
is achieved by making an effort to bring C1 and C2 posterior as the chin moves
down and inward. The latter will correct a flat neck at the upper cervical spine.
Jalandhara bandha tonifies the throat chakra,
neck, shoulder, and arm regions. Jalandhara bandha is a great aid in pranayama
which in turn is a great boost to pratyhara and meditation practice. It can
correct TMJ and flat neck problems when performed with sensitivity and awareness.
It remediates the jutting out of the chin and cervical vertebral compression.
It relieves pressure at the cervical spine and relaxes tension at the throat
region. It opens the chest and relaxes the shoulders. Thus it is beneficial
to any conditions that effect the upper torso, neck, and head. It counteracts
arrogance. It is synergistic in conjunction with mulabandha and uddiyana bandha
as tri-bandha at anytime, and especially before and during meditation in order
to draw the attention and concentration back into the central column and energy
body, thus facilitating pranayama, pratyhara, and dharana simultaneously. Jalandhara
bandha not only opens and activates the vishuddha chakra, but also unties the
knot at the Rudra Granthi thus providing the gateway into the formless Rudra
Loka or Dharmakaya
Traya (Three fold) Bandha
(sometimes called Maha Bandha)
General warnings about pranayama and bandha practice:
- Never feel forced. Yoga should
be gentle and healing
- Stop the practice immediately
if a headache, pain in the heart region, or dizziness occurs.
Classically tri-banda or bandhas three (traya-bandha) is the
utilization of the three major bandhas of mulabandha, uddiyana bandha, and jalandhara
bandha within an overall sequenced order. Classically mulabandha is usually
performed first, then uddiyana, then lastly jalandhara. Most often we release
jalandhara first and mulabandha last (the reverse order of application). This
is a good rule to learn at first, with the foreknowledge that all these rules
are artificial, they are to be broken as one advances and authentic wisdom through
functional and effective practice supplants mere rules of thumb. Also the advanced
student should realize that there exist many variations of the bandhas in conjunction
with the various pranayama, mudra and visualization techniques. For example
we have already previously stated that an energetic mulabandha can and should
be held all the time, but in the beginning the bandhas are given both in their
coarse external form and in a sequential order. Indeed it assumed that the beginner
has already learned the kriyas, especially aswini mudra, vajroli mudra, sthula
basti, agni sara, and nauli kriya.
At the end of this chapter we have introduced additional adjunctive
bandhas, so while utilizing these additional bandhas a rule of thumb is to apply
the bandhas from the bottom up, and release them from the top down. Thus first
mula, swadhi, nabhi, uddiyana, hri, jalandhara, and ajna bandhas -- in this
case the order is usually best initiated from a firm base upward. If performed
energetically the bandhas need not be a strain at all and can be held indefinitely,
however such a presentation is not the classical written presentation (which
is the gross and external). Especially jalandhara bandha is only given during
kumbhaka (retention) and never held while the breath is moving i.e., it is released
at the end of retention before the breath starts to move. In this section we
Here we will limit our discussion to the various implementations
of tri-bandha which is a very valuable application for pranayama, pratyhara,
dharana, mudra, and meditation practice. It cures both a wandering mind and
a sleepy mind (both diseases of either rajas or tamas). Try doing all the bandhas
all together in the following sequence, not only during meditation, asana, and
pranayama practice, but even during the day while walking, sitting, and working.
Again the general rule of thumb is to perform mulabandha first.
Most of the time perform uddiyana second. Then jalandhara lastly. Always release
jalandhara first and mulabandha last. As we reiterate often the subtle form
of mulabandha can be done anytime/all the time (in other words we do not release
mulabandha at all). It doesn't ever have to be released, while classically jalandhara
is usually not recommended while the breath is moving (only applied during retention
(kumbhaka). The preceding is good advice for the beginner who may first learn
to apply a tight jalandhara bandha which restricts the breath at the throat
and neck in practicing kumbhaka (breath and energy retention), but we wish to
point out at the same time the existence of a more subtle and energetic jalandhara
bandha, which also can be applied anywhere/all the time. For example, the subtle
motion of jalandhara bandha can be applied in any asana so that one who may
have the tendency to jut out their too far forward and upward (which causes
an undesirable compression at the back of the neck) will benefit by bringing
the chin inward and down toward the throat and at tech same time creating more
space between the occiput and the top of the shoulders. This movement of jalandhara
bandha can be used to alleviate neck tension when done with a soft throat, but
if one already has a flat neck, a reversed curvature at the neck, or other abnormalities
of the s like curve at the cervical region, then more customized directions
are suitable, thus the above can only be stated as a general rule of thumb.
For example many people tend to compress the back of their neck in backward
bends, but not all while some people may overly flatten the back of their necks
in sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and halasana (plough pose), but their are many
exceptions. In this regard a a "good" teacher may be a reasonable
substitute until the lacking "self knowledge" is attained. This is
true for all kriya, asana, bandha, pranayama, and mudra practice.
Tribandha is very valuable for mudra, pranayama, pratyhara,
dharana, and meditation practice. As mentioned above, tribandha not only cures
both a wandering mind and a sleepy mind (both diseases of rajas or tamas) and
thus is excellent as a counteractive remedy in meditation practice, but it goes
further in balancing the doshas and winds, balancing prana and apana -- the
ha and the tha of hatha yoga. It increases rajas energy if it is lacking and
moves it through the system if it has accumulated to excess in any one spot
and been blocked. Bandhas help to move the energy through all the energy centers
and as mentioned above can be said to pierce the three psycho/physical knots
(granthis) which block the three realms of existence. Tri-bandha or trayabandha
specifically draws the energy into the the muladhara chakra and from there into
the sushumna (central column) and it is thus the forerunner of the advanced
pranamaya practice of vase breathing and the mudra practice of tummo heat. As
such the practice of the bandhas are often called a fire practice. Indeed it
is closely related to tapas (turning up the heat) in many respects.
As indicated throughout this book. Traya (traya means the three)
bandha in its subtle energetic form can be implemented throughout asana practice
and throughout the day and night. They also occur spontaneously when one is
naturally aligned with Source or as Grace. Traditionally the three bandhas
(Traya bandha) as used in pranayama practice is as follows.
Very Simple traditional tribandha (trayabandha)
- Exhale all the breath out applying mulabandha, uddiyana bandha,
and cap it off with jalandhara bandha in that order. Play with accentuating
mula and uddiyana bandha here. Hold the breath out while the torso and spine
- Release jalandhara first, then uddiyana, then mulabandha,
as you inhale drawing the air down into the lower abdomen as the diaphragm
and abdomen expands.
- At the end of the inhale apply mulabandha first and then
cap it off with jalandhara bandha (binding the prana inside) while lifting
the spine and torso (crown raises up toward the heavens).
- Increase this inner and feeling of internal
space playing with mulabandha and jalandhara bandha while holding the breath
in (antar kumbhaka) without any strain.
- Before any tension or stress (or when the lift has peaked)
, then release the jalandhara bandha first, then the breath and mulabandha,
while implementing uddiyana bandha slowly until all the air has been expelled.
- Repeat as in 1 above 10 times.
- Be gentle and go for the vital healing energy.
Sequence of traya bandha with antar kumbhaka (internal retention)
utilizing mulabandha throughout:
- Exhale all the breath out applying mulabandha, uddiyana bandha,
and cap it off with jalandhara bandha in that order. Play with accentuating
mula and uddiyana bandha here. Hold the breath out while the torso and spine
- Release jalandhara first, then uddiyana as you inhale.
- At the cap of the inhale, bind it with jalandhara bandha
and lift the spine and torso even more with an uddiyana bandha and gentle
accentuation of mulabandha.
- Release the cap of jalandhara bandha first, then the breath
- Repeat as in 1 above
Another way to perform the above is to hold the jalandhara bandha
all the time (never unlocking it). Just make sure that the glottis is open and
the throat and neck muscles are not tight nor stressed. In other words both
jalandhara and mulabandha are implemented throughout and the practice becomes
more of a pranayama practice. Some schools teach jalandhara bandha to include
the forced closing of the glottis, but in this specific version there is no
tension or holding at the throat or glottis, but merely the chin comes in toward
the sternal notch while the back of the neck elongates.
This is the simple version that I like to give in a mixed class:
Here mulabandha is implemented throughout, but jalandhara is manipulated, while
uddiyana bandha changes from a subtle implementation (on the inhalation) to
a more physical coarse implementation on the exhalation:
- Inhale through the nose while visualizing the prana coming
in from Infinite Source through the crown of the head through the entire body
down into the muladhara in a subtle wavelike motion.
- After the full inhalation is complete apply mulabandha and
then top off the retention of breath with jalandhara bandha to hold the breath
in (antar kumbhaka).
- Then smoothly release the jalandhara bandha first, while
spontaneously starting a gradual uddiyana bandha to expel all the air out
moving the apana in an upward motion starting in the lower abdomen, through
the torso, to the top of the head melting any hardness and purifying any poisons.
- Inhale again as in one and repeat this tribandha visualization
practice 10 times
Since uddiyana bandha is always best implemented in conjunction
with mulabandha, the above did not recommend releasing mulabandha before the
exhalation (after releasing jalandhara bandha), but please note that many schools
advocate releasing the mulabandha during exhalation (right after jalandhara
bandha is released). It is advantageous to keep the spine long throughout as
if the crown were raising toward the heavens while the pelvic diaphragm simultaneously
merges/connects with the center of the earth. On the inspiration eventually
visualize the muladhara chakra sucking in the cosmic prana through the implementation
of mulabandha while on the expiration the apana returns upward to Source through
the a very fine channel approximating the spinal spinal column. If you like
establish conscious rapport with the self supporting pillar (lingam) that exists
between heaven and earth.
- At the end of the inhale compound the muladhara region allowing
for a more reflexive, efficient, and spontaneous simultaneous implementation
of both mulabandha and uddiyana bandha and extend the antar kumbhaka (internal
inhalation). The belly slightly expands during the inhalation, but at the
end of the inspiration the lower belly goes inward toward the sacrum as the
floor of the pelvic diaphragm spontaneous lifts through mulabandha, and the
spine lengthens. This is the beginning of classic vase breathing (discussed
in the pranamaya section).
- Optionally, after the exhalation when one visualizes the
apana rising through the very thin central threadlike channel which ends at
the brahmarandhra (hole of brahma at the vertex) one can practice external
retention of the air (bahya kumbhaka) external retention. This is the hole
where the spirit in the form of vital life supporting prana leaves the body
at death and is part of more advanced practice called Phowa in Tibetan. It
should NOT be practiced by beginners (external retention) and focus at the
crown because of the danger of premature death.
In general, if you have not learned the subtle practice of mulabandha
(see above in the mulabandha section), then it is best to make sure that you
release mulabandha before the exhalation. Make sure that after the practice
any tension in the pelvic and urogential diaphragm regions are released. However
if you have learned the energetic aspect of mulabandha without contraction,
then it is better to hold mulabandha in that way throughout the pranayama practice
never releasing it. The practice itself puts us "in touch" with the
energy and it is this pure awareness that continues to instruct. Without this
awareness we resort to general rules of thumb (which are merely temporarily
compensatory in nature. In more advanced practice occurs when the energy
no longer leaks outside (bound inside activating the subtle energy body) --
all three bandhas as energy valves directing the energy into the evolutionary
body is simultaneously occurring continuously -- all the time.
The ordinary use of the three bandhas are highly advantageous
specifically in pranayama practice and especially, especially so in kumbhaka.
So as we become more at ease in pranayama practice and more aware of the energetics
we not only apply the mulabandha all the time, but actually we can apply the
subtle energetic uddiyana bandha after the jalandhara bandha at the end of the
INHALE. as well. This creates space in the torso and lengthens the spine facilitating
traction and extension (ayama). Although this is learned sequentially at first,
later the bandhas are practiced so that they are not applied mechanically, but
rather gradually and softly and all together in a wave like or spiral motion
in coordination with the lungs, ribs, spine, torso, head, and pelvis.
There exist external "rules" for beginners, but eventually they
ALL have to be thrown away as we learn from the prana itself -- as we form a
living response-able partnership with the life energy. . Indeed progress means
change and there are many planes and transitions/transformations to ALLOW for.
How can this occur if we are tightly holding onto the past a authoritative,
lawful, or "right"? Indeed how can we allow our sacred cows (false limiting
beliefs) to fall away?
Utilizing the Three Basic Bandhas with the Breath, Pranayama and Advanced Mudra Practice
The process is like a wave on the ocean -- it is neither sharp
angled nor flat -- it is not even three dimensional -- It happens fully when
we drop the individual mind and will altogether and allow for it (through authentic
isvara pranidhana). Thus the motions do not happen sequentially, but rather
in mutual synchronicity. They are mutually synergistic. As practice increases
the activity becomes ever more refined and subtle.
To avoid energetic and physical problems the bandhas are taught
first. Then asana, then pranayama proper, then mudra (with asana, bandha, visualization,
and breath). Utilizing traya bandha thus in pranayama assumes that we have done
at least the preparations.
- Thus in pranayama at first we teach beginning yoga students
diaphragmatic breath (to be aware of moving the diaphragm while breathing).
This is shown by the belly rising on the inhale and sinking on the exhale. Later
once this awareness and ability is integrated we teach them three part breath
(yogic breathing). First the belly inflates, rises, and widens; then the ribs,
and then the apex of the lungs while upon exhalation the reverse occurs. One
should notice how the ribs attach to the sternum in front and the spine to the
back and how the breath thus lengthens the spine and moves the heart. This is
as far as the majority of the yoga students go, but it is only a preliminary
- Then alternate nostril breathing (nadis shuddhi), agni sara,
kapalabhati, ujjayi, sitkari, sitali, and their variations are usually taught
with their variations are taught. These are all very safe (as they are done
without retention). Again we are assuming that the basic bandhas (mula, uddiyana,
and jalandhara) are already familiar. In this regard the hatha yoga shat karmas
(kriyas) are most synergistic. Likewise the bandhas are essential for the kriyas.
- For example, traditional jal basti, vamana dhauti, nauli kriya,
and agni sara kriya can not be done without first mastering uddiyana bandha.
Thus these kriyas (along with the rest of the shat karmas) are taught at the
very beginning of any traditional hatha yoga training. Unfortunately, it is
not well known in the West that all the bandhas may be used very effectively
during asana practice as well as well as pranayama and as a preparation for
The average student in the West are not interested beyond these
preliminary stages. Then when there is sincere spiritual interest or passion
(tapas) the more advanced pranayamas are taught which involve kumbhaka (retention)
as the next step.
Always as we start to talk more "developmental", there will
arise contradictions as to the "rules" set out for the beginner. In other words
the beginner is taught to perform nadis shuddhi (alternate nostril breathing)
incorporating the three part breath noticing the duration and qualities of the
breath. This is very instructive and beneficial -- not a phase to be skipped.
Later nadi shuddhi is developed further to sukha purvaka where
one applies mulabandha at the end of the inhale then jalandhara bandha (holding
two bandhas). Then to exhale, release jalandhara bandha first, then implement
uddiyana bandha, and lastly at the end of the exhalation the beginner is often
taught to release mulabandha. Although some schools teach to hold mulabandha
throughout, it is generally thought to beneficial for the beginner to alternately
let go and implement mulabandha with awareness frequently, especially at first.
This same sequence can be used for internal (antar) retention
(kumbhaka) after bhastrika or kapalabhati as well or any antar kumbhaka for
that matter, but it is only preliminary and should not be held onto as if these
bandhas were actually "performed" sequentially, linearly, or rigidly but rather
more so smoothly, with kinesthetic feedback, energetically, wavelike, and naturally.
Likewise for external (bahya) retention (kumbhaka), say at the
end of bhastrika, we implement mulabandha, exhale all the air out with a strong
uddiyana bandha. While maintaining mula bandha and uddiyana bandha we cap it
off with jalandhara bandha, but instead of these being performed one at a time
(sequentially) they can be done all in a gradual wavelike spiral movement and
energetically. Then to inhale, we release jalandhara bandha first, then uddiyana,
then mulabandha and engage in another round of bhastrika.
Yes, its best to have an experienced teacher observe and suggest,
but they are rare... while the inner teacher of innate awareness is always available
according to our passion and ability to apply sensitivity and awareness to our
practice. But because pranayama is indeed a very powerful force, it is recommended
that an experienced teacher be consulted (at least for pranayama practices that
call for kumbhaka). Remember that the point is not to hold the breath as long
as you can (in goal orientation, control, or will power -- as that can be injurious),
but rather attain that state where breathing is no longer called for (Kaivalya).
Now the above "guidelines" still are ONLY for the intermediate
beginner and further practice REQUIRES that we give up these guidelines as well.
This is called authentic PROGRESS or spiritual evolution. So there exist then
further advanced practices which will contradict the above as we become more
finer attuned to the ever present teaching/teacher -- as we learn to listen
in pure awareness and consciousness. It is my hope that the above will be sufficient
to begin the journey of inner exploration, as it is not desired to add confusion
nor rush the practice. It is very powerful at first to become aware of the breath
and activate certain energy circuits. One learns to activate the breath and
energy. When the nadis are open and the requisite awareness of the energy body
is achieved , then most likely the inner wisdom and evolutionary consciousness
so activated will lead the sincere seeker further by itself -- we become breathed
by that Source and know it directly.
As mentioned, these practices involve utilizing the energy of
uddiyana bandha even on the in- breath so that instead of having the belly inflate,
the back and pelvis fills while the torso and spine remain elongated. . This
is also called back breathing and is the beginning of vase breathing (of the
Maha Siddhas) which is a requisite preliminary to Tummo (Kundalini practice)
and Phowa, which is itself a preliminary to the more advanced inner/outer tantric
practices of aligning and synchronizing the inner constellations with the outer.
Thus it is best to start off with the clear understanding that
all the bandhas are ENERGY locks on the subtle level, not necessarily muscle
contractions (although their energetic movement may as a result shorten the
spaces between two bones). For instance in mula bandha the perineal space must
soften to be allowed to draw up (if it is drawn too far down), and thus with
the softening of the area the space between the pubic bone and tail bone shortens.
If we suffer from a lack of apana, then the perineum may already be drawn up
too much in spasm and must be allowed to relax. The point being (see aswini
mudra and mulabandha discussion), the bandhas are not done through normal muscle
contraction as in the outer/gross form of aswini mudra or vajroli mudra.
With all bandhas we establish flow and remove stasis and thus
there is an absence of effort and force -- it MUST become more than effortless
-- it must energize, balance apana/prana, and give us energy! This is being
reiterated because it is the most common misconception.
Thus the bandhas create flow through and between the chakras,
rather than restrict it. They loosen the knots, not worsen them. Thus they redirect
dormant energize while liberating our higher embodied potential and evolutionary
circuitries. What they do restrict is the outward dissipation of energy at the
very chakras thus stopping the outflow and in this sense they are the energetic
and physical correspondent to pratyhara and vairaga in these regions their ultimate
purpose is to stop outward flow and dissipation while activating the evolutionary
energy in the central nadis (sushumna) called kundalini (i.e., the purpose of
All the above can be allowed to happen naturally -- all the
bandhas and breath can be implemented a little at a time simultaneously -- all
a little at once -- synergistically, without rigidity, as the spine moves in
a wavelike spiraling manner, rather than one at a time sequentially.
When the inner teacher takes over -- all this happens not through
the agency of the will or the intellect, but rather by the shakti's grace -
More elaborate technique is not always better. The main thing
is that the divine passion/longing is still beckoning us strongly, and we are
moving in that direction through our yoga practice. Extensive techniques may
be obtained in books or by external teachers, but the inner wisdom energy must
lead. Authentic practice is based upon getting the inner guide activated and
very much involved -- know him/her as no other than the Self. All instruction
is available in turiya. We can share some specifics, but such should not be
limited to linear, flat plane, willful, external, or left brain dominated practice.
The best practice is one that is suited for our own unique constitution
(which necessarily varies for each individual). What thus works best is to emphasize
listening, observing, meditation, receptivity, receiving information (often
in the form of positive biofeedback loops) and then acting accordingly and while
augmenting innate "response-ability" until a direct positive feedback loop is
created -- self activated -- spontaneous while still observing, but here the
individual will and intellect is no longer the doer. In sahaj or natural yoga
we are moved and breathed by "that" --- that COMMUNION with nature in everyday
life (as well as in sleep) is what my practice attempts to deepen, make more
continuous, and whole. Thus it is very simple -- requires no books, computer,
or props other than a good blanket/mat or kusha grass, passion, and mother.
Less Common Adjunctive Bandhas
Following are some additional inner energetic bandhas that are often recommended for various
specific effects. They are advanced, but at the same time, not necessarily better
(as more is not always better). For example, mulabandha is generally considered
to be the most valuable bandha. If it is implemented "correctly" all
the other bandhas will come into place and for the most part, they may even
occur spontaneously. Likewise, for example, if mulabandha is perfect, then swadhi
bandha will not be called for in the first place.
Some of the following are modern non-traditional bandhas that
have been formulated through intensive hatha yoga practices, which may not be
suitable for every body. In addition, one may find more bandhas listed by modern
yoginis such as hasta bandha and pada bandha that is described in Orit Sen-Gupta's
and Dona Holleman's book,.Dancing the Body of Light: The Future of Yoga
For example, in pada bandha the arch in the foot allows for
a unique maximum flow of energy through this pivotal center in most asanas.
Likewise in hasta bandha this particular configuration of the hand allows for
synergy for the efficacy of other asanas. Likewise one can find similar energy
valves throughout the body. Here we will discuss only a few that are may be
useful for meditation and/or asana practices.
This is the placement of the tongue on to the front top of the
hard palate at the juncture with the teeth (the tip of the tongue actually touches
the front teeth. In some schools, just the tip touches, in other schools the
front hollow of the tongue also touches the hard palate, while in other schools
the tongue is curved slightly backward toward the soft palate. This latter practice
should not be confused with khechari mudra where in the gross form the tongue
is brought back behind the soft palate to the space between the eyebrows, while
in the inner (antar) practice of khechari the wavering of the dualistic mind
is dissolved where the tongue blocks the passage of the ida and pingala psychic
nerves (nadis) and shunts them into sushumna (the central nadi). The symbolism
of khechari mudra is discussed in the mudra section of this book, but here we
will simply discuss jivha bandha as completing the energy valve from the throat
chakra to the third eye (ajna chakra). This method should remain soft but conscious.
It is used in meditation as well as pranayama in order to help accomplish this
subtle energy connection.
Ajna Bandha: the Third eye or Ajna Chakra
Ajna Bandha: Not discussed in the classical hatha yoga literature
except as a mudra. It is the most subtle of all the bandhas moving the distilled
energy of all the other chakras in a fine line into crown (sahasrara). When
it is done spontaneously, it is characterized by the eyes moving up and back
into the third eye, the eyelids lightly quivering, the eyebrows slightly raising,
the tongue spontaneously in khechari mudra, the nostrils lightly flaring, the
ears slightly elongating and raising, the condyles at the back of the neck unwinding,
the jaw naturally dropping long. In addition a spontaneous puckered smile forms
on the tightly closed lips and internally there is perceived a translucent effulgent
energy interface at the third eye sometimes producing a slight external quivering
at the forehead region.
In meditation and mudra practice ajna is usually activated lastly
after all the other bandhas are implemented, raising the energy up out of the
lower and middle sushumna, removing any blockages to the crown., and in this
way it completes the siva/shakti circle. It will help in pranayama as to complete
the final journey of the prana after the retention (kumbhaka), both after the
inhalation (puraka) and exhalation (rechaka). It should never be forced, but
rather practiced as a cooperation and allowance for these energy vectors to
Ajna bandha energetically interlocks, inter-connects, and intelligently
opens creative dialogue between the throat chakra, talu chakra, third eye, and
sahasrara permitting the energy to synchronize and flow inward and upward re-forming
the sacred link between creation and creator in effulgent and trans-conceptional
With all the chakras energetically linked and interconnected
through the bandhas the crown and root are re-united, heaven and earth, the
groom and bride, the right and left, spirit and nature, Kether and Malkuth.
Here we rest in the healing eternal waters that bathe and nurture all.
Swadhi bandha is also not discussed in classical hatha yoga
treatises. It also utilizes elements of the pelvis like mulabandha, but differs
from mulabandha in that the trans-integrity operates in a horizontal plane,
while mulabandha operates more in front/back and top/down planes. Swadhi bandha
brings the energy into the swadhistana chakra by balancing and integrating the
energy in the middle and upper pelvis, thus it connects the fire chakra with
the earth chakra by opening up the knot at the water chakra (swadhistana). It
opens up the sacrum area in the back, the area below the navel in front, and
especially the sides of the torso between the iliac crest and lower ribs.
The primary move is the swiveling in toward each other of the
two iliac crests as the back of the sacrum is given more space to move between
the two coxal bones, but also one may visualize the PSIS (posterior Superior
Iliac Crests) moving laterally (away from each other) at the same time. It is
often described by one school of yoga as the two ASIS (Anterior Superior Iliac
Spine) moving in toward each other, but this is not as helpful as the above.
It should be realized as a swivel, and more adequately described so that iliac
crest hinges around forward toward the front into the indentation below the
navel also creating space at SI (sacroiliac) joint so that the two innominate
bones of the pelvis move laterally away from the sacrum while the the sacrum
can slide down away from the lumbar providing more support in lengthening the
For those whose SI joints are compressed, this motion will appear
as an outward winging out from the iliac crest as well as from the sit bones
(ischial tuberosities). (For an illustration on how the sacrum moves within
the pelvic bowl in this manner. For a diagram on how the two
ilea (or rather innominate or coxal bones) move independently in this manner,
This is the basic motion in the pelvis which is created secondarily
by such asanas such as gomukhasana, matsyendrasana, marichiasana, and garudasana
(and most adduction) and also in internal rotation of the hip where the legs
help move the two ASIS points toward each other in front while widening the
two innominate (coxal) bones at the SI (sacroiliac) joint in back away from
the sacrum. As such we are not speaking about the actual anatomical movement
which occurs at the top of the femur inside the acetabulum (ball and socket
joint of the hip joint), but rather by swadhi bandha we are referring to the
movement between the two innominate (coxal) bones in the pelvis proper that
is created by the femur as it leverages the two wings of the pelvis outward
-- as it widens the fascia (width wise) across the back of the sacrum, pelvis,
and thigh. In other words such motions as adduction and internal rotation may
help secondarily in aiding this motion at the SI joint, while poses which normally
abduct the hip and create exterior rotation may be stabilized by implementing
Here as the iliac crests ROTATE toward each other in a forward
direction, while the sit bones move away from each while the iliac crests amy
actually move outward (lateral). so that no compression or tension in the
pelvis is created, rather the opposite an opening is felt, yet stability is
reinforced simultaneously. Both the pelvis inlet (the top of the pelvic bowl)
and the pelvic outlet actually expand and open. Perhaps it is more valuable
way to describe Swadhi bandha is as the movement that expands the two sit
bones and the two PSIS (Posterior Superior Iliac Spine) points away from the
midline, however the two iliac crests may appear to be rotating forward and
in toward each other , thus creating space at the back of the pelvis for the
sacrum to drop and thus lengthen from the lumbar spine.
This lateral opening at the back of the pelvis will take any
pressure off the sacrum (at the SI joint). Here we are looking not only for
horizontal balance and synergy at the front top of the pelvis (ASIS) but also
at the iliac crests, sit bones, and pubic bones. When this is explored and learned
there is no imbalance at the sacrum top or bottom, between the pubic bones,
sit bones, or iliac crest. The entire front, back, and top of the pelvis is
in synergistic symmetry, equilibrium and alignment. This creates stability in
the pelvis and SI joint necessary for all twists and asymmetrical asana practice.
In other words when the two ASIS protuberances and iliac crests
rotate in toward each other in front, the two sit bones (ischial tuberosities
move away from each other, and the two PSIS points also move away from each
other in back, there then occurs an intra-pelvic movement between the two pelvic
bones which hinge upon the pubic symphysis in front yet this joint does not
proximate, but rather remains distracted or in traction. Thus in swadhi bandha
we can hinge the two iliac crest bones forward and inward (in a circular motion)
through a widening and opening action at the SI joint where the sit bones move
laterally away from each other and simultaneously the pubic symphysis provides
the front hinge without compaction. Thus not only does the SI joint open, but
the trans-integrity of the two pubic bones (rami), the two sit bones (the bottom
of the ischium at the ischial tuberosity), the two PSIS bones (at the back of
the pelvis), the sacrum, tailbone, and iliac crests all move in a characteristic
balance, alignment which eliminates stress and creates synergy and flow in the
pelvic girdle. This is swadhi bandha.
Here we go for the balance and energy flow using any or all
of these anatomic parts (ASIS, iliac crests, pubic bone, sit bones, PSIS) as
landmarks so that the entire pelvic bowl (consisting of the pelvic inlet and
outlet) and all their connective tissue, fascia, glands, organs, and nerves
are able to release any stress or tension from its wavelike spiral motion. As
discussed in the earlier chapters the action of the humerus can exert many vectors
upon the pelvis, so here we can learn to utilize these inter-relationships synergistically
especially in standing poses. At the same time this awareness allows us to intuitively
evaluate the correct placement of the legs or stance as in relationship to its
effects on mula and swadhi bandha.
Continue to move so that the sacrum continues to
move forward and is able to slide downward creating an awareness of the spine
lengthening by opening the two iliac crests away from the midline, while simultaneously
separating the two sit bones and PSIS in back. Pay attention to the top and
bottom of sacrum so that balance is achieved at the sacrum without tilting/distorting
it in relationship to the spine. This movement should allow the tailbone to
elongate, drop, and move freely. Do this all consciously (with sensitivity and
awareness) and by all means do not create stress. Perform mulabandha first.
Benefits: Like mulabandha, many of us may be tight, insensitive,
or immobile in this region at first and it will only be through constant practice
and awareness that these directions will gel making creating a subjective/objective
living integration. Like all the rest of the bandhas, first establish mulabandha,
then find the synergistic relationship between these two bandhas and the energy
flow between their corresponding chakras and the spine. In hip flexion, this
movement is very helpful in situations where the hamstrings are tight (as they
attach to the sit bones) and thus are pulling them together. Also on forward
bends and adduction this also helps loosen tight gluteals, tight abductor, and
tight external rotators. Conversely swadhi bandha helps in preventing stress
at the SI joint in severe abduction and external rotation. It is helpful in
many poses but especially in standing contra-lateral poses such as warrior (virabhadrasana),
parsovottanasana, prariivrtta trikonasana, and similar. It works similarly in
ek pada kapotasana (one footed pigeon), marichiasana, and the like. In urdva
dhanurasana (chakrasana), setu bandhuasana (bridge), purvattoasana (east facing
pose) and the like, it helps prevent lateral rotation of the hip and compression
at the SI joint, while in other back bends, it helps prevent the hips from hiking
(at the iliac crest), compression at the SI joint, and the sacrum from rising
toward the lumbar maintaining healthy space between the lumbar disks.
The motion of swadhi bandha is specific for opening up, alleviating
compression, and widening at the SI joint specifically but helps also in alleviating
stress on the back, stretching the hamstrings, abductors, and especially the
deep muscles (lateral rotators) of the pelvis. It opens up the pelvic inlet
and outlet. It helps move the energy through the water (swadhistana) chakra
preventing outward dissipation. It helps stretch tight abductor muscles and
strengthen adductors. Swadhi bandha helps tonify the sacrum, the ureters, bladder,
Tightness at the upper pelvis and lower torso is relieved, more
fire is created in the manipura chakra increasing gastric fire, the benefits
of twists (such as matsyendrasana and marichiasana) are greatly accentuated.
Cautions: Consult a yoga therapist or avoid if the SI
(sacroiliac) joint is unstable or the ligaments are overly loose. As swadhi
bandha helps to create space at the SI joint, those who have overly loose ligaments
in that area due to past injuries or genetic factors do not need this motion.
Also avoid tension or proximation at the pubic symphysis, but rather traction
so that flow and balance occurs also in front at the pubic bone. The movement
at the pelvis should mobilize the sacrum -- create more space for the sacrum
to independently move at the SI joint in a natural sliding motion. Especially
when working in asana the motion of the sacrum should be inward and supportive
both in forward and backward bends. The distance between the iliac crest and
the back ribs should stay long -- ditto for the sacrum and the lumbar spine.
One should not overly concentrate on swadhi bandha as a correct mulabandha will
take care of the entire pelvis. This is a bandha that corrects commonly found
displacements in the hips, pelvis, and SI joint and helps to prevent injury.
(The Hara Region)
Nabhi bandha is also not discussed in detail in classical hatha
yoga traditions. It is similar to uddiyana only in that it focuses upon the
region near the navel, but uniquely nabhi bandha focuses four finger widths
below it (half way between the swadhistana and the manipura). In nabhi bandha
the upper part of the abdomen is not drawn in, but just the area below the navel.
Thus it can be described as the pulling in of the abdomen below
the navel, energizing and purifying the upper part of the water chakra and the
lower part of the fire chakra -- as such it is the liquid fire center. Although
it can be performed in a physical, gross, coarse, and external manner utilizing
muscles, it also is best seen as a subtle and internal energetic process.
It can be learned at first through its physical
gross form by first implementing mula bandha and a light/subtle uddiyana bandha
creating a lift in the torso and the spine up off the pelvis. Then allow the
lower abdomen below the navel to move straight backwards toward the spine energizing
the lower tan tien (hara). It can be performed subtly like this throughout the
day during walking, sitting, asana, pranayama, mudra or meditation. It can also
be done quickly like agni sara kriya (in and out motions), but with the lower
abdomen only. This is called nabhi kriya.
Also nabhi bandha differs from agni sara and uddiyana bandha,
as it is more stimulating when done with internal kumbhaka and reverse breath.
Try nabhi bandha as a subtle adjunct to swadhi bandha while simultaneously activating
mulabandha, uddiyana bandha, and vajroli mudra. Such an internal practice synchronized
with the breath will move the energy through the lower chakras.
In the physical practice all the skin and fascia below the navel
moves toward the spine but the pelvis, chest, and back do not move. Keep the
scapula down toward the sacrum and armpit chest rotated in its open and lifted
position. This is the same breath and bandha that we do with proper vase breathing.
(See the chapter on pranayama)
Like uddiyana bandha, a proper mulabandha is necessary for an
effective nabhi bandha. The pelvis is neither in retroversion nor anteversion,
but rather in trans-integrity. In another sense nabhi bandha can be said to
be a continuation of mula and swadhi bandha as it dynamically occurs between
the pelvis and the navel. It is most pronounced during posterior tilts of the
pelvis (retroversion) with the torso fixed, but is most valuable in anteversion
of the pelvis.
One can imagine that with the combined effects
of mulabandha and swadhi bandha the lower energies are harmonized activated,
concentrated . and compounded below and behind the navel with great intensity
. It creates energy and heat at the lower belly (tan tien in Chinese and hara
in Japanese). Nabhi bandha stimulates, purifies, and balances the first three
chakras especially balancing the apana and prana. It is especially able to cure
diseases of apana deficiency when combined with effective mula, swadhi, and
uddiyana bandhas. It is a specific tonic for the water/fire region and especially
so for the prostate/ovaries, adrenals, assimilation (lower small intestines)
, upper lumbar, and kidneys.
Like the other asanas and bandhas nabhi is most effective for
those suffering from specific imbalances such as excessive lordosis (swayback),
tightness of the groins, lack of hip extension, weak hip extensors, tight hip
flexors, obesity, constipation,, weak iliopsoas, tight quadratus lumborum, lack
of energy, lower back problems, and other maladies of that specific region.
As an energy lock, nabhi bandha can be implemented all the time,
but it is most actively implemented physically at the end of uddiyana bandha
(at the end of a full exhalation). After that is mastered, then advanced practitioners
can actively implement nabhi bandha after a full inhalation (like uddiyana bandha)
to top off an antar kumbhaka.
More commonly Nabhi bandha helps expel all the air out of the
lungs when implemented at the end of exhalation (after uddiyana bandha).
Also utilizing nabhi bandha (especially at the end of the inhalation)
helps move the heart forward and upward -- raising even the apex of the lungs,
lengthening the spine, and providing the action of compounding, churning, and
compaction of the inner heat that melts the hardness of the mind (such in the
advanced practices of pranayama, tummo heat, and mudras, utilizing vase breathing
(see the chapter on pranayama and mudras for more).
Avoid any tension/tightness in the hara. Use
nabhi bandha to soften the deep fascia of the lower abdomen, and remove hardness.
Do not allow nabhi bandha to restrict the movement of the thoracic diaphragm
and thus the depth of the incoming air. Rather allow the air and movement to
completely penetrate all the way into the muladhara even more so by the application
of nabhi bandha.
Realize that when the breath and prana is coursing deeply through
the body/mind nabhi bandha happens by naturally itself, through grace. Thus it
is not necessary to consciously implement, nor should one strive to hold it. However
as an intentional conscious practice, when we explore and investigate the energy
of this bandha in asana, meditation, pranayama, mudra, and the like, we find that
we can also help alleviate obstruction, obscuration, energy stagnation, tension,
imbalance, while not only allowing the energy to freely move but also augment
distant energy centers as well as our overall energy, balance, and alignment.
This is the same motion described so much in asana practice
to open the arm pit chest complex and shoulder girdle. It is a necessary ingredient
for the facilitation of jalandhara bandha (in order for the chin can rest upon
the sternal notch the sternum/chest must raise to meet it). It appears complicated
because it utilizes the rib attachments both in front at the sternum and at
the transverse processes in back. Being that the ribs connect with the pelvis,
neck, and skull much is involved both in front and in back, up and down, and
laterally as well. Hri bandha involves the oft times obscure internal relationship
between the sternum, ribs, spine, collarbones, scapula, humerus, pelvis, trochanter,
and skull. In order for this area centered at the heart to open energetically
from the inside out in all directions., the lower bandhas first have to be engaged
Hri meaning heart or core is the heart of the heart and ultimately
refers to the transpersonal heart of all hearts or central axis of the universe
associated with the deepest interconnection of the sahasrara chakra which cannot
be described by the author. But here in the human heart area our feelings and/or
our ability to feel or fear of feeling come into contact with the sea of our
emotions as well as our ability to express our feelings. It is here that we
feebly and dysfunctionally try to hide from our pain and fears. Conversely,
hri bandha reverses this energetic close down of the anahata chakra (feeling
Paradoxically some call Hri Bandha, banker's pose, because of
the stereotype of the banker sticking his thumbs up and under the arm pits moving
the armpit chest forward and up in a spiral movement while the scapula sinks.
Richard Freeman is fond to remind us that banker's pose is open 24/7 -- all
Moving the center of the sternum forward; the lower ribs and
navel point down and back (nabhi and uddiyana bandha); the upper most ribs,
collarbone, and top shoulder points tilt up, around, back, and down; the top
of the scapula moves posterior and caudad, the bottom of the scapula pressing
anterior (toward the sternum) and slightly up, the medial sides of the scapula
abduct and separate from each other (but not protract) while moving anterior,
the center of the armpits rotate up, around, and back,, the collarbone widening
and lifting (usually with in-breath). This motion is very difficult to visualize
utilizing the three plane model, but it can be strongly felt with grace and
This all occurs without raising the back of the occiput up (the
latter occurs with jalandhara bandha when combined with hri bandha). Visualize
the heart expanding forward as a circle in all directions while you visualize
interlocking the heart energy with the throat chakra, ajna, and sahasrara above
and the manipura, swadhistana, and muladhara below. This movement is essential
for backward bends of the torso, relieving congestion of the heart, relieving
fear and anger, expressing feelings, alleviating pulmonary congestion, certain
digestive disturbances, shoulder, neck ,and upper back problems, and other endemic
problems of this region.
Benefits: Hri bandha opens the heart chakra and upper
thoracic region connecting the throat (akasha) with the belly (fire). It accomplishes/completes
jalandhara bandha by being activated -- as the chin approaches the sternal notch,
the sternal notch raises to meet the chin. This is the motion that opens the
chest, remediates kyphosis, and accomplishes/completes upper backward bends
(back extension) such as in raj kapotasana (king pigeon), full locust (salabhasana),
matsyasana, urdva-dhanurasana, etc. It allows us to stay in touch with our feelings,
opens our heart, allows us to cope with sadness and depression, counteracts
sunken chest, down trodden and burdensome feelings, cowering, fear in general,
low self esteem, obsequiousness, and so forth. Hri bandha is very useful in
lung, chest, neck, throat, and shoulder complaints.
Cautions: People with military chest or over extended
thoracic curves and flat backs should consult a yoga therapist.
Many more bandhas exist as well. These all can be seen as configurations
assembled for the purpose of moving energy through the overall system and/or
specific sub-systems at crucial junctures such as sluices, valves, and such.
As such they are closely aligned with mudras, except that hatha yoga mudras
combine asana, pranayama, bandha, and visualization all together (See chapter
All the bandhas have an energetic aspect which is causal/precursory
to the physical. Knowing what comes first, we are able to merge the annamaya
kosha (physical body) with the energy body (pranamaya kosha). Thus an energetic
practice entertains both the physical and the mental. A joyful practice embraces
it. The mind also rides the horse of the wind (prana) as nothing can move without
energetic direction. Thus the practice that focuses on awareness, breath, and
energy emotes (creates the bhava) the remedial wavelike motion that stills the
multiplit mind patterns-- bhavas of BHAVA -- light of
LIGHT; so that the great Light of Universal Infinite can blaze forth
burning up all adhi/vyadhi, karma, klesha, samskara, and vasana-- instantaneous
flash of grace. We offer this burnt offering upon shakti's healing altar.
Bandhas by binding the external dissipating flow of energy,
binds the outflowing of mental wanderings of attention (or the ordinary discursive
mind). This is not a repression of the mind nor the vital energy, but rather
the activation of the vital non-dissipative energy which reactivates repressed
instinct, rekindles the intuition and inner wisdom, activates the dormant circuitries
and evolutionary wisdom centers of the natural spontaneous all encompassing
and non-distractive transpersonal non-dual mind. In one sense, the ordinary
mind rides upon the wind of the energy vectors (and is thus considered distracted
and dissipated because it has been brought outside of its core/heart center
and into a dualistic objectified and sterile materialistic world. Yet at the
same time, this ordinary mind can be trained to direct the energy, focus and
concentrate it through pratyhara, pranayama, dharana, and meditation of which
the bandhas are the physical representation. Thus it is a two way street where
the energy moves, so does the mind and likewise where the mind and attention
moves so does the energy. Here the practice of bandha with pranayama over a
period of time is very effective in revealing these subtle interrelationships
and thus from this wisdom allowing us to attain conscious freedom from such
vrttis (disturbances) of consciousness (citta). This is why it is emphasized
that bandha practice as well as pranayama practice should never be reduced to
a mechanical science, but rather as an awareness art -- a further exploration
of swadhyaya and consciousness answering the question: who am I, what
is life, what is reality, what is consciousness?
If a partnership or meeting of mind and energy (cit prana or
cit shakti) becomes united -- inextricably bound together -- they reach through
wisdom and method across the ocean of suffering. Thus the practitioner does
not try to master or control the winds, nor does the practitioner become victim
of the winds. Rather the authentic student observes the winds through investigating
them through pranayama, bandha, asana, and mudra and then is instructed by the
nature of prana (prana shakti) and follows this to its limitless Source.
Thus the manomaya kosha aligns up with the pranamaya and annamaya
koshas, and they in turn destroy the veil of limiting beliefs and false identifications
(of the vijnanamaya kosha) completely. The single ambrosial taste of that exquisite
alignment meshes with the anandamaya kosha to produce the one taste of bliss.
The Great All Inclusive Yantra is enjoined together/completed.
All aligned, inner and outer -- and bound together in one ecstatic
prayer dance. The body and mind is part of the Great Yantra -- they complete
it. Here the inner constellations align up, they mesh with the outer constellations.
One day exquisite balance -- synchronicity -- is achieved, neither inner nor
outer -- rather non-dual -- The energy residing in the central channel (sushumna)
- weightless -- burdenless devoid of sorrow -- Rainbow hued Mandala -- Rainbow
Oh Greatest Bandha beyond the bliss -- Oh Paramananda Bandha
-- The front and the back, left and right, top/bottom -- All Directions/Noh
Directions -- at the Cross Roads of Love -- at the Hridayam -- the Great Binding
of Hearts within the HEART! All Our Relations!
Life is inexorably bound together!Ho! It is Sacred!