What are yoga Bandhas? Bandha means to bind your attention. It is a way to focus the mind on one point.
They are not only a physical action but are a way of containing and channeling the energy within the body.
The first bandha is Mula Badha. In Sanskrit “mula” means root. Mula Bandha is the root lock. During a hatha yoga practise you can find it you can be in a sitting or standing position. At the end of an inhalation, lift your perineum in towards your spine and up towards the diaphragm. The action is similar to lifting the muscles around your anus and vagina for a female and the area between theanus and the testes for males. Initially the anal sphincter will also contract, but with time and practice Mula Bandha becomes less about the physical contraction of the muscles in the pelvic floor area and more about a subtle holding of the energy.
This lock allows your energy to flow up instead of down and out. Engaging Mula Bandha can lead to a feeling of lightness in you limbs and allow you to transition from one pose to another in a more flowing manner.
Uddiyana Bandha Moving up from mula bandha we have the second bandha, Uddiyana Bandha which translates as Upward Abdominal Lock.
This lock is all about your insides moving upwards, meaning your energy and your diaphragm, stomach, and abdominal organs. Uddiyana Bandha moves the energy upwards which allows you to move into inverted posture and jump more easily, as well as float forwards and back more lightly, and twist more deeply.
When Uddiyana Bandha is engaged the abdominal wall presses the organs and tissues of the abdominal cavity backwards which creates a soft massage for the deeper internal muscles of the lower back.
It is best to access Uddiyana Bandha on an empty stomach and also only after an exhalation not before an inhalation. Stand with your feet slightly apart, eyes open. Inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale quickly and forcibly, also through your nose (or pursed lips). Contract your abdominal muscles fully to push as much air as possible out of your lungs and at the same time pull the entire abdominal region back towards the spine, drawing the navel inwards and upwards.
Inhale and exhale while maintaining the lift and with each inhalation begin directing the breath into the side ribs and chest.
Hold for five cycles of breath before releasing.
Jalandhara Bandha is the third lock. In Sanskrit jal means throat, Jalandhara Bandha can be thought of as the throat lock that controls the flow of energy in the nerves and blood vessels of the neck. To find Jalandhara Bandha sit up tall in a comfortable cross legged position such as Sukhasana. Place the palm of your hands on your knees. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, then bring your chin towards your neck and at the same time lift your sternum ever so slightly.
A common mistake is to try and bring the chin to the neck but in fact your chin should be met half-way by the elevated sternum.
While holding the lock try and lengthen the back of the neck and release the shoulders.