Bandhas

Mula Bandha | मूल बंध (Bandhas part 1/4)

The Mula Bandha and the Perineal Muscles

Sanskrit for “MULA” – मूल

Bulbospongiosus_Female

In Sanskrit, Mula means “root”, foundation, origin, source, and beginning. Bandha means energy lock, bond, hold, or harness. Mula bandha is the root of the body, the excretion point and the bottom of the spine. This is the same as the perineal muscle group and terminates between the coccyx and tailbone.

Strengthening the perineal muscles has a variety of effects, including greater control over sexual organs through strengthening the area between your sphincter and your sex organ. It is also healthy for digestion and excretion, two very important functions within the body.

Mula Bandha assists the body in breathing, most specifically with exhaling.

The pubococcygeus muscle is the primary agonist muscle to the perineal, and activates as a part of the levator ani muscle group. This is the muscle connects to the base of the spinal cord to contain energy within the spinal cord.

Bulbospongiosus muscle is a superficial muscle of the perineum, in both males and females covering the bulb of the sex organ, or vaginal wall and penis shaft. Then it connects to the front of the anus in two symmetrical parts. This is said to be the orgasm muscle, contributing to erection, ejaculation, and closes the vagina during intercourse. It is extremely important to the functioning of the sex organs and the muscles of excretion.

How to Activate Mula Bandha

Mula bandha is the primary bandha in yoga, it is said to seal energy into the spinal cord. Iyengar said that while one is working with the mula bandha, they are focused on the root of existence and creation. Ideally, you can practice this after an inhale, while you retain your breath. Squeeze your sex organs up and in while holding your breath for a few moments, then release. A 5 count can work well to start, then start working between exhale and inhale, when the breath has left the body completely, then engage the bottom of your diaphragm as the exhale completes, or essentially squeeze the exhale out. This is your Mula Bandha.

Perineal muscle activation is one of the most important and beneficial parts of a yoga practice, particularly involving inversions. Contraction of these floor muscles allow the abdomen to move in space without too much consequence, especially handstand will force it to strengthen in ways that the muscle would not normally need to.

Practice activating, then resting the mula bandha in breathing exercises with Kumbhaka (space between breaths) and during poses like warrior 2, standing splits. Find some time to experiment and strengthen the muscle during your practice.

The mula bandha is the Muladhara shakra of tantric traditions. I am not a big fan of the tantric traditions to I mostly ignore the chakras.

The Other Bandha’s interlockings, or muscle groups

Part 2: The Uddyiana Bandha

Part 3: Jalandhara Bandha

Part 4: Jihva Bandha

References for the Mula Bandha

  1. Wikipedia – Perineum
  2. Yoga International – Root Lock
  3. Ekhart Yoga – Mula Bandha

Mula Bandha | मूल बंध (Bandhas part 1/4) Read More »

"Illu01 head neck" by Arcadian - http://training.seer.cancer.gov/head-neck/anatomy/overview.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illu01_head_neck.jpg#/media/File:Illu01_head_neck.jpg

Jihva Bandha | जिह्वाबन्ध (Bandhas part 4/4)

The Fourth Bandha

The Jihva bandha is an interlock of energy used in yoga to perform certain postures and asana. This is one of the most useful tools in yoga, believe it or not. It creates more space in the back of the nasal cavity allowing for greater circulation through the lungs. The Jihva or Jiva Bandha is the interlock of the tongue to the root of the top front teeth. It causes an upward pull on the back of the tongue and lift on the top of the tongue and tissue attaching it to the mouth. It is possible to take this bandha while fully engaging ujjayi pranayama for tremendous effect. Because you are breathing through your nasal cavity, you can spend an entire practice with the interlock activated, though it might take a bit of time for your system to adapt to the mental focus involved.

Why to perform the Jihva Bandha

This exercises the tongue, a muscles that is very active and useful in human lives and the lives of most mammals. The bandha can be taken with the mouth closed or open, you should try both, to see how it feels, but keeping your mouth closed is a bit easier during the asana practice. This bandha is in no way necessary for practice, but it can intensity concentration at the peaks of meditation, or at the peak of a pose. Similar to the final alignment of drishti in a posture, the Jiva bandha is a final detail that can easily be overlooked, but adds immense relaxation and stillness to the final breaths of any posture.

This leads me into the final concept of the bandhas: focus. The reason that interlocking energy is so important in yoga is that it allows for immense focus, energy cycles more efficiently and pathways open to create increased control, concentration, focus, and ultimately room to breath. Each bandha is a piece of a larger puzzle and are tools to the freedom that a true Samadhi creates. By making each breath, nervous pulsation, and heartbeat as efficient as possible, you allow for the greatest efficiency and focus simultaneous.

Cascading interlocks in the spine

The bandhas are building blocks, one builds on the others and all three are like instruments that can be used during asana and meditation to take greater control of the spine through accessory muscles, and therefore respiration. Use them during breathing exercises, asana, and even while you are doing everyday things. Mula bandha can be great for your lower back while you’re driving! Take advantage of your own anatomy and make your practice easier and more efficient by employing these powerful tools and methods. Let me know if you have any questions!

 

 

 

 

Jihva Bandha | जिह्वाबन्ध (Bandhas part 4/4) Read More »

Jalandhara Bandha | जालन्धर बंध (Bandhas part 3/4)

Jalandhara bandha is an interlock tucking chin into chest to elongate the back of the neck. This is particularly useful in inversions like headstand and shoulder stand, which can place stress on the neck if it is not properly elongated. This interlock can also include opening the chest and sternum in many cases to allow for great lung expansion when inhaling.

The sanskrit meaning of the word is enlightening: Jala means web, or net and dhara means contracting. So the contraction of the chin towards the chest lengthens the posterior (rear) neck muscles to elongate the back of the neck and highest portion of the spine. The neck muscles truly are an interweaving web to allow for the massive amount of rotation and movement that our heads are capable of. neck_muscles_detail

By tucking the chin to chest, you allow the spine to grow longer, creating more room for breath neck_veins_detailcapacity (the spine is intricately linked to respiration). This is why the jalandhara bandha is used often in breathing exercises. Lengthening the rear neck muscles also creates more space for blood flow and nerve connections to the brain and skull. The arteries and veins that run along the neck muscles are extremely important; they transport oxygenated blood to the brain. This is why headstands and shoulderstands are so beneficial; they reverse this bloodflow and while the jalandhara bandha is locked allows for the nervous system to reverse it’s usually flow against gravity. The lymph system also receives enormous benefit from being inverted for an appropriate period of time.

There are also some essential organs that are compressed during the interlocks. The thyroid gland get compressed during the lock, which can create more space for functioning of the organ. The lymph system is also greatly affected by the interlock, because compressing the lymphs will also create more room for the flow of lymphatic fluid. The physical benefits of the interlock are undeniable.

neck_fullanatomy_details neck_greys_anatomy

You can see the muscles of the neck in more detail and how the interlock is truly a contraction of a web of muscles surrounding the Hyoid bone. We’ll talk more about the hyoid bone in the next article, part 4: Jiva bandha. You will also notice a release in the shoulders when practicing the interlock, because of the relationship between the neck and the shoulders. You can see the trapezius muscle extends all the way to the back of the skull and that lengthening this in combination with the serno-cleido-mastoideus muscle. Muscularly, the contraction is extremely important for headstands! You should not be practicing balancing on your head without this interlock! It will lead to neck pain and possible injury. Headstand, according the yoga alliance statistics, is the pose where people get injured the most often in the United States. This is probably a result of not knosasankasanawing how to fully extend the neck using the jalandhara bandha interlock. If you want to start learning about the lock without a chance of injuring yourself, start in shoulderstand. Lengthen your neck as much as possible and then practice building the strength necessary for headstand in rabbit pose (sasankasana).

Here is Leslie Karminoff’s depiction of shoulderstand, this is a great way to work on the bandha. I highly recommend checking out his work at Bandha Yoga.neck_muscles

Compress chin to chest during meditation at the end of exhales. You can retain the lock for an inhale as well, notice the increased space on your inhale. Combine this with the uddiyana bandha and mula bandha and then notice how much space there is. This is a full lengthening of the spine through muscular contractions and muscular interlocks, which is extremely useful for creating space for breath, and life force energy.

Stay tuned for the final piece of the puzzle of the bandhas, the Jiva bandha. Used in conjunction, these interlocks will change the way you practice. Stay tuned for part 4, talk to you soon…

Jalandhara Bandha | जालन्धर बंध (Bandhas part 3/4) Read More »

Ashtanga Yoga Founder Krishnamacharya

Uddiyana Bandha | उड्डियान बंध (Bandhas part 2/4)

Uddiyana Bandha is the second yogic muscular lock that occurs at the bottom of the rib cage. Uddyiana bandha is popularized, but largely misunderstood, I believe. Uddiyana means upward flying and bandha means energy seal, so this interlock moves energy up the spine. This opposed the mula bandha (root) lock descending down to the base of the spine. The Uddiyana bandha is important for inversion work, floating into handstand, jump backs from crow, etc. Think of anything where you are moving the trunk large distances as requiring the bandha lock. This is why lots of movements occur at the end of an exhale, because your abdominals are compressed towards your spine making for spinal stability during movement.

Uddiyana bandha is not a hollowing of the stomach! For some reason, people think that caving your stomach in supports your spine, but this is not true. Uddiyana bandha is far more of an engagement of the abdomen through breathe. Uddiyana bandha can be practiced in a wide variety of positions and the only time the stomach should be caved is after an exhale while doing prana-yama. Otherwise, Uddiyana bandha is simply the upward abdominal engagement of the obliques.

Most people will refer to the abdominal lock by hollowing the stomach in breathing exercises, but in truth, the muscular lock is a complex anatomical binding that allows for inversion and stabilized trunk movement in space.

The term Uddiyana bandha refers to the following muscles: the illiopsoas (hip flexor, walking muscle), the obliques, and the diaphragm. Together, these muscles are what allows you to walk, run, and move in space. This is why you will find so much yoga focusing on the psoas: think crescent lunge, low lunge, backbends, and hamsting lengthening in pyramid or ardha hanumanasana. a lot of yoga is geared towards making the psoas more malleable and flexible so that the body has more freedom for movement.

Patthabi Jois knew the importance of the bandhas, which is why the ashtanga system makes such heavy use of them. These interlocks can be attended to in each pose to allow for alignment, energetically and physically, of the spine. But to be honest, I’m fairly disappointed at the lacking of knowledge in this area. The uddiyana bandha is one of the more important muscle groups in the body and will take your practice to the next level will mindful work. Yes, even if you are already jumping into handstands.

This concludes part 2 of the bandha series. Check back soon for the Jalandhara bandha, part 3!

If you haven’t gotten a chance, check out part 1 here

Uddiyana Bandha | उड्डियान बंध (Bandhas part 2/4) Read More »

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