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!