• Emily Shain

Unlocking your yoga practice using the bandhas

Anatomy & Energetics: Bandhas are internal locks in the body that, when engaged, provide both physical and energetic support to the asana practice (physical yoga postures). Mulabandha, located at the perineum, is the most grounding of the forces. Physically engaging Mulabandha means a connection of inner thighs and pubic muscles to create a solid internal foundation for any number of poses ranging from seated meditation to pinchamayurasana (forearm stand). Uddiyanabandha follows at our deep core, abdomen and ribs, lifting us into an energetic connection with strength, direction and transformation. As life teaches us—when we have our core, we have everything; and Uddiyanabandha is one of the best ways to feel the core’s power. The belly lock is most easily accessed in the morning, on an empty stomach, through different pranayama exercises such as kapalabhati (pumping exhalations while engaging core muscles) or kumbhaka breath retention (lifting belly up, in and underneath the rib cage). Jalandhara Bandha is the third and final throat lock. It can be felt as the gentle tuck of the chin inwards towards the chest to keep the neck elongated from the back (in mediation or shoulder stand for example). Energetically, the throat lock sends us into a place of truth, listening and higher vibration. The unification and engagement of all three at once is termed Mahabandha (the Great Bhanda or the Great Lock), which in other words is the great holding and engagement of the internal body that only you can know and feel from within. Essence: The essence of the yoga practice is to go inward and to meet your body in its deepest trenches of sensations no matter what they are. The ideal is to know ourselves so profoundly that any movement, action or reaction we make would be connected to a deeper wisdom and peace we have cultivated inside our soul. The more we practice, the more the light located at the center of our being gets brighter, encompassing and radiating outwards. Engaging the bandhas is one of the most significant meetings we can have with our physical and subtle insides because the bandhas demand us to be focused, internally thoughtful and pure in our movements. When we flow in asana with our bandhas, it means we are moving from a truly connected mind-body space. I recently participated in a Talia Sutra workshop and she likened the bandhas to brakes on a car: they hold us, keep us safe and teach us the fluid balance between when to lean in and when to hold back. Poses: Some take-home work for you and your beautiful bandhas :): · Early morning meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises) such as Kapalbhati and Kumbkaha, or lifting all three into Mahabandha. · Forward folds: a great way to feel Mulabhanda and Uddiyanabandha. Paschimottanasana or Padangusthasana are where I personally feel them most. · Inversions such as Pinchamayurasana (forearm stand) demand keeping your foundation through an entire line of the body. Explore coming up with and without the bandhas. · Floating transition from downward dog to standing at the front of your mat. · Deep breathing