The practice of asana is a very effective way to re-establish the connection with the body we inhabit, but the physiological mechanism that deepens the process of restoring and rebalancing the nervous system is breathing. (Eddie Stern)
There is an integrated technique in breathing called “bandha” that translates as closure or seal. These closures (there are several) direct the internal energy currents to the appropriate energy channels and act as support mechanisms to the physical and energetic body that provide lightness and vigour so that asana and pranayama are executed correctly and with less effort. They help create lightness and stability in the body while contributing to its flexibility and alignment. Also, they protect the internal organs and balance and cleanse the digestive system.
Point out that a light and solid body has nothing to do with a slim body. There are thin people with very heavy bodies and bulky people with very light bodies. Yoga’s inner actions work from within the body and create inner strength, cleanliness, and inner beauty (kindness, compassion, honesty). A body in good physical shape is a by-product of internal practice, and it is not the objective, it is a vehicle that provides us with a better quality of life but does not guarantee it.
Bandhas are often referred to as muscle contractions; however, it is more appropriate to approach them as a subtle aspect of breathing. Activating specific muscles of the abdominal wall and pelvic floor helps withstand long, controlled inhalations and gentle, long exhalations. When the breath is calm and controlled the mind will be too. In other words, the bandhas support the respiratory process while providing lightness and strength to the physical body and stabilizing the internal sensations.
Here the three main ones:
MULA BANDHA or root lock
Mule is a source, origin, base, root. On a physical level, it is difficult to locate and is confused with raising the perineum. While it contracts during “mula bandha”, it involves specifically raising the internal anal sphincter as it feels to resist a bowel movement or Kegel exercises. The easiest way to locate it is at the end of an inhalation.
By strengthening the pelvic muscles, it helps to strengthen the lower abdomen, support the lower back, lengthen the spine and create lightness by reducing the heavy energy that is collected in the lower abdomen and anus.
Redirects the updraft of energy upwards and strengthens the muscles surrounding the rectum and sexual organs as well as the pelvic muscles.
It offers great support to relax and calm the body during the performance of asanas.
UDDIYANA BANDHA or Upward abdominal lock
It is located about three fingers above the pubis. It is complicated to isolate, and it is possible to locate it in the area of the abdomen that contracts at the end of a long exhalation. Contracting and elevating the lower abdomen will cause the entire area surrounding the lower stomach to press against the spinal column so that the diaphragm rises and the “uddiyana banda” joins a “mula bandha” that is already active. Helps to raise vital energy.
Protects the abdomen and lower back by strengthening the muscles and keeping them active throughout the asana practice.
Relieves tension and acts on the abdomen, cleaning and massaging the internal organs and intestines; also corrects the alignment of the lower back.
It elevates the internal organs and chest, which helps to open the way for oxygen to ascend to the head and keep it clear and energized.
JALANDHARA BANDHA or Chin Lock
Restricts the upward flow of energy and directs energy down toward your navel when locked with your chin toward your chest.
The bandhas are applied to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the asanas we are doing. We should try to keep them in mind throughout the practice, releasing them on some occasions, slightly raising them on others and contracting them fully and actively when necessary. There are asanas where it is easier to keep them in mind, for example, in the “downward facing dog” it is easier to activate “uddiyana bandha” than in a back extension. “Paschimottanasana” and “Baddhakonasana” are essential for “mula bandha”. In inverted postures, the bandhas are very important because they help to purify the waist area, the lower abdomen and the elimination organs.
Jalandhara bandha can be applied during internal as well as external retention.
In any case, it is about applying them (Uddiyana bandha and Mula bandha) as many times as possible. Even with many years of practice, they come and go. With time they will contribute to establishing lightness in the body and stability in the mind in association with breathing.