In Sanskrit, Bandha means lock. Bandhas are neuromuscular energy locks which are engaged to gain control and lock prana, or life force to awaken the chakras. Bandhas are safely locked during the process of breath-holding Kumbhaka. Bandhas are an essential part of kriya yoga. The passage of liquids, solids, and gases through tubes in human systems are regulated by the ring of muscle thickening, called as sphincter. There are over sixty sphincters in human body. Three sphincters can be gently but powerfully contracted in order to create the bandhas or the locks. The flow of the prana that continuously streams through our subtle body is redirected and even stopped. The whole of body and mind is tranquilized and made receptive to the higher states of awareness.
The three sphincters are anal sphincter (create Mula Bandha), sphincter of Oddi (create Uddiyana Bandha) and upper oesophageal sphincter (create Jalandhara Bandha). When all three sphincters are closed, the fourth lock Maha bandha is created.
Apart Mula – the root lock, Uddiyana – lifting of diaphragm lock, and Jalandhara – the throat lock, two minor bandhas are at your hands and feet (Hasta and Pada). Bandhas temporarily halt the flowing of blood, so when released there is an increased flow of fresh blood. This flushes away the old, dead cells and activates the organs to strengthen, renew and rejuvenate as circulation is bolstered.
Bandhas & Prana:
The physical contraction or lock in turn has an extensive influence on the psychic (Pranic) Body and stimulate chakras. There are five major pranas that provide energy for five different kinds of life activities.
Bandhas & the three blocks (Granthis):
Traditionally, three granthis (Knots) which are psychic bodies not physical bodies, are called as the brahma, Vishnu and rudra granthis. These represent psychic blocks and mental problems that prevent an individual soaring into the realms of meditation. These granthis prevent the flow of prana into the main pranic passage of the body – the sushumna. Bandhas are particularly effective in breaking open or removing these blocks, at least for short period of time. The three blocks are:
Types of Bandhas:
The bandhas (Jalandhara, Uddiyana and Moola) are powerful techniques of inducing Kevala Kumbhaka.
The jalandhara bandha influences the individual at all levels: physical, psychic and mental. It has several benefits –
People who suffer from high BP or heart ailments should not do jalandhara bandha.
The best position to do Uddiyana is any meditative asana. The best time to do Uddiyana bandha is after asana and pranayama and before meditation. People who suffer from high BP, heart problems, peptic or duodenal ulcers, colitis and other serious abdominal problems and pregnant women should not do this practice. The best time is early morning before breakfast. It should be practised empty stomach (3-4 hours gap after eating meals).
Process - Sit in any meditative asana, place the palms flat on the knees, close the eyes, relax, exhale deeply by accentuated contraction of the abdominal muscles and chest, hold the breath outside, do Jalandhara bandha, expand the chest without actually inhaling which shall raise the diaphragm automaticially & abdomen to become concave in shape, being raised inwards and upwards (no need to contract abdominal muscles), this is final position, stay in final position as much as comfortable, slowly relax the chest, abdomen assumes its original position, release jalandhara bandha, bend the arms, inhale slowly, one round complete.
Uddiyana bandha can also be practised in standing position. Stand with the feet about half a meter apart, bend forwards, bend legs slightly at the knees, place the palms on the knees, exhale deeply, try empty lungs as much as possible, bend head downwards & press the chin against the chest in jalandhara bandha, arms straight, expand chest as done in inhalation but not actually breathing in, straighten the legs slightly which shall automatically draw abdomen upwards and inward, hold this position till possible comfortably, release the expansion of chest, bend the legs, release jalandhara bandha, finally breathe in.
The apana moves upwards and when it reaches the circle of the fire (manipura chakra) the flame lengthens and reaches the anhata chakra. When the apana and the fire meet at manipura the prana is heated. This increases digestive fire. Due to this kindling of fire, apana and prana, the sleeping kundalini is awakened; it becomes straight and enters the brahma nadi as snake enters into a hole. Brahma nadi is the central core of Sushumna. The practice brings about control of the prana and if done, with care and determination, all lethargy will vanish. It helps to transmute sexual energy. For kriya yoga, moolabandha is absolutely necessary in order to develop sensitivity in the region.
The best asanas to practice of moolabandha are siddhasana for men and siddha yoni asana for women. While sitting in the asana, one heel applies firm pressure in the region of mooladhara chakra, which improves physical contraction. Contraction in the mooladhara chakra area triggers the mooladhara chakra.
Sit in the comfortable asana, place palms on the knees, close the eyes, relax the whole body, then hold the breath & practise jalandhara bandh, contract the muscles at mooladhara chakra region, draw the muscles upwards as much as possible, keep the attention at the point of contraction, hold the contraction as much as possible, release the contraction, raise the head, breath out, repeat the rounds
Reference: A systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya – by Swami Satyananda Saraswati