Bandhas, Yoga's Inner Locks- Ramapo College's Workshop Notes


     Last Friday night I led an Online Bandhas Workshop with Ramapo College of New Jersey. We had a fabulous turnout with plenty of students who were ready to dive deep into yoga philosophy and practice. Here are a few online notes to inspire your yoga practice.

     Bandhas is a Sanskrit word which means your inner energetic locks. The bandhas can be found within the body by controlling your breath. When you practice yoga, breath work, and meditation for a while you start to get a better understanding of the inner energetic locks by way of feeling them. A sign of feeling them maybe you feel lighter and more graceful when you transition from one pose to another such as jumping to the top of your mat from downward facing dog or you can hold your poses longer with ease of breath. You might also notice your hands and wrists no longer feel like they are taking all of your weight when you practice crow pose and other arm balances.

    When we speak of the bandhas its not something you can grab and hold and say here it is. It's more elusive. Although there is a physical component to finding them as you stretch your breath and contract muscles, it's more of a subtle sensation. A feeling of using your energy efficiently much like a well trained dancer and athlete would. I often tell my yoga students "Energetically you want to be like a mountain. Where your lower body is solid and strong, your center is alive, and your upper body and head is light."

    To understand the Bandhas you may find it helpful to understand the Koshas. Yoga philosophy teaches that we have 5 Koshas which are sheaths which cover the Atman, the self. Imagine an onion and its many layers. We have layers too! The 5 layers are first the physical body layer called Anamaya Kosha. The energy body layer is called Pranayama Kosha followed by the mind and emotional body, Manomaya Kosha then the wisdom body, Vijnanmaya Kosha and finally the bliss body layer Anandamaya Kosha. 

    Envision yourself sitting in Pranayama Kosha. This is the energy body sheath which holds the chakras. It's the body of Prana where you have the network of Nadis, which means energy channels, that reside throughout the entire body from the outer edges to the core. The Sushumna, the central channel and the most radiant of the nadis is found at the base of the pelvis and runs up the center of our being into Sahasrara chakra, found at our crown. Within the Sushumna Nadi, the central channel, we can experience 3 Bandhas, our inner energetic locks. Below are their names with brief definitions. 

    Mula Bandha is found at the base of the pelvis. It stops the downward breath at the base of the pelvis and redirects that breath upwards. Overtime and with plenty of practice you will know how to contract and release it. Eventually working with it will be less forced and more subtle.

    Uddiyana Bandha is the abdominal lock. It is the gesture in which the navel draws in and lifts the energy of Mula Bandha upwards.

Jalandhara Bandha is mostly a gesture of bowing the chin to the chest where the frontal brain is passive to meet the rising chest. A feeling of reverence will come over you as you sense holding energy within your heart.

    When all 3 Bandhas are used together they are called Maha Bandha, meaning the great seal. I hope this post inspires you to look out for and feel for your Bandhas the next time you get on the mat and practice.  

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