Bandhas/Inner Energetic Locks Yoga Inspiration from Ramapo College of New Jersey's 200hr Online Yoga Teacher Training
|Maha Bandha/The Great Lock manifests when all 3 Bandhas activate|
I once read a Top 10 list of what yoga teachers need to stop telling their students. On that list was stop cueing "Use your Bandhas!" I'm not here to shame anyone because I just love people who have the enthusiasm to share and practice yoga. I do however understand why the bandha cue made the do not list because it's a deep teaching that doesn't communicate clearly to everyone with a quick shout out like "Engage your Bandhas!" My feeling is using Sanskrit terminology like saying "Turn on your Bandhas!" can be replaced with strategically cueing your students to engage their pelvic floor, abdominal, plus neck and shoulder muscles when the Bandhas, our inner energetic locks are needed to go deeper into a pose.
This weekend I'm leading an in depth online teaching about the Bandhas at Ramapo College's 200hr Yoga Teacher Training. This post is a quick mini overview for the yoga teacher training gang and for your yoga practice and teaching inspiration.
To understand the Bandhas, a Sanskrit word which means your inner energetic locks, 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 Annamaya 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 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 the 3 major Bandhas, our inner energetic locks.
Below are some pictures I highlighted with 3 different Bandha locations within our energy body. I included their names and brief notes about each. There's so much more I can share about this topic but I hope this brief introduction gets you inspired for now.
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 find 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 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.
Maha Bandha, the Great Lock, manifests when all 3 Bandhas are activated.
The Bandhas are most commonly noticed by the practitioner in difficult to sustain postures. The feeling of squeezing the pelvic floor, abdominals, and neck muscles with practice eventually minimizes and the practitioner can "Use the Bandhas!" with little to no effort. They just turn on when you need to harness your energy inward to ground the lower body and lighten the upper body.