I often drop Sanskrit in my teachings and sometimes it is received with looks of overwhelm and other times people laugh because they feel silly because they have no clue what the heck I am talking about…For some reason YOGA is so intimidating for Yogi-virgins…Yoga, when taught correctly should be the most welcoming and calming activity. The misconception kills me because so many people could benefit from the utmost spiritual practice. The people who are the most intimidated and insecure probably need it the most too!
One terminology that seems to get a rise out of my students (or just one in particular), is Bandha. Bandha means “lock”. Bandhas are internal actions within the body that regulate the flow of prana or life force. Physiologically, by cultivating the bandhas in yoga, it gives us internal support for the lower back, pelvis, and abdominal regions of the body. All three bandhas have various influences on different organs and functions of our bodies. It’s most effective to practice bandhas in sitting or supine positions.
Maha Bandha, “The Great Lock” is all three bandhas engaged at one time.
Mula Bandha, “The Root Lock” is the engagement of the perianal muscles. The perineum is a group of muscles that extend the entire length of the pelvic floor at the base of the spine. By lightly drawing up this area of the body that most people know as a “keigel” the pelvis can then shift in to neutral alignment. Mula Bandha helps generate and maintain heat in the body. Mula Bandha retains prana/life force channeling along the spinal column facilitating postures by building strength. I encourage my female students in both Pilates and Yoga to keep their perianal muscles strong because helps support bladder and reproductive organs near the pelvic floor.
Uddiyana Bandha, “The Abdominal Lock” is the drawing in and up of the navel. This allows space for the diaphragm to drop and for lungs to expand on all sides. Try to lift, with the feeling of flying upward, but resist against the floating ribs. Much like Mula Bandha, this helps generate and maintain body heat. Uddiyana Bandha helps support lower spine and helps prevent hernia.
Jalandara Bandha, “The Chin Lock” is the dropping of the chin. Tucking the chin into the sternal notch. The sternal notch is in front of chest between clavicle bones. When emphasis is on lengthening the spine of neck to prevent compression from cervical spine, this bandha helps channel prana at top of spinal column.
Besides the bandha’s I often refer to DRISHTI in my classes which means, “Gaze”. Drishti’s are focal points that help keep us centering the mind and focusing on our bare existence and pure awareness. Drishti’s keep us in the present moment. For every breath, every pose, there are specific places to focus the eyes that aid in maintaining the integrity of the asana. There are nine drishti’s. The point between the brows is the one I most commonly refer to in classes when my student’s eyes are closed. It is called Broomadya. I tell students, “to imagine a lavender light there and take a delicate focus.”