Today’s pose doesn’t have a picture of me, because it requires you to activate areas that I can’t show you: the yoga bandhas. In Sanskrit, bandha mean to lock, hold or tighten. The goal in a yoga class is to activate all three bandhas at the same time, which results in an aligned spine.
Now you probably know from reading my blog that I’m not into the whole hippity-dippity-spiritual stuff. I’m an engineer’s daughter raised with pragmatism. But this bhanda-thing, it’s legit. In class, I tried to sit cross-legged on an exercise ball, which led to a fair amount of falling over. But then after learning about the bandhas, just like that, I was balancing. These yogis are on to something.
The three bandhas are:
1. Mula Bandha, or “root lock,” is located at the base of your spine. By activating this bandha, you keep the energy inside of you flowing up, not down and out. To do so, you lift the perineum or your bathroom muscles. The best way to explain this is activating what you use when you have to pee really badly.
2. Uddiyana Bandha, or the “flying up lock,” is located around your lower abdomen. To activate this, you must pull your belly button to your spine, as if you’re wearing a corset. You want to activate the trasversus abdomus, which are the muscles underneath your “six pack.” So, if you’re just flexing your abs, you’re not going deep enough. Really bring it in from the front and back.
3. Jalandhara Bandha, or “chin lock,” activates the anterior neck muscles, by dropping the chin slightly and lifting the chest. This engages the neck muscles and helps manage the flow of air through the respiratory passages. Picture yourself wearing a shirt that still has a coat hanger in it.
Learning about the bandhas has been eye opening. I do believe that I’ve been subconsciously activating something similar to bandhas during my years of swimming and ballet dancing, but I wasn’t aware of their importance energetically and anatomically. Actually, activating the bandhas while practicing yoga reminds me of swimming, which requires you to simultaneously resist and release. If your body is too tense, you’ll sink, but if you relax, you won’t move anywhere. And that’s the kind of coordination you’ll need to activate your bandhas while moving through your postures. I’m looking forward to how this physical shift will affect my practice.
Also, thank you, Jay Co, for the fantastic lecture! He’s really smart.