Sunday, April 17, 2005

Bandhas

Bandhas play an important role in the cleansing processes

Pranayama helps to reduce waste matter in the body by directing the agni - the fire of life.

Bandhas are the means by which this process can be intensified.

The old texts tell us that by using the bandhas, the agni can be directed to the exact place where the rubbish has settled and is blocking the flow of energy in the body. The bandhas intensify the effect of the fire.

Bandha = to bind or tie together, to close,
in the way it is used in yoga it is "to lock"

WE LOCK CERTAIN AREAS OF THE TORSO IN A PARTICULAR WAY

3 principle bandhas:


1. j?landhara bandha
2. udd?y?na bandha
3. m?la bandha

j?landhara bandha involves the neck and upper spine and makes the whole spine erect

udd?y?na bandha focuses on the area between the diaphragm and the floor of the pelvis

m?la bandha involves the area between the navel and the floor of the pelvis

1st - learn j?landhara bandha
To start with we have to lift the spine so that it is very straight.
Then the head is pulled back a little and the chin is lowered.
As long as the chin is down and the back is straight we are in j?landhara bandha. This bandha can be performed with many, though not all ?sanas.

2nd - udd?y?na bandha - only when you are certain of and well practiced in j?landhara bandha should you try udd?y?na bandha. In this technique the diaphragm and the lower abdomen are raised. As you begin to exhale you contract the abdomen. By the end of the exhalation the abdomen should be fully contracted, drawn up and back towards the spine. With this contraction the diaphragm rises. When this bandha is mastered, the navel moves towards the spine and rectal and back muscles contract. At the completion of udd?y?na bandha the whole abdominal area is hollow.

IMPORTANT - that the contraction and relaxation occur slowly
- if the breath is held for 10 seconds after the exhalation (for example) then you should take at least two seconds to release the abdomen.
- if the abdomen is not fully relaxed after udd?y?na bandha, the following inhalation will be restricted and you will experience a choking feeling. It is easy to get the right feeling for udd?y?na bandha in some of the easier ?sanas such as tad?ka mudr? and adhomukha ?v?n?sana.

m?la bandha - develops out of udd?y?na bandha - we release the upper abdomen and diaphragm but maintain the contraction in the lower abdomen. In other words, the area below the navel remains contracted where the area above it is released. We move from udd?y?na bandha into m?la bandha during the following breaths, even while inhaling.

Bandhas and ?sanas

We should begin practicing the bandhas in simple ?sanas so that the body can get used to them.

The easiest position is lying flat on the floor with the arms resting on the floor over the head. We can practices udd?y?na bandha in this position ( tad?ka mudr?). tad?ka refers to the big pools on the temple grounds in India. Hollowing the abdomen in this position reminds us of one of these pools. Another simple position for practicing the bandhas is adhomukha śv?n?sana (the downward-facing dog pose). Anyone who is ready to practice the bandhas in these position is ready to try them in a sitting position such as mah?mudr?.

Mah? mudr?, the great mudra - is essentially only called this when all three mudras are involved. The position of the heel in the perineum supports the m?la bandha.

With the exception of j?landhara bandha, the bandhas can also be carried out in inverted positions - such as the headstand.

The bandhas are easy in this ?sana because raising the rubbish to the flame (with udd?y?na bandha) and holding it there (with m?la bandha) is greatly assisted with the body mechanics of the posture. In all the inverted postures, the rubbish is raised to sit above the flame. The flame burns up toward the rubbish and the rubbish moves down to the flame.

If we master the breath in the shoulder stand, then this is also a good posture in which to practice the bandhas. The best ?sanas therefore for practicing the bandhas are a few of the inverted postures and all the postures in which we are lying flat on the on the back or sitting with a straight spine. The practice of bandhas is very difficult or impossible in ?sanas such as backbends and twists, and are therefore best avoided.

A word of caution: do not use bandhas throughout the ?sana practice. Like all other yoga techniques, bandhas should be practiced artfully and not obsessively. The help of a good teacher is essential.

Bandhas and Pr???y?ma

Only when we can comfortable execute the 3 bandhas in the ?sanas discussed above are we advanced enough to introduce them in our pr???y?ma practice. Let's consider how the bandha positions intensify the cleansing effect of pr???y?ma.

j?landhara bandha positions the torso in such a way that the spine is held erect.
This makes it easier for the prana to move the flame toward the rubbish that needs burning.

udd?y?na bandha then raises the rubbish up toward the flame

and

m?la bandha helps us leave it there long enough for the rubbish to be burned.

These three bandhas can be used during both ?sana and pr???y?ma practice.

J?landhara bandha can eventually be maintained during the whole process of inhalation, exhalation, and holding the breath.

Udd?y?na bandha can only be done during breath retention following the exhalation.
M?la bandha, like j?landhara bandha, can be maintained during the whole pr???y?ma practice.

Because udd?y?na bandha is done only as you hold the breath after exhalation, one of the most important prerequisites for anyone who wants to practice it is that you must be capable of holding the breath for a long time after exhalation without sacrificing the quality of either the inhalation or the exhalation - if this is not possible then you must not consider doing this bandha.

If you want to do j?landhara bandha you must make sure that you are not tense in the neck or the back - so that you can hold your spine erect without any trouble while you keep your chin down. If you try to draw your chin down when your neck is stiff, greater tensions and pain will develop.

Only j?landhara bandha can be practiced with kap?labh?ti and bhastrika pr???y?ma. You should not do the bandha in ?ital? pr???y?ma, because in that exercize you are moving the head up and down.

If the bandhas are to be practiced during pr???y?ma, we must first establish a ratio of breathing - ie - inhalation, exhalation, and holding the breath - that we can maintain comfortably during twelve breaths without bandhas. We can then gradually introduce the bandhas.

As in our daily ?sana practice, we follow the principle in viny?sa krama, building up the strenuous practice of bandhas step by step. We then taper off gradually and finish our pr???y?ma practice with simple breathing. We intensify our practice until we make progress in the preceding step, practicing patiently without forcing the body or the breath.

First you practice Uddiyana bandha
Then jalamdhara bandha
Uddiyana bandha can be done standing, sitting or even in lying postures
NOT AFTER EATING (because it involves the forceful drawing in of the abdomen)
Uddiyana bandha is the basis for jalamdhara bandha

Jalamdhara bandha can be practiced in padmasana, brahmasana, siddhasana, svastikasana, vajrasana, baddha konasana, bhadrasana, and mulabandhasana

(some yogis say that danadasana, kraubacasana and virasana are also suited by jalamdhara bandha)

Contracting the neck – placing the chin firmly on the chest
The eyes must be between the eyebrows and kept closed

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