Bandhas are energy locks. They are ways of holding the muscles, so that energy moves in an upwards direction. They can be performed with strength as in some Pranayama (breathing practices) and Kriyas (cleansing practices) but in asana they are generally very lightly engaged. This not only sends the energy upwards but gives us good posture and supports the internal organs, which are prone to follow the dictates of gravity, especially as we age. They also support our spine and help us to relax around a strong core.
Mula and Uddiyana Bandhas
Mula bandha is often referred to as a ‘lift of the pelvic floor’ or perineum. Women, after childbirth are familiar with this as Kegels exercises and very simply put we may explain it as an engagement of the muscles we would use to stop the flow of urine.
Uddiyana bandha is often referred to as the contraction and lengthening of the abdominal muscles.
Both these bandhas can be performed very strongly but for now we will learn a very simple method of engaging them so that they provide the necessary support while we perform our asanas (and go about our everyday activities)
To engage these bandhas we firstly can work with positioning the tail bone and pubic bone.
Try these exercises:
The first one is called the ‘bad puppy’. Stand with your hands on your hips and tip your pelvis so the tail bone is tucking under and forward and the abdomen is squeezing. This is just like a mischevious puppy who is in trouble, tucking their tail between their legs.
What did you feel? Did you find your lower back flattened and there was tension in the front of the torso?
Now do the opposite move and be a happy puppy, tuck the pubic bone under and back and let the abdominal muscles get all floppy. This is the position of a happy dog ready to wag their tail!
What did you feel? Did you become aware of the compressed feeling in your lower back and your abdomen bulging forward?
Now bring your tail bone and pubic bone equally towards each other (Mula bandha) and lift up through the centre of the body into a broad rib cage (uddiyana bandha)
Were you able to feel the very gentle engagement of perineum (the pelvic floor), the abdominals lengthening and a little engaged and the energy lifting upwards?
You can enhance this effect
- Stand in Mountain Pose.
- Breathe in and raise the arms up above the head and lift the whole torso as high as you can while keeping the tail bone and pubic bone drawing towards each other.
- Breathe out, and keeping that activation, lower the arms to half way in line with the chest and the palms facing upwards. Take a breath in and expand the breath into the side ribs.
- Breathe our and lower your arms beside your body keeping all those activations.
You are now standing in Mountain pose while engaging these bandhas.
How does it feel?
By Vrndavan Dasi
Founder and Principal of Veda Yoga Teacher Training