Introduction to the Bandhas
By: Jessica Jayne
Anybody who has ever seen me move knows that I make big movements: full of expression, fluidity, and expansion. I don’t tend to create shapes that look like the traditional asana, and I play inside of the shapes. I move around, wiggle, and push and pull the boundaries of my body to its fullest extent.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the way that I teach and how that's directly correlated to the way that I move. I’m not a standstill kind of asana teacher, because I’m not a standstill kind of asana practitioner. I don’t teach about anatomical alignment (a little of course, but you won’t be hearing much about the psoas or functions of the shoulder joint in my class) and more-so teach about the energy of the body.
I teach what I know; and that is how to explore the body, in a safe way, to better understand ourselves within our human nature and to realize who we are beyond that.
One of the main ways I translate this, is through energetic alignment. What I have realized through much of my own experience and study, is that if we are able to have a strong sense of energetic alignment-- we are then able to move in ways that aren’t systematic, that are explorational, and still keep ourselves safe.
We begin to experience a ‘lighter’ awareness within the physical body that allows for us to move fluidly through different shapes, go upside down with ease, and backbend with softness. This doesn't just come down to the asanas themselves however, as when we are more aware of our energetic body it follows us everywhere; in the way we walk, dance, run, move, etc…
When it comes to keeping the body safe and secure, the yogis understood that it came down to understanding our bodies in a more subtle way. We can experience this physically, but it is different than just activating muscles with our fullest engagement and/or tensing and releasing muscle tissue.
In Sanskrit, Bandha means to lock, tighten, or grip. A better translation or understanding though would be a valve, or doorway. Similar to the way a valve on a tire lets air in while also keeping it from escaping, the bandhas keep energy contained within energy channels to cultivate support and vitality within the body.
Most people are familiar with the three center channel Bandhas, however there are multiple Bandhas that we can become aware of to deepen our awareness of the body.
When all of these bandhas are activated, we enter into a new place of awareness within the entire body where we are fully supported energetically and physically.
· Mula Bandha, which is often associated with the pelvic floor muscles, and otherwise known as the ‘root lock.’
· Uddiyana Bandha, is in relation to the deep abdominal muscles behind the diaphragm.
· Jalandhara Bandha, often referred to as the ‘chin lock’ and is physically located within the throat muscles.
· Maha Bandha, “The Great Lock.” This is when all three bandhas in the torso are activated, we are fully supported in the spine and center channel of the body.
· Hasta Bandha, is the suction cup type feeling that happens when this bandha is activated in the palms.
· Pada Bandha, the energetic grip of the soles of the feet.
To get a more in depth look at each of the Bandhas, see my ‘Diving Deeper’ online training course for yoga teachers: coming soon! Preorder NOW to get early access!