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July 30, 2021 4 min read

How many times have you found yourself standing in Tadasana when your yoga instructor told you to “Activate your Mula Bandha”? Like other yogis in the room, you likely had an understanding of what to do physically. Start with an exhale, engage the pelvic floor, then draw it up towards my navel. Okay, got it. But why am I doing this?

Through yoga, we learn there is an intention behind everything—a purpose behind our breathing and something to learn from every posture. So, when yoga instructors cue subtle adjustments like these, we might question something like whether it’s for our alignment or to keep our minds focused.

As you continue to deepen your practice, you’ll have more opportunities to explore these deliberate movements with intentional thought. Learning about the bandhas and how to activate them to take your practice to the next level is a great place to start.

In yoga, Bandhas are commonly referred to as “energetic locks.” ‘Bandha’ means “to lock,” and your body has four of these interior Bandhas, or locks, that you can activate to enhance your practice on a physical and mental level.

When you engage the Bandhas, you contract muscles in specific parts of the body, enabling you to cultivate more strength and stability. But if Bandhas are inherent to the physical aspect of yoga, what is their connection to and purpose for the energetic body?

Bandha activation is common in asana and pranayama (breath control) practices because it controls the flow of energy, or prana, in your body. Hence why they are known as “energetic locks.”

Often in yoga, we are told to open up, receive, or expand. So, it’s normal to question the purpose and benefits behind locking up our muscles and energy.

For one, Bandha engagement temporarily blocks off our blood flow. Once we release that engagement, it enhances circulation, promoting a fresh flow of blood. The old blood cells are cycled out through this increase in circulation, and our organs become stronger and healthier through this renewal. This restorative cycle can help regulate your internal systems, balancing everything from your digestive to hormonal and metabolic processes.

If you wondered whether Bandhas are cued in a yoga class to help promote better focus, you certainly weren’t off base. Along with strengthening your organs, you can also sharpen your mind because this muscular contraction provides a single point of concentration.

Through this enhanced focus on the body, tuning into the breath with more control and steadiness becomes almost second nature. The benefit of all this is a clearer, more concentrated, and calmer mind.

Finally, Bandhas are beneficial for your brain centers, nadis (where prana flows through), and your chakras (energy centers). By contracting and releasing Bandhas, you can remove energy blockages to create balance and harmony within your energy body.

The connection between Bandhas and energy starts to make more sense when you look at where they lie within the body and how to activate them. For instance, let’s go back to the Mula Bandha, which means the root lock. ‘Mula’ is the Sanskrit term for root - you also see this word in Muladhara chakra or root chakra.

There are four main Bandhas that will help deepen your practice by connecting you to your internal energy flow.

Mula Bandha: Root Lock

When you engage your Mula Bandha during your yoga practice, you contract the pelvic floor muscles. The Root Lock directs your energy flow upwards, making you feel lighter on your mat and lighter within yourself. This upward energy can help you reach a higher level of consciousness.

Uddiyana Bandha: Flying Upward Lock

The Flying Upward Lock is located between your navel and spine - the point where your diaphragm forms an energetic funnel. This Bandha moves energy upwards with a great deal of force, bringing your awareness of higher realms and consciousness with it.

On a physical level, activating this Bandha massages internal muscles in your lower back, helping to stimulate digestion. On an energetic level, this contraction can create more awareness of your heart chakra, inviting more love into your life and releasing stress.

Jalandhara Bandha: Throat Lock

Jalandhara is best understood as the locking of energy flow through the vessels and nerves of the neck area. For this reason, this Bandha is typically engaged along with other breathing practices or meditation. It also helps to heighten these practices by increasing your concentration and moving and holding energy in the upper chakras.

The Throat Lock compresses the main arteries in your neck, which puts pressure on your throat. The physical benefit of this sinus compression is that it helps balance your thyroid to regulate your metabolism.

Maha Bandha: The Great or Ultimate Lock

The Maha Bandha is the activation of all the Bandhas at the same time. This lock has a tremendous impact on quieting the mind. And since it is limited to specific yoga postures, it is typically used in pranayama and mediation practices.

The ultimate goal of deepening your understanding of Bandhas is not just to learn how to guide your students through the steps to engage them. In our 300-Hour Online Yoga Teacher Training course lesson on Bandhas, we will dive further into the specifics of how to engage these locks in your practice. You can view the entire lesson on Bandhas for free here.

Through experience, practice, patience, and repetition, the Bandhas will teach you important lessons to apply to your practice and life off the mat.

Some day you can inspire that same level of curiosity in your students that you once had. One day, you will be the instructor who tells your students, “Activate your Mula Bandha”, with inner-knowing and intention that reaches beyond the physical body.

Learn more about our self-paced online yoga teacher trainings.

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