Understanding Bandhas and How to Use Them to Elevate Your Yoga Practice

Updated: Aug 30

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.

What are the Bandhas?

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?

The Benefits of Engaging Bandhas

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.