..all the kriyas have certain things which are assumed. First is proper posture and second is the locks. – Yogi Bhajan
The bandhs, or locks, are fundamental to Kundalini Yoga. Learning and developing the skill and internal awareness necessary in the practice of the three body locks brings both depth and effectiveness to yoga practice.
The bandhs direct the prana (the energy that flows into the body) and apana (the energy that flows out of the body). Prana and apana are the positive and negative sides of the life force and, when both are present in sufficient amounts, are blended together to induce neutrality and calmness. The life force is able to flow in a different manner and the Sushmuna, the central channel through the spine to the brain, is open to the flow of energy.
When the flow and circulation of prana and apana is established the Kundalini energy is awakened. Using the locks helps to direct this energy through your body and lifts the energy from your lower chakras into your higher chakras. The body locks heighten your awareness.
The locks are indicated in many Kundalini Yoga meditations and kriyas (sequenced yoga exercise sets). Applying the body locks properly will help you clear blocks that impede the open flow of energy through your physical body, chakras, and subtle bodies. With a steady flow of energy, you can bring harmony and balance to your life, you can have access to your core values, and you can express yourself with integrity.
There are three locks, neck lock (Jalandhar Bandh), root lock (Mul Bandh) and diaphragm lock (Uddiayna Bandh). When the 3 locks are applied together it is called the great lock or Mahabandh.
Neck lock – Jalandhar Bandh is a basic lock and is held throughout yoga practice unless doing neck movement or are otherwise instructed. It helps to stop the head leading postures (lead with your heart not your head), keeps the neck long and maintains spinal posture. To apply the neck lock:
- Sit comfortably with a straight spine.
- Lift your chest and sternum upward.
- Stretch the back of your neck gently straight by pulling the chin toward the back of the neck.
- Keep your head level and centered without tilting forward or to either side.
- Keep the muscles of your face, neck, and throat relaxed.
Root lock – Mul Bandh strengthens the core and moves the energy from the lower chakras. Note, if you are pregnant or in the first few days of your menstrual cycle (moon time) you should not apply the root lock. Instead you may gently lift through the pelvic floor.
To apply the root lock:
- Contract the anal sphincter and feel the muscles lift upward and inward. This is an internal contraction and not a tightening of the buttocks.
- Keep these muscles contracted and then contract the area around the pelvic floor. (You will experience a slight lift and rotation inward of the pubic bone that is like trying to stem the flow of urine.)
- Contract the lower abdominal muscles and the navel point toward your spine.
- Apply these three actions together in a smooth, rapid, and flowing motion.
- The root lock can be applied with the breath in or out and is sometimes held during and throughout a meditation or exercise. This can be done because the muscles used in the root lock are not the muscles used for breathing or the movement of your upper torso.
The Knot of Brahma
When you apply the mulbandh consciously and correctly, it is said to “untie the knot of Brahma.” The knot of Brahma is located at the first chakra, at the base of your spine. When the knot is untied and the energy is flowing smoothly, you feel balanced and free from your attachments to form and the senses.
Diaphragm lock – Uddiyana Bandh is both a physical and energetic barrier between the upper and lower chakras. The Diaphragm lock helps to strengthen digestion by increasing the fire element, the element of transformation in the abdominal region, and opens the heart centre. To apply the diaphragm lock:
- Be sure you do not have a full stomach.
- Apply this lock only with your breath fully exhaled—holding your breath out.
- Sit comfortably with a straight spine.
- Inhale deeply and exhale completely through the nose. Hold the breath out.
- Pull your entire abdominal region, especially the area above your belly button, back toward your spine.
- Keep your chest lifted and do not allow your chest to collapse downward.
- Press the lower thoracic spine forward gently.
- Keep the lift strongly applied for 10-60 seconds, according to your ability, without strain, and maintain a concentrated sense of calm.
- Release the lock by relaxing your abdomen and gradually inhaling.
The Great Lock – Maha Bandh
The Great Lock or Maha bandh is when all 3 locks are applied together with the breath held out.
To apply the great lock, fully exhale all of your breath. Apply Mul bandh, root lock, then Uddiyana bandh, diaphragm lock, completing the lock with Jalandhar bandh, neck lock. Hold the lock with the breath out, experience the rising of energy through the physical body (spine) and the chakras. Release the lock and inhale. Exhale and relax.
When the great lock is applied consciously and correctly, the body is said to enter into a healing state of balance.
Practice for applying the Bandh’s
Sit in easy pose with the spine straight. Inhale, apply and hold Mul bandh, the root lock, exhale and relax. Inhale, then exhale completely and apply Uddiyana bandh, diaphragm lock. Inhale and relax. Then apply Jalandahar bandh, the neck lock, hold and release. Do this a few times. Then try the great lock, Maha bandh. Inhale and exhale fully, holding the breath out apply Mul bandh, the root lock, then Uddiyana bandh, the diaphragm lock and finally Jalandahar bandh, the neck lock. Hold the lock, experience the effect of the energy rising up the spine, through the chakras towards the crown. Exhale and relax.
(Information for this post is from The Bandhas—Gateways to Developing Core Strength, Sensitivity, and Subtlety, available on the 3HO Foundation website)