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Bandha in Yoga

Bandha in Yoga – A Comprehensive Guide

Bandha in Yoga – Summary

  1. Bandha means to ‘hold’, ‘tighten’ or ‘lock’
  2. Traditionally, bandhas were classified as part of mudras
  3. Bandhas should first be practiced and mastered individually.
  4. Only then can they be beneficially incorporated with mudra and pranayama practices.
  5. They awaken the psychic faculties and form an adjunct to higher yogic practices
  6. There are 4 Bandhas – (1) Jalandhara Bandha, (2) Moola Bandha (3) Uddiyana Bandha (4) Maha Bandha (a combination of the first three).

The Sanskrit word bandha means to ‘hold’, ‘tighten’ or ‘lock’. These definitions precisely describe the physical action involved in the bandha practices and their effect on the pranic body. The bandhas aim to lock the pranas in particular areas and redirect their flow into sushumna nadi for the purpose of spiritual awakening.

Traditionally, bandhas were classified as part of mudras, and were handed down by word of mouth from guru to disciple. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika deals with bandhas and mudras together and the ancient tantric texts also make no distinction between the two. Bandhas are extensively incorporated in mudra as well as pranayama techniques. 

Their locking action, however, reveals them as a fundamentally important group of practices in their own right. Bandhas should first be practiced and mastered individually. Only then can they be beneficially incorporated with mudra and pranayama practices. When combined in this way, they awaken the psychic faculties and form an adjunct to higher yogic practices. However, it is important to observe the contra­indications.

Bandhas and the granthis

There are four bandhas: 

  1. Jalandhara Bandha
  2. Moola Bandha
  3. Uddiyana Bandha
  4. Maha Bandha (combination of the first three). 

These three bandhas act directly on the three granthis or psychic knots. Moola bandha is associated with brahma granthi, uddiyana bandha with vishnu granthi and jalandhara bandha with rudra granthi. The granthis prevent the free flow of prana along sushumna nadi and thus impede the awakening of the chakras and the rising of kundalini.

  • Brahma granthi is the first knot and it is associated with mooladhara and swadhisthana chakras. It is linked with the survival instinct, the urge to procreate and with deep, instinctive knowledge, awareness and desire. When brahma granthi is transcended, the kundalini or primal energy is able to rise beyond mooladhara and swadhisthana without being pulled back down by the attractions and instinctual patterns of the personality.
  • The second knot is vishnu granthi,associated with manipura and anahata chakras. These two chakras deal with the sustenance of the physical, emotional and mental aspects of human existence. Manipura sustains pranamaya kosha, the energy body, governing the digestion and metabolism of food. Anahata sustains manomaya kosha, the mental body, and they both affect annanmaya kosha, the physical body. Once vishnu granthi is transcended, one is no longer bound by physical, mental and emotional attachments. Relationships and energy become more universal, rather than being limited by personal preferences or aversions.
  • The final knot is rudra granthi, which is associated with vishuddhi and ajna chakras. Vishuddhi and ajna sustain vijnanamaya kosha, the intuitive or higher mental body, and represent the transformation of an existing form, idea or concept into its universal aspect. When rudra granthi is pierced, individuality is dropped. The old ego identification is left behind and the experience of unmanifest consciousness, beyond the phenomenal universe, emerges at ajna and sahasrara chakras.

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