Often when we practice yoga, we are told to engage our bandhas and while it can be very powerful enhancement to a yoga practice, it is also very confusing to a beginner as to what these bandha’sactually are!
Translations from Sanskrit to English often describe the meaning as ‘locks’ which initially adds a further layer of confusion. I have found that the easiest way to understand this translation isthrough the idea of a canal lock. In the same way that you are channelling the flow of water through the canals, sometimes maintaining extra water at one level of the canal, and sometimes opening it to let it through to another level; you can learn to do this with the energy or prana within the body too.
Yet even with a clearer picture of what a bandha is, how does it actually translate into the body.
What does it feel like?
My first yoga teacher, Nic Freeman, described Mula bandha as just behind the muscles that stop you going for a pee. A more recent inspiration Olof Kuijt seems to describe this more as a hollowing out of the pelvis, with a relaxed pelvic floor. I see the power in both of these, and further still, I would agree with what I understand Jonathan Monks to be saying in that bandha is not something we do but something that happens naturally to us.
So how does bandha happen?
It comes about through the lengthening of the spine. The stomach naturally draws into the back of the body supporting the spine, in addition the muscles around the pelvis are gently stretched and begin to hug against the bones creating an additional feeling of support and security for a healthy practice to sprout from.
How do we lengthen the spine!?
FoldedLeaf is one of the first flying AcroYoga positions you will begin to learn and its counter-opposite StraddleBat both have an amazing amount of therapeutic benefits. They are passive inversions, where you hang upside down on someone’s feet!
Once you begin to relax in the posture, you notice that your spine lengthens naturally, the belly begins to press towards the spine and all the benefits of bandha begin to make sense. Your base (the person supporting you on their feet) may try to distract you by massaging your freely hanging shoulders but that is another story, not for here…
This is just one way of many ways that you can discover your bandhas. You will find that anything that safely moves and increases awareness within the spine will help you intrinsically discover your bandhas and be useful to your yoga practice and general well-being.