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The Sanskrit word "bandha" usually translates into “lock” but for our purposes, it is more appropriate to look upon it as meaning “valve”.
To use a bandha means to contract certain groups of muscles, to use them as a valve that can control the direction of the flow of energy that we create while we practise asanas (yoga postures).

There are three bandhas used in the Ashtanga Yoga practice: moola bandha, uddiyana bandha and jalandhara bandha. They can be used individually or all three at the same time.

  • Moola bandha (the “Root Lock”) is the most important bandha. It should be held almost throughout the whole practice. To hold moola bandha means to contract the muscles of the pelvic floor (perineal muscles) which helps to produce the heat needed in the practice and to keep the energy flowing through the body instead of leaving it.
  • Uddiyana bandha (the “Upward Flying Valve”). It should also be held almost throughout the whole practice. To hold it means to exhale and contract the lower belly (three fingers below your navel) inward and upward. Imagine that your navel is tied to a string and you affix this string to your spine.
  • Jalandhara bandha (the “Chin Lock”). To hold it means to extend the chin forward and then draw it back into the notch between the two clavicle bones. It is used only once, during the practice of pranayama (breath control) in padmasana (the lotus posture).

Holding moola bandha is perhaps the most important aspect of Ashtanga Yoga – even more important than the breathing rhythm and by far more important than performing an asana “correctly”. Originally, bandhas were the first thing that was taught to beginners, followed by the breath and only then asanas were taught.

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