There are three types of bandhas; mula, uddiyana, and jalandhara bandha. When practiced together they are called tri-bandha. They are practiced together or individually at specific times during kriya, asana, pranayama, mudra, visualization, and meditation practice. They also occur spontaneously especially in children, but also in yogis who can allow themselves to be moved by the evolutionary transformational force, the kundalini. Some do not have any outward flows (in these areas where the bandhas are configured wholistically) and therefore do not need to practice those bandhas, or if they did, there would be little effect.
Bandhas bound/bind back the dissipative energy and as such they are the embodied aspect of pratyhara (restraining the dissipating outward flow of prana while bringing it back from the periphery toward the center in order to achieve union (in the center). The fifth limb in ashtanga yoga, pratyhara in turn acts similarly as a powerful vehicle for tapas (increasing the spiritual fire) and is its energetic counterpoint as our energy is no longer dissipated nor distracted into dualistic externalizations. As such pratyhara is the general operating principle while the specific bandhas work at specific energy circuits. The activation of the bandhas which will be shown later, not only effect the body and the energy, but thus also the mind and spiritual centers because the mind rides on the horse of wind (prana).
The practice of pratyhara thus reverses the outward flow of mind into the illusory world of the sense objects where objects appear dualistically as separate from self, i.e., the world of I and it. Because the mind cannot move without prana, bandhas are utilized to efficiently and quickly reverse the outward flow while activating inner flow and has the ability to quickly establish the objectless meditative state and inner supportive energy flows necessary to create synchrony with and enter into turiya or samadhi. Bandhas are the internal energy valves which thus when activated
Allow the energy to flow through the area activating the dormant potential of spirit while embodied. Another way of saying this is that the rigidity of a chronic spiritual disconnect can be disrupted through bandhas, pranayama, and pratyhara quickly providing the pathway for the spiritual reconnect. Although commonly called locks, bandhas act as such only in so far that they prevent the outward flow (dissipation) of the energy, but a better translation would be valves because they direct the internal energy flow to irrigate the nadis and activate the energy body. Used in synergistic conjunction with asana, pranayama, visualization, mudra, and meditation practice they act as a powerful adjunctive aid.
Just as it easy to view vairaga only in its negative aspect, so too it is more valuable to view the implementation of the bandhas as much more than a withdrawal, but a redirection of energy which has an innate intelligence. Thus they activate and catalyze the healing energy vortexes within the body/mind which can be implemented consciously through a conscious hatha, kundalini, or laya yoga practice, but are also often performed naturally and spontaneously through grace or as a result of fortuitous action or karma. Bandhas then can be the spontaneous co-arising intrinsic result of the creative and evolutionary activity which acts both endogenously as well as throughout all of nature. Although bandhas are most commonly described in anatomic terms
In relationship to certain body parts, muscles, glands, and organs, bandhas it is far more valuable to approach them as essentially an internal energy re-configuration, which in turn creates the template or energy pattern which aligns and activates a corresponding physical, emotional, psychic, and spiritual constellation or circuitry. As such it not only restrains or binds/bounds the dissipation of energy outward or often downward, but rather redirects it in a healing and energizing manner tuning and aligning it with the back body, energy body, vajra body, light body, or rainbow body potential, as a whole system constellation, moving the energy from the periphery to the center — inward and upward activating and catalyzing the inner alchemical transformative processes associated with the chakras, the sushumna (the central channel), kundalini, so that we may abide in our natural pure intrinsic state (swarupa). In this respect the bandhas are also associated with the evolutionary progression through the granthis (knots) and lokas (spiritual realms).
Bandhas, thus bind the energy from leaking out, but it thus should never be viewed as a muscle contraction. The word, bandha, is more effectively refined as an interlock (to lock in and interconnect inner systems) rather than as the more common definition of a lock, which carries with it a negative connotation of locking out, damming up, restraining, constraining, forcing, excluding, repressing, etc. It thus should be made clear that the bandhas are not physical locks, but energy locks which connects and harmonizes one’s vital energy with the inner constellations, the outer constellations, and the universal eternal source of all energy. In order to learn about this activation and harmonization, we have to learn about the subtle energy, inside, outside, and non-dual unborn Source (the inherent potential energy within all things). But like asana practice, also in bandha practice we most often must first learn about the subtle internal energy, by first performing the physical, coarse, and external aspect (coarse energy). Then later once we become aware of the presence of the internal and more subtle energetics, we can forgo the coarse, gross, physical learning tools.
When the bandhas are mastered, progress in asana, pranayama, mudra, and meditation are greatly accelerated with the result allowing us to abide in the heart of samadhi faster, easier, longer, and more completely . The bandhas are associated with the three granthis (knots) and as such provide the motive power to unlock spiritual dimensions or lokas as well (Brahma Loka, Vishnu Loka, and Rudra Loka or Nirmana Kaya, Sambhoga Kaya, and Dharma Kaya). Thus the three classic bandhas of mulabandha uddiyana bandha, and jalandhara bandha, can be said to provide the keys to unlocking these three granthis, respectively.
The following description is coincident with the esoteric tradition of hatha yoga (three bandhas). Here will be introduced the idea that there are many bandhas, each one capable of moving the energy upward (or restraining its downward motion) to the next chakra. When yogis enter sahaj samadhi these bandhas occur naturally. The mulabandha connects us with the earth energy, grounds us, moves the earth energy up from the muladhara chakra to the swadhistana (or otherwise prevent it leaking out the muladhara) while moving the sky and sun energy down to connect with the earth. .
Likewise swadhi bandha connects the energy from the swadhistana chakra up to the manipura chakra and down to the muladhara chakra. Uddiyana bandha moves the energy up to the heart (anahat) chakra and down to the swadhistana. Hri bandha moves the energy up from the heart to the throat chakra and down to the manipura. Jalandhara bandha moves the energy up to the third eye from the vishuddi (throat) chakra and down to the heart (anahata chakra) or air center. The ajna bandha moves the energy up from the ajna chakra to the crown (sahasrara) and down to throat (vishuddi).
Swadhi, hri, and ajna bandhas have not been previously detailed in classical hatha yoga literature as such, but none-the-less their discussion will also be presented. Their synchronistic efficacy need only be explored and experienced by anyone pursuing authentic hatha yoga sadhana. The bandhas are trouble free and most efficacious when practiced from the bottom up; having formed a firm base at the root (base) chakra – the muladhara first.
Many more bandhas exist as well. These all can be seen as configurations assembled for the purpose of moving energy through the overall system and/or specific sub-systems at crucial junctures such as sluices, valves, and such. As such they are closely aligned with mudras, except that hatha yoga mudras combine asana, pranayama, bandha, and visualization all together (See chapter on mudras).
All the bandhas have an energetic aspect which is causal/precursory to the physical. Knowing what comes first, we are able to merge the annamaya kosha (physical body) with the energy body (pranamaya kosha). Thus an energetic practice entertains both the physical and the mental. A joyful practice embraces it. The mind also rides the horse of the wind (prana) as nothing can move without energetic direction. Thus the practice that focuses on awareness, breath, and energy emotes (creates the bhava) the remedial wavelike motion that stills the multiplit mind patterns– bhavas of BHAVA — light of LIGHT; so that the great Light of Universal Infinite can blaze forth burning up all adhi/vyadhi, karma, klesha, samskara, and vasana– instantaneous flash of grace. We offer this burnt offering upon shakti’s healing altar.
Bandhas by binding the external dissipating flow of energy, binds the outflowing of mental wanderings of attention (or the ordinary discursive mind). All the microcosmic energy point connections are made and connected with the macrocosm, hence the hologram is completed. This is not a repression of the mind nor the vital energy, but rather the activation of the vital non-dissipative energy which reactivates repressed instinct, rekindles the intuition and inner wisdom, activates the dormant circuitries and evolutionary wisdom centers of the natural spontaneous all encompassing and non-distractive transpersonal non-dual mind. In one sense, the ordinary mind rides upon the wind of the energy vectors (and is thus considered distracted and dissipated because it has been brought outside of its core/heart center and into a dualistic objectified and sterile materialistic world. Yet at the same time, this ordinary mind can be trained to direct the energy, focus and concentrate it through pratyhara, pranayama, dharana, and meditation of which the bandhas are the physical representation. Thus it is a two way street where the energy moves, so does the mind and likewise where the mind and attention moves so does the energy. Here the practice of bandha with pranayama over a period of time is very effective in revealing these subtle interrelationships and thus from this wisdom allowing us to attain conscious freedom from such vrttis (disturbances) of consciousness (citta). This is why it is emphasized that bandha practice as well as pranayama practice should never be reduced to a mechanical science, but rather as an awareness art — a further exploration of swadhyaya and consciousness answering the question: “who am I, what is life, what is reality, what is consciousness?”
If a partnership or meeting of mind and energy (cit prana or cit shakti) becomes united — inextricably bound together — they reach through wisdom and method across the ocean of suffering. Thus the practitioner does not try to master or control the winds, nor does the practitioner become victim of the winds. Rather the authentic student observes the winds through investigating them through pranayama, bandha, asana, and mudra and then is instructed by the nature of prana (prana shakti) and follows this to its limitless Source.
Thus the manomaya kosha aligns up with the pranamaya and annamaya koshas, and they in turn destroy the veil of limiting beliefs and false identifications (of the vijnanamaya kosha) completely. The single ambrosial taste of that exquisite alignment meshes with the anandamaya kosha to produce the one taste of bliss. The Great All Inclusive Yantra is enjoined together/completed.
All aligned, inner and outer — and bound together in one ecstatic prayer dance. The body and mind is part of the Great Yantra — they complete it. Here the inner constellations align up, they mesh with the outer constellations. One day exquisite balance — synchronicity — is achieved, neither inner nor outer — rather non-dual — The energy residing in the central channel (sushumna) – weightless — burdenless devoid of sorrow — Rainbow hued Mandala — Rainbow body vision!Oh Greatest Bandha beyond the bliss — Oh Paramananda Bandha — The front and the back, left and right, top/bottom — All Directions/Noh Directions — at the Cross Roads of Love — at the Hridayam — the Great Binding of Hearts within the HEART! All Our Relations! All Life is inexorably bound together! Ho! It is Sacred!