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  • Writer's pictureKaren Taylor

Importance of Bandhas - A "HOW TO" Do the Body Locks

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

Kundalini Yoga is designed to promote energy flow in all of the energy channels in the body with attention particularly on the major energy channels that flow along the pathway of the spine. Divine alignment can be experienced when we maintain a correct alignment of the spine while we practice our Kundalini Yoga exercises.

In every posture we consider the position of the spine so that we keep the central channel open. We do this by applying specific body locks or “Bandhas”. The Sanskrit word bandha means to hold, tighten, or lock.

The bandhas are completely integrated into the Kundalini Yoga and Meditation practice. They consolidate one’s effort and direct prana (energy) within the body to promote healing, energizing, and strengthening of the whole human being.

There are three main body locks in yoga: Mulbandha, Jalandhar Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. When all three are applied at once, it is called Maha Bandha.

1. Mulbandha: Root Lock

What: Root Lock is a subtle contraction of the muscles in the pelvic floor. It coordinates, stimulates, and balances the energies of the lower chakras. Mulbandha locks the energy at the lower abdomen and directs its flow into the central channel, or shushmana nadi.

How: From a seated position, gently pull the rectum in towards the sex organ, and lift the muscles of the pelvic floor. Males lift from the perineum, just between the scrotum and the anus; females lift internally, from the tip of the cervix. Broken down, this is three actions applied at once:

1) Contract and hold the muscles around the anus

2) Contract and hold the muscles around the sex organ

3) Contract the muscles of the lower abdomen and pull the navel in towards the spine.

When: Root Lock is frequently applied at the end of an exercise. It is sometimes applied, continuously or rhythmically, throughout a meditation or posture. Root Lock can be practiced on the internal or external breath retention.

Why: Root Lock crystallizes the effect of an exercise. It blends prana and apana at the navel centre which opens the shushmana for kundalini energy to flow through the spine. It also stimulates the proper flow of spinal fluid.

Mulbandha stimulates the pelvic nerves and tones the uro-genital and excretory systems. It is helpful in psychosomatic and degenerative illnesses. It relieves depression and promotes good health. It helps to realign the physical, mental, and psychic bodies in preparation for spiritual awakening.

Contraindication: Do not practice root lock during menstruation.

2. Uddiyana Bandha: Diaphragm Lock

What: Diaphragm Lock works to integrate emotions, pranic energy, and functions that occur above and below the diaphragm muscle. By contracting the abdominal muscle and lifting the diaphragm, the otherwise outward moving prana is redirected to the heart centre and up.

How: Inhale, then exhale completely. With the breath held out, pull the entire abdominal region in and up. While the navel point will move on its own, do not purposefully contract it. Hold for 10-60 seconds without strain. Then relax the abdomen, and inhale without releasing Neck Lock or raising the chin.

Many people prefer to practice this in a standing position. To try it, stand with the feet shoulder width apart. Bend forward slightly, with your hands on your knees and back straight. Lift your chest slightly, and on your exhale, apply the same lock.

When: On an empty stomach, and only after you exhale all of the breath.

Why: Massages intestines, heart muscle, and tones the abdominal organs. It stimulates the function of the pancreas and liver and strengthens the internal organs. Additional benefits include:

  • Stimulates the digestive fire

  • Opens the Heart Chakra, which results in increased kindness, compassion, and patience

  • Balances the adrenal glands, which removes lethargy and soothes anxiety and tension

  • Improves blood circulation throughout the torso

  • Helps to cleanse and promote youthfulness.

Contraindications: People with colitis, stomach or intestinal ulcer, major abdominal problems, high blood pressure, heart disease or glaucoma should not perform this lock. Avoid during pregnancy.

Jalandhara Bandh: Neck Lock

What: Neck Lock is the most basic and generally applied lock. It regulates gross and subtle movement in the upper part of the body. Practiced correctly, it helps stabilizes the blood pressure, allowing the cerebrospinal fluid to flow to the brain.

How: From a seated posture, lift your ribcage away from your pelvis, creating a gentle lift in the sternum. Tuck your chin slightly, pulling it down and in towards the back of your neck. Roll your shoulders back and down to lengthen the neck. Relax the muscles of your neck, throat, and face. To break the bandha, exhale slowly and bring the chin to its normal upright position.

When: All chanting meditation, most pranayama. Can practice with the breath held in (internal retention) or out (external retention).

Why: Jalandhara bandha compresses the carotid sinuses, which regulate the circulatory and respiratory systems. The pressure on these sinuses decreases the heart rate and increases breath retention. This relaxes the mind and relieves stress, anxiety, and anger. It develops meditative introversion and one-pointedness. The stimulus on the throat helps to balance thyroid function and regulate the metabolism and blood pressure.

Contraindications: People with high intracranial pressure, vertigo, high blood pressure or heart disease should not practice jalandhara bandha. Refrain from practice if vertigo or dizziness arises.

4. Maha Bandha: The Great Lock

What: The Great Lock is the application of mul, uddiyana, and jalandhara bandhas at once. Maha bandha is central to Kundalini Yoga.

How: Exhale the breath, and apply all three locks (Root, Diaphragm, and Neck) simultaneously. Hold the bandhas and the breath for as long as comfortable without strain. Then release mul, uddiyana, and jalandhara bandhas in this order. Inhale slowly when the head is upright.

When: On an empty stomach. After external breath retention. Done in various postures and with different mudras.

Why: Rejuvenates the glands, nerves, and chakras. Enhances the benefits of all three bandhas. Said to cure many ailments such as improper blood pressure, menstrual cramps, intestinal irregularity, and more. It affects the hormonal secretions of the pineal gland and regulates the entire endocrine system. Checks the degenerative and aging processes and rejuvenates every cell of the body.

Practicing the Locks

Like anything else in Kundalini Yoga, the bandhas are best learned by experiencing them. To familiarize yourself with them, sit on your heels with the knees spread slightly apart. Rest your palms on your thighs.

  • Inhale, exhale, and apply root lock. Breathe in and relax it.

  • Inhale, exhale, and apply diaphragm lock. Then breathe in and relax it.

  • Apply neck lock, and relax it.

  • Repeat exercises 1-3 for 3 minutes. Do it correctly, and the body will sweat. This short practice will develop your ability to distinguish the locks from each other. It may also give you a sense for how the energy moves through the subtle body.

Self Awareness through Bandha Practice

As you learn the basics of body locks, are there some areas of your body that are more stiff or feel more constricted than other areas? Take your time and meditate on the benefits of each lock in the physical, psychological, and energetic realms as you practice. This may reveal new or old aspects of your body, mind, and energy that need attention or healing. Allow the body locks to work over time, and incorporate them into your practice.

How do you feel after practicing the body locks? Can you feel the effect of the locks on your yoga practice? Keep a journal as you learn to master these locks and benefit from their powerful effects.


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