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Bandhas 101: All About the 4 Yogic Body Locks

bandhas

Dive deeper into the meaning and significance of  the various bandhas.

Picture this—it has been drizzling for hours. The mud has accumulated into fragments of dirt everywhere. Suddenly, the drizzle stops and these dirt fragments settle.

A gardener appears and pulls out a water pipe, turns on the tap, presses its tip—waits until the water assimilated on its nozzle before releasing it. The sudden, fat flow of water flushes those dirt balls right off the ground—the mud dissolves and corrodes, while the left over substance vanishes into the drain.

This substance is eliminated by the sudden flush of water. This flush creates pressure that the flow of water or a drizzle is unable to do. This pressure was allowed to build, as the gardener locked the tip of that water pipe between his fingers. Your body has this same ‘press and flush’ mechanism too.

You have four locks in your body, commonly known as the bandhas in Sanskrit. These locks or bandhas work as pressure points that your body can use to flush away toxins from the internal system.


Mula Bandha – Pelvic Lock


Also known as the root lock as it influences the Muladhara or first chakra. Located in the pelvic region, this bandha is highly advantageous for strengthening the pelvic floor. While it relieves congestion and helps with treating depression, it's also one of the most useful techniques for helping a yogi in activateing the Kundalini energy.

Step-by-step:

  1. Inhale and contract the pelvic muscle as firmly as possible.
  2. Hold the contraction while taking long, deep breaths.
  3. Concentrate on Muladhara chakra as you perform this exercise.
  4. Repeat up to five times.

Uddiyana Bandha – Locking the Diaphragm


This bandha is dedicated to the awakening of the solar plexus or the Manipura or third chakra. This particular bandha is specifically useful for lowering blood sugar levels and relieving constipation while simulating the intestines. This bandha is also an excellent remedy for dousing irritability and temper.

Step-by-step:

  1. Sit in a cross-legged position while keeping your spine straight. Lift your diaphragm and push your torso forward. Place both palms over the respective knee.
  2. Expel your breath thoroughly from your abdomen toward your cavity and out of your body. Hold this lock for as long as you can, before releasing it.
  3. Repeat up to five times.

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Jalandhara Bandha - Chin Lock


Also known as the top lock or chin lock because it's located in the chin area—Jalandhara bandha plays a prominent role in simulating the Vishuddha or fifth chakra. This bandha is specifically useful for those who suffer from thoracic problems and thyroid gland malfunction.

Step-by-step:

  1. Take a long deep breath inward and hold it.
  2. Push your chin downward, so it touches the collarbone leading to the firm closure of your windpipe.
  3. Remain in this position for a few seconds while holding the bandha along with your breath.
  4. Release.
  5. Repeat this up to five times.

Maha Bandha – Three Locks Amalgamated


The Maha bandha is the most important out of all bandhas. This lock works toward the overall benefit of the body, mind, and soul. Maha bandha is beneficial in simulating all the chakras, along with exercising the nervous system for heightened capacity of the mind and the functioning of internal organs.

Step-by-step:

  1. Sit cross-legged. Inhale and exhale a couple of long deep breaths. Expel the breath out.
  2. Place both palms over the respective knee. Lift your torso up and slightly forward, while keeping your shoulders raised.
  3. Perform all three bandhas together in an orderly manner traveling upward—exercise Mula bandha while focusing on Muladhara chakra; Uddiyana bandha while concentrating on Manipura chakra; Jalandhara bandha while concentrating on Vishuddha chakra.
  4. Remain still in this position with all the bandhas, for as long as you can.
  5. Release each bandha in the same orderly fashion as applied.
  6. Repeat this five times.

For maximum benefit, practice these bandhas on an empty stomach. The practitioner is also advised to implement a pranayama or breathing exercise for a stronger hold of the breath, before indulging in any bandha practice. Revitalize energy levels and release all the harmful clogs from the body. Feel free to exercise these bandhas toward the holistic restoration of the body, mind and soul.

Pradip Kumar
Pradip Kumar
Pradeep Kumar is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher, Blogger and a Traveler in India. He provides yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India. He loves writing and reading the books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas. His strong connection with Yoga and the Himalayas has made him organize yoga, meditation and Ayurveda tours, and retreats in the Himalayas. Connect with Pradip at 200hrsyogattc.com. 200hrsyogattc.com

18 Comments

  1. Corrin says:

    Pradip,

    What a beautiful analogy to the water pipe and the ‘press and flush’ mechanism! I have just started to learn about how important it is to activate these energy locks… both on and off the mat. In the following video and article my instructor explains and walks through the Mula and Uddiyana Bandha. You can see visibly see the difference when Doron activates the Bandhas. I would recommend this video for anyone beginning to learn about these Bandhas like myself ☺

    http://doronyoga.com/2014/07/05/bandhas-energy-locks-better-posture-and-the-secret-of-ashtanga-vinyasa-power-yoga/

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  17. Timm says:

    I have a question about releasing the locks.As i started practicing nauli 3 years ago, i first felt really good and after a while started to feel a lot of anxiety and soon came depression as well, i started to feel really powerless , like no energy at all in my body anymore.Also i became totally disconnected from my emotions and i feel like a really broken machine now.As i discovered for now these body locks arent for each body type and the energy locks stayed on in my body.So how is it possible for me to release them?Hopefully, Timm.

  18. Mary E Birnbaum says:

    I believe that there are other bandhas. Importantly, you are missing pada bandha, leg lock. This powerfully stabilizes many standing postures.
    The arch of the foot, the calf, and the quadriceps are mobilized in this bandha. This lock has nothing to do with “locking” the knee; the knee is straight, not bent inward or outward; the contracted quadriceps stabilizes the knee and prevents strain and knee injury. Especially important to practitioners vulnerable to knee arthritis. Those who wobble in balance will find steadiness, especially whith the addition of mula bandha and uddiyana bandha, deep breath, and steady drishti. This bandha is taught in Sacramento.

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