In yoga, the core is stabilised through activation of the tri-bandha (three locks) namely mula bandha located at muladara chakra, uddhiyana bandha located at manipura chakra and jalandara bandha located at vishudda chakra. Each bandha is first experienced as a physical sensation, but ultimately becomes softer and energetically rooted as our practice reaches deeper into the Koshas.
When mula bandha is engaged we begin the process of awakening the dormant energy of Shakti kundalini to rise through the sushumna nadi. Mula bandha is the activation of the pubo-coccygeal muscle, or perineum.
“By contracting the perineum the downward moving apana vayu is forced to go upward. Yogis call this mula bandha. Press the heel firmly against the rectum and contract forcefully and repeatedly, so that the vital energy rises. There is no doubt that by practicing mula bandha, prana and apana, and nada and bindu, are united, and total perfection is attained. Through this, the sleeping kundalini is aroused by the extreme heat and it straightens itself just as a serpent beaten with a stick straightens and hisses.”
Uddhiyana bandha and uddhiyana kriya work on the stomach and solar plexus region. Uddhiyana bandha refers anatomically to the engagement of the lower fibres of the transverse abdominus and is felt lower than the level of the navel (as the practice moves towards greater energetics it can be felt just above the public bone). Uddhiyana bandha encourages Shakti Kundalini to rise through the higher chakras of the heart and throat.
Uddhiyana kriya is a preparatory stage for nauli kriya and other abdominal work. By itself the contraction and relaxation of the belly and diaphragm clears stagnant circulation, and helps to tone and strengthen the abdominal organs and the digestive system. Uddhiyana kriya involves drawing the diaphragm up into the chest cavity at the end of a complete exhalation.
In both techniques, it is important to engage mula bandha and maintain natural length in the spinal column so that the sensation in the diaphragm is created by the movement itself and not by a flaring of the rib cage.
“Uddiyana is so called by the Yogis because by its practice the Prana, flies up the Sushumna. Uddiyana is so called this because Prana, the great bird tied to it, flies upward without getting fatigued. Of all the Bandhas, Uddiyana is the best, for by its activation liberation comes spontaneously”
Jalandhara bandha is used primarily in pranayama practice to control the energy in the neck and connect the head to the heart whilst helping to regulate thyroid and metabolic activity.
“Engaging Jalandhara Bandha destroys old age and death. Jalandhara bandha closes the opening of the group of Nadis, through which Amrita, the nectar that is housed in the Soma of the brain, falls down. In Jalandhara Bandha, a perfect contraction of the throat will ensure that the nectar does not fall into the fire (the Surya situated in the navel)”
Maha Bandha or “The Great Lock” describes the sequential, and simultaneous engagement of the bandhas.
“This Maha Bandha is the most skillful means for keeping at bay the snares of death”