Yogic Bandhas are a form of energy activation via special centers in the body to temporarily contain the body energy (prana) in the torso. The 3 specific bandhas are : Mula Bandha, energy activation at the perineum, Uddiyana Bandha, energy activation of the abdomen into the rib cage, and Jalandhara Bandha, to energize the throat.
It is common to practice this energization by squeezing and tightening these centers to close energy gates as a way to create energy flow when the tightness is released (it functions a bit like a damn). However, when practiced this way, unnecessary tension can also be created from muscular overdoing out of habit and because of the conditioning around more being better. But is it?
Listen to Leo’s experience with block squeezing versus blog hugging when activating Mula Bandha
Bandhas are about energy activation above all else. Although performed on the physical level engaging the skeletal muscles (part of the core muscles), they also function as an internal energetic process. The key is to not overdo muscle tension so the energetic process can happen most efficiently and body stiffness can be avoided.
It is my personal experience and the experience of yogis I have worked with, that when you focus only on the local area around the centers, you loose connection with the whole body and its innate intelligence. You still can get results from your practice yet you also develop or reinforce body stiffness in the process. How can you avoid overdoing in this context? Stay connected to your bones and skeletal structure!
Watch or re-watch this easy to view 7 min video by Kathleen Porter
about how the skeleton works as your primary support system!
Muscular overdoing overshadows the skeletal structure and bone strength. To experience this, explore energizing the root chakra with Mula Bandha using a block between your legs as high as it fits to hug the block with your bones. Start exploring in Mountain Pose or Bridge Pose for instance and compare plain squeezing to bone hugging. Bone hugging instead of muscular squeezing prevents excess tension while connecting you with your complete skeletal structure and the support under it. This way, your bandha activation is allowing your whole body to be engaged in an appropriate way, each part using just the right amount of muscle tension.
Once you have experienced energizing the root chakra with the block to connect with your skeletal structure and strength, it can be done without the block as well even in lotus pose. As a result, the outer muscles can let go, the core muscles kick in organically working with the skeleton and its support. The energy activated by the bandhas is then both localized and generalized so that when released, the gates for the energy to flow are wide open all over the body.
Notice the muscular pulling down created by the squeezing versus the lengthening and improved alignment
when simply hugging the block to activate the root chakra for Mula Bandha!
(Compare the red line in his shorts on both pictures!)
With an awareness of bones hugging rather than muscles over-squeezing, you will experience the strength of your bones working harmoniously with necessary muscle tension to create flexible strength and powerful energy flow. You can use a block to practice through a flow of poses or a single pose. All the while, you activate the bandhas in an integrated way that includes and respect your innate body intelligence guidance.
This way of handling the bandhas, based on Cecile’s experience and teaching of the Alexander Technique, reminds us to always use the body as a coordinated self, rather than focusing on isolated body parts. This allows all your movements to be in sync with your innate body intelligence. Such movements then become your safest and most efficient movements. Yoga poses or other yogic practices then benefit from optimal safety and efficiency.
Do you want to learn more about this mind/body approach to strain-free yoga? Do you want to learn how to reclaim efficient moving for balanced living? Join my FREE 6-part EMAIL SEMINAR: "How to Unlearn Habits that Create Body Stiffness On and Off the Mat" (Based on the Alexander Technique Principles and Facts)