For those who have not been following me on FB, this was taken from Part Four of my soon to be published book for Yoga Teachers, Trainees, and Committed Practitioners!:)
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 three specific bandhas are Mula Bandha, energy activation at the perineum, Uddiyana Bandha, energy activation of the abdomen into the rib cage, and Jalandhar bandha, to energize the throat.
It is common to practice this energization by squeezing and tightening these centers to close the energy gates as a way to create energy flow when the tightness is released. Similar to a dam. However, when practiced, unnecessary tension can also be created from overusing muscles, either out of habit or because of cultural conditioning around the concept of more being better. But, as I have asked you before, is more always better?
Bandhas are about energy activation above all else. Although performed on the physical level, they are meant to function as an internal energetic process. The key is to not overexert muscle tension so that the energetic process can happen most efficiently and you can avoid building body stiffness in the process.
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 lose connection with the whole-body and the full benefits of its innate intelligence. You still can get results from your practice, yet you also develop or reinforce body tension and a habitual pattern to overdo at the same time. How can you avoid overdoing in this context? Stay connected to your bones and skeletal structure with an intention to not tighten all over your body! With a bit of experience in activating your postural mechanism, this is doable even when you do the three bandhas together.
Bridge Pose with Block Hugging
Overdoing with your muscles supersedes your skeletal structure and your bone strength. Try a yoga exploration using a block in your bridge pose. Explore energizing the root chakra with Mula Bandha by squeezing the habitual way. Then try it thinking that you are hugging the block with your bones. You can also explore this in mountain pose, lotus pose, or while standing in a forward bend. Then compare the typical squeezing to hugging with your bones.
Bone hugging instead of muscular squeezing prevents excess tension while connecting you with your complete skeletal structure and the support under it. It is helping you rise up from the roots created when you allow excess tension to be released into the earth. This way, your bandha activation permits your whole body to be engaged in an appropriate way, each part using just the right amount of muscle tension. The big outer muscles can let go, and 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 through are wide open all over the body.
A yoga teacher in one of my class said that “squeezing the block involved a lot of effort and strain” for him, and it triggered a place in his back where he carries chronic tension. On the other hand, when hugging the block with his bones, he felt “more stable, supported, and at ease,” and it also relieved the tension in his back. What I saw when he switched to bone hugging is his alignment between head and knees improved organically and his butt was no longer collapsing down to the floor.
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Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her B.I.A. Process to assist yogis in enhancing their practice bypassing the intellect. She is also a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist and a Reiki Practitioner. Faculty at Akasha Yoga Teacher Training, she runs a 12 months Mastermind for Yoga Teachers with a Vision, and a 90 Day Virtual Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat in a way not taught in regular training courses.
And her book, THE WISE WAY TO YOGA, is to be published in May 2018! To be followed!