Bandha questions

Posted on our facebook site by Peter Satitpunwaycha on March 5, 2009 at 12:22am

Hi Simon,

I was wondering if you could answer a couple of questions regarding bandhas. Please feel free to take you time as I know you’re quite busy!

– When I watch you do various asanas in the advance sequence, you apply a lot of uddiyana bandha. Is it just that or do you apply maha bandha (all three? I can’t tell in the video.) Can you tell me the reason for that please? When I try maha bandha I notice some blood shunt from the lower torso to the upper torso but no more than that. Is there more to it than what I’m describing? What can I expect when I apply uddiyana bandha in asanas?

– A related question: Jalandhara bandha. I read somewhere that jalandhara means ‘web’ and was wondering if this could be the web or group of muscles involved in the swallowing reflex. When you do a swallowing action and hold at the top of the swallow, there is a tension in the group of muscle spanning from the ear to the throat resulting in lifted adam’s apple to tension in the eustachian tubes. When I stick out my tongue this seems to relax my throat muscles. Perhaps the ‘closed’ lock is when I hold the ‘top of the swallow’ and the ‘open’ lock is when I open my mouth wide and stick out my tongue?

– What is the prayer at the end of each sequence? I don’t recognize it nor could find it in my limited studies. If you could send the text and translation or point to where it can be found I’d appreciate it.

Any help is gratefully received,

Peter S.

Posted on our facebook site by Simon Borg-Olivier on March 9, 2009 at 10:01pm

Hi Peter, fantastic questions you have offered. I will answer them a bit at a time while i have time. You have three questions. Now, I have to wake up in two and a half hours to teach and I have not slept yet so let me answer your last question, the easiest question, first.
Peters Question 3. The YogaSynergy Chant is available on the ABOUT page of our website www.yogasynergy.com as a pdf file that explains meaning of the chant word by word and its relevance to where it comes from, namely the Bhagavad Gita. You can access the text file directly by clicking on http://tinyurl.com/YogaSynergyChant and you can here the audio file of me singing the chant by clicking onhttp://tinyurl.com/YogaSynergyAudioChant . I will try to answer your other questions tomorrow.

Posted on our facebook site by Simon Borg-Olivier on May 3, 2009 at 10:44pm

Finally i have a chance to answer Peter Satitpunwaycha from Silicon Valley, California. He has asked the following ingenious questions:

Question 1: When I watch you do various asanas in the advance sequence, you apply a lot of uddiyana bandha. Is it just that or do you apply maha bandha (all three? I can’t tell in the video.) Can you tell me the reason for that please? When I try maha bandha I notice some blood shunt from the lower torso to the upper torso but no more than that. Is there more to it than what I’m describing? What can I expect when I apply uddiyana bandha in asanas?

Question 2: A related question on Jalandhara bandha. I read somewhere that jalandhara means ‘web’ and was wondering if this could be the web or group of muscles involved in the swallowing reflex. When you do a swallowing action and hold at the top of the swallow, there is a tension in the group of muscle spanning from the ear to the throat resulting in lifted adam’s apple to tension in the eustachian tubes. When I stick out my tongue this seems to relax my throat muscles. Perhaps the ‘closed’ lock is when I hold the ‘top of the swallow’ and the ‘open’ lock is when I open my mouth wide and stick out my tongue?

Answer 1: In answer to the first question we first we need to appreciate that the bandhas (as you say) are locks, but a lock can be either locked (closed) or unlocked (open) and so it is inside the body. Hence, there are closed lock (ha-bandha) and open lock (tha-bandha) versions of all the bandhas. Mula bandha, which is related to the lower trunk (lumbar spine) can be generated in either a compressive (closed lock) form (as in maha bandha) or an expansive (open lock) form (resembling nauli). Similarly, uddiyana bandha can be generated in either a compressive (closed lock) form (as in the ashtanga vinyasa yoga system of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois) or an expansive (open lock) form (as shown by Sri B.K.S. Iyengar in ‘Light on Yoga’, and as used commonly in maha bandha). In most text books on hatha yoga, maha bandha is described using the compressive (closed lock) mula bandha, which has the effect of pushing blood away from it up the spine, and the expansive (open lock) uddiyana bandha, which has the effect of pulling blood from the lower to the upper torso. That you can feel this blood shunt is an impressive act of sensitivity in itself.

In the second part of your question you ask is there more to this than just the upward blood shunt you are describing. The answer is yes. In the videos of me practicing with the bandhas visibly being formed in each posture I am incorporating expansive and compressive forms of both mula bandha as well as uddiyana bandha. In so doing I am able to move blood (and energy) up and down my spine and trunk at will using the bandhas. This not only improves circulation and minimises the work of the heart but also helps to regulate body temperature.

The third part of this question you ask what can you expect when you apply uddiyana bandha in the asanas. In this case I presume you mean the expansive uddiyana that is shown by Sri B.K.S. Iyengar in ‘Light on Yoga’ , which is generally performed on after holding the breath out on an exhalation retention. When this expansive chest bandha is done the spine is mobilised and the blood is drawn up the trunk and spine as you have discovered. However, this expansive chest bandha is usually first learnt by relaxing the abdominal muscles completely. Therefore, initially there is a risk that the spine becomes unstable and risks damage. If you are doing the expansive uddiyana bandha in a simple straight spined non loaded postures such as a dog pose or a headstand, then there is no significant danger. However, if you are attempting a loaded posture such as ‘push up’ posture or a bent spine posture such as a forward bend, backwards bend, sideways bend or a spinal twist, then there is a danger that the spine becomes compromised unless one of the mula bandhas (open or closed lock) or the positive pressure (closed lock) uddiyana bandha has been activated. For more details on this it would be good to refer to our book ‘Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga’.

Answer 2:

Your second question Peter has been more challenging and hence my delayed response. Yes ‘jala’ means ‘web’ or more commonly means ‘net’ and ‘andhara’ means ‘stream’. Jalandhara bandha can then be seen to relate to the net that controls the movement of energy and information between the head and the rest of the body. I think your speculation re the swallowing muscles has merit and it is a viable hypothesis. It is very interesting to actually feel your Adams apple lift at the of the held swallow action. The relaxation of the throat muscles following stretching the tongue can be explained by the fascial connections between the tongue muscles to chest the spine and the skull. Stretching the tongue can then result in a reflex relaxation of all the muscles around the throat as well as relaxation of many muscles attaching to the skull, spine and thorax. Maybe someone else in our group of friends has some speculation or factual knowledge on this is very interesting issue.

Posted on our facebook site by Peter Satitpunwaycha on May 4, 2009 at 9:30am

Thank you so much for your insightful answers. I greatly appreciate your time as I know you are quite busy. 🙂 I’m definitely looking forward to the updated Applied Physiology text when it’s published.

For now, I cannot perform or hold many of the bandhas for long (tha-mula bandha for example), but I will continue to study and practice and perhaps may gain some experiential answers in the future – or maybe even more questions! 😉

Best wishes,

Peter S.

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