Your home has the facility to regulate the temperature according your convenience. The air-conditioner makes it cooler, and the heater makes it warmer; all at the press of a button. Similarly, Yoga practitioners can develop the ability to regulate the energy coursing through the body.
Bandhas in Yoga are energetic locks that, when utilized properly, are believed to keep your prana (energy or life force) inside your body. Bandha means ‘to catch hold of’ or ‘control’. It can mean a posture where certain organs or parts of the body are contracted and controlled. There are three main Bandhas which are important to Pranayama; Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha.
Bandhas not only modify the flow of pranic energy through the nadis (energy meridians), but also modifies the flow of nerve currents in the nervous system and blood flow through the blood vessels.
The three main Bandhas will now be discussed:
Mula means root, source, origin or cause, base or foundation. Its location is at the base of the spine (perineum). This Banda is used to lock the energy, to keep it from going downward. It seals the foundation so that the energy can rise upward. When mastered this Bandha should be used in asana practice whenever possible (standing, backbends and first chakra poses). This Bandha can be practiced with Puraka (internal) or Rechaka (external) Kumbhaka. It is especially good for the organs of reproduction.
You can try this Bandha in the table position, exhaling into cat (chin and tailbone curling down and back arching). This draws the Mula in naturally. You can also try this from a sitting or standing position, just exhale and feel the vacuum drawing the energy up naturally. With continued practice work toward using less muscle for the same lifted feeling. Practice until you can feel the area being drawn upward energetically without (or minimally) using the muscles. For beginners, try exhaling completely and continue contracting the muscles even more and then draw the energy up from the perineal floor. Practice contracting and releasing this Bandha several times until you can do it easily with the breath either held in or out (Kumbhaka).
Uddiyana means flying up. This Bandha is used to continue the upward flow of energy (Kundalini) through the Sushumna Nadi. The abdomen is drawn in and up; to lift the diaphragm and internal organs up into or toward the chest (thorax). Tones and strengthens the abdominal muscles and improve the function of the organs of digestion and elimination. This Bandha is only practiced on Rechaka (external) Kumbhaka.
Technique: after exhaling completely and holding the breath out, the abdomen is drawn in as far as possible and then drawn upward. Uddiyana is never practiced holding the breath in (Antara Kumbhaka). Hint: try exhaling completely and closing the mouth and nose attempt to breathe in abruptly. This suction will allow you to feel the contraction required to perform the Uddiyana Bandha. Or use your hand on your belly and help lift the inners as you contract and lift eventually being able to do this naturally.
Jalandhara means a net, a web, a lattice or a mesh. In Jalandhara Bandha the neck and throat are contracted, the back of the neck lengthened and the chin is lowered toward the chest. This position contains prana within the container (prana body) If performed incorrectly one feels pressure on the heart, eyes, ears and brain and even cause headaches. This Bandha can be practiced with Puraka (internal) or Rechaka (external) Kumbhaka.
Technique: This is the position of the neck in Sarvangasana (shoulder stand). From a sitting position, lengthen the back of the neck, lower the chin toward the chest and attempt to swallow to complete the seal in the throat.
Those suffering from Blood pressure problems, heart diseases and ulcers should avoid the practice of Bandhas. Pregnant women too should not do Bandhas.