The Three Energetic Locks
Bandhas are a class of Hatha Yoga techniques that aim to lock prana in particular areas and redirect its flow into sushumna nadi. Bandha means to “contract,” “hold,” “tighten,” or “lock.” The bandhas assist us in the awakening, accumulation, and control of subtle energies for the purpose of spiritual transformation. They also induce a state of pratyahara (interiorization), which can ultimately help us go beyond duality.
Bandhas involve the contraction of the muscles in specific areas of the body. There are three bandhas: mula bandha (the contraction of the muscles in the area of the perineum), uddiyana bandha (a contraction in the abdominal area), and jalandhara bandha (the locking of the throat).
In the Yoga Taravali Sutras (5-8), the great master Adi Shankaracharya says the following about the bandhas: “If their duration can be increased, then where is the fear of death? By the practice of these three bandhas, the dormant kundalini awakens and enters into sushumna. With the performance of these three bandhas, rechaka (exhalation) and puraka (inhalation) cease to function. With this, the senses become purified and kevala (spiritual freedom) takes place.”
Mula Bandha—The Root Lock
Mula bandha is a yogic practice that involves the contraction of the area of muladhara, the root chakra. The Shiva Samhita (4:15) names it one of the ten best techniques for the awakening of kundalini shakti.
Uddiyana Bandha—The Upward Lock
Uddiyana bandha, one of the most important Hatha Yoga practices, involves a contraction in the abdominal area. Its main effects are the sublimation of the energies of the lower chakras and the awakening of kundalini shakti.
Jalandhara Bandha—The Throat Lock
Jalan means “net,” and dhara means “stream” or “flow.” As it is a contraction in the neck area, jalandhara bandha can be understood as a contraction that locks the throat and keeps the stream of very refined energy radiating from a secret chakra in the head from flowing downward.
There is also a second interpretation of its significance, coming from adhara (“substratum” or “support”). The adharas are the sixteen major and minor chakras. So, jalandhara bandha may be defined as the practice that locks the pranic network of the neck and redirects the flow of subtle energy from this adhara to sushumna nadi, the main energy channel that runs along the spine.
In traditional yogic texts, jalandhara bandha is occasionally called kantha mudra (“throat seal”), kantha samkoca (“throat contraction”), and kantha bandha (“throat lock”). As is stated in the Gheranda Samhita, “Jalandhara bandha, when done right, gives victory.” “Victory,” in yoga, of course, means the revelation of our Real Self—the Spiritual Heart. Because this technique powerfully redirects the flow of prana, it teaches us how to recognize a very subtle form of energy, amrita (the nectar of immortality), creating the proper conditions to reveal our true nature, the Heart.
Bandha Traya—The Threefold Lock
The three principal bandhas may be performed together and synergistically integrated in a yogic practice called bandha traya.