Bandhas: they amp up your sex life, transform your yoga practice and make you feel alive and full of goodness inside. Simply put, they make everything better.
So what exactly does this weird word mean, anyway?
Bandhas are subtle energy locks or holds, engaging certain muscles within the body to seal off energy. In doing so you not only regulate and balance your internal systems, but you replenish your energy from within and enhance any performance.
There are several bandhas to work with. Some of them are more extreme and for more advanced pranayama (breath work) and asana (postures). But the simplest, most basic bandhas are the ones that all of us ought to familiarize ourselves with. They can be done anywhere, are available to everyone, and often have the most profound effect yet in the subtlest of ways.
First is mula bandha, or root lock. It’s a gentle lifting upward of the pelvic floor. Imagine that you are in a car stuck in rush hour traffic and badly need to relieve yourself. These are the same muscles you are engaging. Channel that, just without the angst and unpleasant feelings of being in rush hour traffic without access to a bathroom. No thanks!
Second, is uddiyana bandha. Uddiyana literally means “flying in and up.” So think of that low navel hugging in towards your spine, then up. Basically, lift your belly button up in and in, and you’re on your way to experiencing this bandha. Have you felt your chest open and your posture improve already?
When doing yoga postures in traditional series, three things are paramount to practice: bandhas, breath, and dristi (a soft, unfocused gaze).
So how is is that something which is so paramount to any yoga practice is so often overlooked? Is it because we yoga teachers are hesitant to use the words “bathroom muscles” or “sex organs” in class? Or perhaps it’s because many teachers stray from the subtle energy dimensions and stick with the more comfortable explanations aimed towards the physical aspects of yoga.
Well enough is enough! Let’s all talk about our bathroom muscles and sex organs! Let’s engage them on and off the mat!
Keep in mind that bandhas don’t have to be some extreme experience, or even done in a yoga class. Cue the Ashtangi yogi with a stomach so far in and up that it looks nonexistent, or a double chin (jalandhara bandha) looking so unattractive that you’d never dare do that in front of a roomful of strangers. The extremeness of the energy locks in these instances are completely valid and beneficial, but what we want to emphasize here is that bandhas are for everyone, and can benefit even the most inflexible or non-yogi among us.
In Ayurveda, engagement of the bandhas is considered to be the internal fountain of youth. Phew! I was wondering if we’d ever find that. And as us yogis know, usually the best things are found from within rather than from without. A simple exercise to feel replenished from your own devices (and without actually having to step on a mat) can help you regain control of your own energies, feel younger, and make a real difference in your daily life, amping up your confidence and pizazz all at once.
Try it for yourself.
Sit comfortably in an upright position, back straight. As you inhale, imagine your breath coming in through the top of the head, down the spine, hooking underneath the tailbone, and then lifting up the floor of the pelvis (bathroom muscles engaged) and a hugging in and up of the low belly. Hold at the top of the breath, with bandhas engaged, then release it all completely. Try this 10 times, lengthening the spine, feeling your energies replenish and enjoying the release of letting it all go on the exhale.
This is a truly great way to start any day. We spend so much of our time giving away our energies. To our kids, to our jobs, to our friends, to our lovers and to the jerk who cut you off. Take these 10 breaths a day as a retreat for yourself, revitalizing from within, and recognizing that what you have to give to yourself is the best gift of all. If you have a yoga practice, start (re)focusing on these areas to see and feel beautiful changes and ask any yoga teacher for more in depth exploration and explanations.
Take time to get to know these parts of yourself. Give bandha engagement the chance to have a real and lasting effect. Over time you’ll come to terms with what energies you have to give and where you need to receive. You’ll realize how much these energy seals can enhance any athletic performance as well as make you feel more sensual and confident. And most of all, like any aphrodisiac, bandhas allow you to feel stimulated yet relaxed at the same time.
Which brings me to my point: that bandhas are indeed very, very sexy.
Jessica Cartwright’s life work is to bring out the spiritual warrior within us; to help others recognize and achieve their Personal Legends through the teachings of yoga, guided meditation journeys, energy healing and all forms of personal exploration. Through her organization, VivaMyYoga.com, Jessica offers bilingual (Spanish/English) yoga, works with many non-profits and helps organize yoga retreats in her hometown of Bozeman, Montana, as well as internationally.
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Asst. Ed.: ShaMecha Simms/Ed: Bryonie Wise