The Yin-side of Bandhas
By Bernie Clark • July 20th, 2010 • 15590 Views
What's a bandha, and why should I care? And, if I do care, should I employ bandhas during my Yin Yoga practice?
If you have been ambling along the yogic path for any length of time, you will undoubtedly have heard about bandhas. Everyone knows: a bandha is a lock. More precisely, it is an energetic lock. Funny, the more you explore the world of yoga, the more you may discover that things are not always what "everyone knows." For example, everyone knows that hatha (from which we get the term Hatha Yoga) is made up of two syllables, "ha," which means, "sun," and "tha," which means, "moon." However, not everyone agrees with even this; for a few famous teachers "ha" means moon and "tha" means sun!  Curious!
So, what does this have to do with bandhas? And why talk about bandhas from a yin perspective? Bear with me! Our journey today will reveal how the yin-side of bandhas can actually be beneficial, not just in our yoga practice but in our every day life, and especially for people with lower back issues.
So where were we? Ah yes, "everyone knows" that bandhas are locks. Is this best metaphor though? Swami Satyananda Saraswati defines bandha in several ways: it means to hold, lock or tighten . And its purpose is to lock prana into certain areas and redirect its flow for the purpose of spiritual awakening. However, another view of bandha is offered by B.K.S. Iyengar, who wrote, "Bandhas are like safety valves that should be kept shut during the practice of kumbhaka" . (We create a kumbhaka when we retain, or hold the breath with either the lungs full or empty.) This idea of a valve is a useful metaphor, one used by the Ashtanga teacher David Swenson, who describes bandhas as energy gates or valves, like in the heart; just as the heart regulates the flow of blood, bandhas regulate the flow of energy (prana) . David's teacher, Pattabhi Jois described bandhas similarly as a muscle contraction or lock .
Let's go with the metaphor of a valve: just as a bicycle's tire has a valve that allows air into the tire but doesn't allow the air to escape, engaging bandhas in our yoga practices helps to direct and hold energy in places where it is useful. There...
Yoga, Anatomy, bandhas, yin yoga