Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jalandhara bandha

Continuing our discussion of the Bandhas, which seems to be popular according to the little poll on the left, the Yoga Sutras tell us that "Jalandhara bandha catches the flow of nectar in the throat". On a fundamental health level, Jalandhara bandha can be used to reduce throat inflammation, tonsilitis, etc. It also opens up physical and energetic channels up the back of the neck, while compressing these channels in the front of the throat. Holding this position causes prana and nerve impulses to collect in the cervical plexus of the throat, and when the bandha is released, they flood into the skull, activating higher centers in the brain.

Jalandhara banda becomes especially important once the Kundalini energy really begins to make its way up the spine. Kundalini energy is its own creature, and it behaves like one: it has been asleep for a long time, and so it does not wake easily. It must be awoken, again and again like a sleepy child, until at last it comes out of its slumber and begins to journey upward. As you work with prana and Kundalini energy during your practice, you can use Mulabandha and Uddiyana bandha to lift the energy up through the body, and Jalandhara bandha to keep it flowing upward with each inhale, not letting any "slip back down" with the exhales. Visualize holding this precious pool of nectar at the base of the throat, using the energy lock.

Going back to Western medicine, the activation of Jalandhara bandha is a means to consciously control the body's metabolism. Activating this bandha applied pressure to the thyroid, which secretes the hormone thyroxine (T4). T4 is responsible for the rate of tissue metabolism - that is, nutrient consumption, cell turnover, and tissue aging. The influence of T4 goes right down to the microscopic level where it activates enzymes and oxidation in cells. "Massaging" the thyroid by using Jalandhara bandha helps regulate this organ & keep it in good health. We begin to connect with the body's processes on a very deep level, a cellular level. So whether we want to use the traditional yogic visualization of a pool of nectar in the throat, or to think about the T4 hormone being regulated, this third bandha offers us tremendous physical and energetic health benefits.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Uddiyana bandha

If you've been to my classes, you've heard me refer to Uddiyana bandha as the "flying-up energy lock". Physically, it involves pulling your navel in toward your spine, scooping those muscles upward to lift the energy further up through the body. Taking Uddiyana bandha also has the effect of shifting the breathing to the upper chest, creating a perfect platform for Ujjayi breath. If you're still having trouble visualizing what Uddiyana bandha looks and feels like, here is an example (warning: advanced yogi!! Yours does NOT have to look like this! This is to demonstrate the principal): http://www.flickr.com/photos/odie1049/516052737/

So, what are the benefits of holding Uddiyana bandha throughout our practice? Well, in yoga, engaging this bandha increases the power of the core. Thus, it becomes easier to hold many postures such as balancing postures. It also tones, cleanses and massages the internal digestive organs, leading to healthier digestion. And, very importantly, it serves to continue the upward movement of Kundalini energy through the body. Learning to engage both Mulabandha and Uddiyana bandha continuously throught practice leads to incredible strength, stamina, and stability in asanas. As you engage these bandhas, feel yourself literally grow taller and more open through the chest. Feel the breath grow deeper. Take this length and openness with you to work, to the bank, to the grocery store - wherever you go. Notice how managing your energy in this way, in this upward direction, leads to increasingly positive energy exchanges with both others and yourself. Be the peace you want to see in this world. There are many ways. This is one.

Monday, June 16, 2008

First Series: From start to finish!!

Hi everyone!
I've recently been discussing with Ana the possibility of holding "Full First Series" classes or workshops. Each session would be 2 hours long, to allow us time to practice the First Series all the way through. I'm not exactly sure how we'd run the classes; maybe once a month, or more/less depending on interest. Speaking of which - please LET ME KNOW if you'd be interested in these Full First Series sessions! Email me, leave a comment, or tell me in person at the studio. I've already gotten a 'yes' from 3 people, and if we get a few (or a lot!) more, then we can do this!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Grounding: Mulabandha

I've been talking about Mulabandha a lot in class recently. Mulabandha is the energy lock we control with the pelvic muscles. The chakra itself is called Muladhara. This root chakra is of utmost importance in Ashtanga yoga, and in the chakra system as a whole. Just as every building needs a stable base, a strong root chakra supports those above it. We humans are vertical creatures, an unusual orientation in this world, and one that stacks the chakras in a vertical column. Our Kudalini energy lies sleeping in Muladhara. Through yoga & bandha control, we can awaken this energy and help it move upward, through each of the chakras, toward its original source, the Whole. Grounding ourselves through Muladhara and extending energy up the spine, we become a vertical bridge between earth and sky, an energy conduit. With this transcendent energy flowing in us and through us, we can really feel and deeply understand the inter-connectedness of all things. We can see that we are much more than our roles, our lables, our possesions and our thoughts. Enlightenment is right here, if we ground ourselves long enough to look around.