One of the important natural tools your body makes use of during Power Yoga practice is the bandha, or energy lock. You engage an energy lock by contracting certain muscles in your body; these contractions, or locks, direct through your body the flow of energy (the prana) that you create during Power Yoga exercises.
Not only do energy locks help direct the flow of energy to high-demand areas during your Power Yoga practice, but they also can give you energy boosts and added stability and tone your stomach and cleanse your internal organs.
Understanding how energy locks work
To better understand the way energy locks work, visualize the workings of your circulatory system for a moment. Your heart pumps blood throughout your body, using your veins and arteries as the delivery system.
When you practice Power Yoga, you create an enormous amount of life-force energy. This energy travels throughout your body through unseen channels called nadis. The energy locks act as valves to regulate the flow of life energy through the nadis in your body. In this respect, your bandhas work much like your heart, to control the flow of essential forces through your system.
Using muscle locks for a powerful practice
You should engage your energy locks each time you hold a yoga asana or pose. You should release the bandha as you leave a pose, but often you reengage the energy locks during your vinyasa, or connecting movements.
Unlike the nadis (which you can’t see), energy locks are made up of muscle groups in your body. To engage a bandha, you physically contract muscles in one of three areas of your body. Each of these three energy locks has a special name:
Mula bandha: The Mula bandha is called the root lock, and it’s located in the perineal muscles between your genitals and anus. To identify these muscles, imagine that you need to make an emergency trip to the bathroom and the nearest one is w-a-a-y down the hall. As you take that long walk, you engage your Mula bandha to fend off an unfortunate accident. Isn’t that a great energy lock to have available?
Uddiyana bandha: The name Uddiyana means “flying up.” This bandha is located about three fingers’ width below your navel. In this bandha, you lift your stomach, drawing up your diaphragm. This bandha helps flatten your stomach. In your Power Yoga practice, however, this bandha firms your abdominal muscles; you use it in conjunction with the Mula bandha.
Jalandhara bandha: The Jalandhara bandha is called a chin lock. You engage this bandha by stretching the back of the neck as you lower your chin into the notch in your breastbone. You engage this bandha in a few poses and in some yoga breathing exercises, but you don’t use it nearly as often as you use the Mula bandha or the Uddiyana bandha.Credit: Photograph by Raul Marroquin