Are you struggling with arm balances? You’re not alone, for many years I’ve struggled with crow pose and other arm balances, because I always tried to use my arm strength instead of inner body strength.
When I learned how to use the Bandhas I felt a big shift in my practice and I’m so happy to share it with you.
The Bandhas are the 3 energetic locks in the body. Yogis have studied for many years to figured out how we can best harness, maintain and optimize our internal energy. Understanding how to activate and use these locks will get you into balancing poses with more lightness and stability at the same time.
You can activate the Bandhas through muscular contraction of specific body parts, which serves to ‘block’ or seal off the part of the body. When this ‘lock’ is then released, it results in a strong energy flow throughout the body, which will strengthen, renew and rejuvenate the organs, circulatory system and your mental health.
Let’s take a look at the 3 Bandhas:
1. Mula Bandha – The Root lock:
This bandha tones your pelvic floor muscles and increases your strength and blood flow to these areas, which can also enhance your sex life! It feels like you’re contracting the pelvic floor muscles as if you want to control your urine flow. It is similar to Kegel exercises and will give you a lot of strength as you do more advanced balancing poses.
Here’s how you can learn to engage Mula Bandha:
Sit crosslegged on the floor and imagine you have a marble underneath your perineum (the area between your genitals and anus). Inhale deeply and as you exhale imagine picking up the marble and lifting it internally up towards your navel. As you inhale slowly imagine placing it back down to the floor. Continue contracting and lifting up on the exhale and releasing on the inhale. It’s very subtle and requires some consistent practice, but very soon you’ll feel the power of the Bandha. Practice the Bandha also in poses like downward facing dog, where it’s easier to feel the sensation without balancing in a challenging pose.
2. Uddiyana Bandha – The Core lock:
You might hear your yoga teacher talk about lifting the belly in and up, or drawing the navel towards the spine. This is basically how you activate the core lock. Now when you are in challenging poses imagine pulling up your root lock and drawing the navel back to meet the root lock, and you’ll have a wonderful strengthening sensation. Make sure you’re also breathing and softening the areas around the locks, so you are not being too tight and rigid.
3. Jalandhara Bhanda – The Throat lock:
This lock will tone and strengthen your neck muscles and is automatically active in any poses where you’re lifting your chest/sternum towards the chin, like in bridge pose or shoulderstand. It’s also a great lock used in pranayama to retain and control breath flow. It’s not so much used for balancing poses, so we’re focusing today on the root and core lock during our arm balance practice, so you can feel a big shift there.
Ready to practice? In this recent replay from my Zoom class in May 2020 you’ll get a chance to practice with the Bandhas for arm balances, please check it out and let me know how it goes and if my tips were helpful.
Enjoy the practice!