Those of you that know me have heard about my first yoga class. For those of you that do not (yet), I'll spare you the nitty gritty and just say this -- it was comical, and torturous. I arrived with basketball shorts down to my knees and old XL Stussy T-shirt. Models pranced painlessly on their mats while crunchies with closed eyes made lamaaz type sounds in the background. And the teacher went on and on and on about getting in touch with your sexual organs while harnessing your inner power and energy like the Hindu gods. Half way through class I faked a cramp in order to escape with some ‘dignity.’ Oh, and I had shot a double espresso before hand to ‘help me sweat.’ Needless to say – disaster. But luckily life, and people, evolve.
I went back to the teacher, and the studio, a week later, and within 3 months I was practicing every day, yes, still in my baller shorts and mega Ts. I was “getting better” – hard not to when you start unable to touch your toes and barely able to hold a plank – but I was not soaring. In fact, it was not until I understood what bandhas were that my practice really evolved, on the inside and on the outside.
Bandha what? Bandha is a word I heard my teachers say in class daily, a word that I wrote off as ‘yogi hippie crap’ until I experientially finally understood what it was all about. And given that took a fair amount of time (over a year of 7 day a week practice), I am going to lay it out for you so you and your practice can take off ASAP.
In Sanskrit bandha means to lock, to hold, or to tighten. It also refers to a lock in and of itself.There are 3 principle bandhas in the body, and a fourth that ties them all together. The ancient yogi philosophers said, and I concur, that when you master the locks, your master the yoga practice, the practice on the outside -- floating in and out of asanas, holding for long periods of time, and managing new positions – and the practice on the inside – consistent single pointed concentration, steady and long breath, and a calm, clear mind. And in a straight-up modern, western sense, the bandhas help you regulate and control all your internal systems, hormonal, sexual, metabolic, digestive, and more. Whether you care about the east, the west, or both, the bandhas are a critical factor to a killer you, and to yoga. Note, bandhas should not be practiced while pregnant.
Mula Bandha: In a way Mula Bandha is the easiest bandha to explain. Just imagine you are in the middle of a 3 hour traffic jam to the airport, the highway has turned into a parking lot, and you have to pee. Or, ladies, you are in white short shorts walking through the park and you get your period a day early. The muscles you instinctually contract to pull up and hold in what is dying to flood out can be generally considered Mula Bandha, or at least the Mula Bandha region.