Bandhas are a small but very important group of yogic practices. They are an essential part of kriya yoga, where they are combined with various other yogic techniques. It is therefore necessary for the reader to master each of them before beginning kriya yoga. It is for this reason that we have introduced them at this early stage in the course. Furthermore, the practice of nadi shodhana pranayama has reached a level whereby it can be powerfully combined with bandhas1. This will intensify the entire practice by increasing the duration of breath retention.
The word bandha means ‘to hold, ‘tighten’ or ‘lock’, and this exactly describes the physical action necessary to perform these practices. Specific parts of the body are gently yet powerfully contracted and tightened. This has vast repercussions. First of all various parts of the physical body are controlled. Organs, muscles, nerves and physical processes within the body are massaged, stimulated and brought under the will of the practitioner. The physical contraction or lock in turn has an extensive influence on the psychic body (pranic body). The flow of prana that continuously streams through our subtle body is redirected and even stopped. This has direct influences on the mind. The whole body and mind is tranquillized and made receptive to higher states of awareness. Such is the power of bandhas when they are perfected.
Traditional yogic texts speak of the three granthis called the brahma, vishnu and rudra granthis. These represent psychic blocks and mental problems that prevent an individual ‘soaring’ into the realms of meditation. These blocks or knots have to be removed if one wants to know the experience of higher awareness. They can be removed either permanently or temporarily. Bandhas are particularly effective in breaking open or removing these blocks, at least for a short period of time and this temporary removal helps to eliminate these blocks permanently. In yogic language, these granthis prevent the flow of prana into the main pranic passage of the body – the sushumna. When they are released, prana immediately begins to flow through sushumna nadi, which leads to increased receptivity of the mind and in turn higher experiences.
These granthis are located in the following parts of the body: Brahma granthi – pelvis (mooladhara chakra) Vishnu granthi – heart (anahata chakra) Rudra granthi – centre of head (ajna chakra).
Remember, these so-called knots are in the psychic body, not in the physical body, but physical manipulations such as bandhas can unlock them. Each level of manifestation has repercussions on other levels. It is not realistic to rigidly separate the physical body, pranic body and the mind body. They are all inter-related and really part of a whole. They are only divided or categorized for convenience of explanation.
Therefore, the physical body influences the mind and pranic body. The pranic body influences the mind and physical body. And the mind influences the pranic and physical body. If you doubt this then you should read the book entitled Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, where scientific evidence is given. Better still you should practise yoga, develop sensitivity and find out from your own experience.
Bandhas, like all other yogic practices, act on and influence different levels of individual being. They have profound effects on the physical, pranic and mental levels.