The Sanskrit wordjalan means ‘net’. The word dhara means ‘stream’, ‘mass of flowing fluid’. This leaves the meaning of the wordjalandhara open to various interpretations. The most likely is that it means ‘net’ or ‘cluster of nadis’ or pathways’. Therefore, jalandhara is the practice or physical lock that controls the net or network of nadis in the neck. These nadis can be either blood vessels, nerves or pranic passages. The ‘fluid’ or stream can cover all these different levels of subtlety, for jalandhara bandha will influence all of them.
There is another explanation of the meaning. There are sixteen specific centres in the body called adharas. This word means ‘base’ or ‘substratum’. They refer to chakras which are located in the following sixteen regions of the body: toes, ankles, knees, thighs, peri-neum, coccyx, navel, heart, neck, tonsils, tongue, nose, eyebrow centre, eyes, back of the head and crown of the head. In various practices one’s awareness is rotated through these centres. Prana flows through these regions within the pranic body. Therefore, jalandhara bandha can also be defined as the practice that locks the pranic network in the neck. This prevents flow of prana between these centres and directs prana into sushumna nadi.
There are numerous scriptural references to jalandhara bandha. The following are a selected few from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
“Contract the throat and firmly press the chin against the chest. This is called jalandhara bandha and helps to prevent old age and death.” (3:70)
“It blocks all the nadis in the neck, checks the fall of amrit (divine fluid) which drops from the heavens. It should be done to cure throat ailments.” (3:71)
“The contraction of the throat during jalandhara bandha prevents the amrit falling into the digestive fire. In this way prana is conserved (that is, the prana is controlled and directed only into the sushumna; flow of prana in the other nadis ceases).” (3:72)
“This contraction of the throat also im mobilizes the flow of prana in the ida and pingala nadis (associated with the flow of breath in the left and right nostrils). Again this blocks the flow of prana to the sixteen adharas and directs it into the sushumna.” (3:73)
These four verses give fertile ground for thought and indicate the importance of this bandha. The Yoga Chudamani Upanishad also has much to say on jalandhara bandha:
“The sadhaka (aspirant) should sit in padmasana with hands folded across his lap. The chin should be firmly pressed against the throat. One should reflect completely on Brahman (the supreme) with the breath retained. In this manner, the sadhaka will attain immense power and knowledge.” (verse 40)
“He who is able to retain the element akasha (ether) and the fluids which have a downward tendency, will remove all frustration and dissatisfaction.” (verse 50)
“By the practice of jalandhara bandha, the nectar amrit which tends to flow downwards from the centre of the head is restrained. The nectar does not fall into the fire (is not burned up) and the pranic forces of the body are prevented from moving hither and thither.” (verse 51)
There are many more quotations in other texts, but this is sufficient to give you an idea of the importance of this practice. We leave it to the reader to fully understand the meaning of these verses through personal experience.
The breath is to be retained during jalandhara bandha. The retention can either be antar kumbhaka (inner retention) or bahir kumbhaka (outer retention) or both, depending on the practice and integration with other techniques2. That is, one can either breathe in deeply, fully inflating the lungs and then do jalandhara bandha, or one can exhale deeply and then do jalandhara bandha. Both methods have their use in association with other practices.
We have already emphasized that the duration of kumbhaka should not be more than is comfortable. This also applies to jalandhara bandha. Don’t strain under any circumstances. Increase the duration of breath retention over a period of weeks and months. If you have been regularly practising nadi shodhana in the way that we have suggested, then you will find no difficulty doing jalandhara bandha for a reasonable period of time.