Yoga Studies: The Bandhas, Day 5

by Angela Clark

Wrapping up the Bandhas

The asana (physical) practice can introduce your body to the pranayama (breath) practice. Once you are able to sit and work the more intense practices of pranayama and kumbaka (breath retention) with the bandhas engaged, you will begin to strengthen those muscles. Conversely, engaging the bandhas in a pranayama practice will affect your asana practice, allowing there to be more ease in the execution of the asanas.

Using the “stepping stone” analogy, the pranayama practice can introduce you to your consciousness and the awareness of the “subtle body” – the nervous system, digestive system, and thought processes.

By having a practice in which you are engaging the bandhas you directly affect both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.  The nerves for the parasympathetic nervous system are located at the top and base of spine (Jalandahara and Moola bandhas) and the nerves for the sympathetic nervous system are located in the solar plexus area of the spine (uddiyana bandha)- the “belly brain.”

You can always just do the asana practice and improve the overall health of your body. However, at some point you will reach a plateau, maintaining only what the asana practice can offer.  If you are looking for increased strength and understanding of the consciousness, having a pranayama and meditation practice will be able to take you further.

Have you ever been in a yoga class and had a question about a pose or something the teacher said but couldn’t find the right opening to ask the question? Or perhaps you were so “blissed-out” after the class, you completely forgot you had a question at all. Maybe you are a ‘yoga-geek,’ like us, and want to absorb any and all information about the practice of modern yoga.  If any of those sound familiar, then this column is for you. Each time we introduce part of the yoga practice and spend the week looking at it, dissecting it, and then connecting the dots. Feel free to ask any and all questions in the comments section about the topic of the week.

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2 Responses to Yoga Studies: The Bandhas, Day 5

  1. Dana says:

    Angela, could you recommend some resources for those who want to begin a pranayama practice?

    • I would recommend that if you are beginning a pranayama practice to seek out a teacher first. The Iyengar Institute does have a class called ‘restoratives and pranayama.’ In terms of books Iyengar has ‘Light on Pranayam,’ there is also the ‘Moola Bandha – The Master Key,’ by Swami Buddhananda. Those are good places to start.

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