As a yoga teacher, I try to learn something everyday from all of the other amazingly talented and compassionate teachers out there. When I teach a class, I typically come unprepared. That is, I might have an area of focus in mind, but I don’t come with a script or an agenda. The needs of my students are what drive the organic creation of my classes as we flow together. For example, I might have had a really great asana practice in which I focused on hips and I want to bring it to my class, but when I get to class, my students may need something completely different. So I go with it.
There is one caveat. I do try to ensure my students get a dose of pranayama and meditation if even for a few minutes to help them deepen their practice. Another way to help students amplify their practice is through the use of yoga bandhas – the sanskrit term for binding or bonding. Bandhas poses that restrict the outward flow of prana (energy) and bring it back to your center.
I recently came across a great post from Sadie Nardini. She does a great job of explaining the 3 bandhas and how to activate them in order.
“To activate your bandhas, use about 25 percent of your maximum effort, just enough to keep your spine and head in optimal mountain pose alignment. Release the bandhas completely once you come into savasana, final resting pose.
1. Mula Bandha: The Root Lift/Pelvic Floor
Active muscles: levator ani, coccygeus, pyramidalis (wraps into lower belly)
How to: Gently engage and lift your pelvic floor muscles (the ones in a diamond from the pubic bone in front, the tailbone in back and the sitting bones on either side) as if you have to go to the loo, but there’s no loo to be found.
Prevents: energy drainage, weak PC muscles, incontinence, reproductive organs dropping
2. Uddiyana Bandha: Upward Abdominal Lift
Active muscles: transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis
How to: Draw your navel in and up as if to touch the underside of your heart. At the same time, draw the points of your lower front ribcage slightly closer together. Lift from the inner body.
Prevents: lower back stress, weak abdominals, loss of breathing capacity, lower ribs jutting forward and straining mid back/spine
3. Jalandhara Bandha: Throat Lift
How to: Draw your soft palate back and up until the crown of your head sits in line with your pelvic floor.
Prevents: dropping the head back in backbends and compressing the back neck spine, jutting jaw forward and straining upper back/cervical spine, loss of blood flow to head”
Check out Sadie’s full post Bandhas 101.
Incorporating bandhas into your practice, helps to bring your energy and thus your focus away from the outside world that typically feels separate from self.
Activate your inner flow of prana by restricting it’s outward flow.
- Your Charmed Yogi
Photo credit: MindBodyGreen