Friday, April 1, 2011

Body Locks (Bandhas)

"Bandhas protect and project, that is what they are for. They protect the alignment of your spine and project your energy where you want it to go" ~ Guru Prem Singh Khalsa, author of Divine Alignment
The bandhas, or body locks, direct the prana and apanathe generative and eliminating energies, during the practice of Kundalini Yoga as Taught by Yogi Bhajan®. The blending of these two energies opens the flow of energy into the central energy channel along the spine, the sushmuna, which gently awakens the kundalini energy in a controlled manner. With continuing, deepening practice of thebandhas, the body systems are cleansed, restored, and refined through this circulation of kundalini energy.
The primary function of the bandhas, or body locks, is to create inner strength to hold open the sushmuna and, at the same time, to create a hydraulic pressure to encourage energy to move feely within that channel.
The sushmuna is a spiritual channel, but its physical counterpart is the spine. It is of primary importance to maintain the integrity and alignment of the spine so that this channel can remain open. Bandhas are not just strong measures used occasionally to create an energy surge, but are also subtle internal contractions that can be consistently applied to hold the spine in correct alignment.
Through using one or more of the bandhas we can consciously construct an internal framework that creates and supports the correct alignment of the spine in anyposture we attempt. With a correctly bandhed internal framework, our postural alignment uses only the most appropriate muscles to hold the position and this allows us to release unnecessary tension in the rest of the body.
These techniques consolidate the effects of a Kundalini Yoga practice and directprana within the physical and energetic pathways to promote healing, energizing, and strengthening of the whole human being.


What: Neck Lock is the most basic and most generally applied lock. It regulates gross and subtle movement in the upper part of the body.
How: Lift the chest and sternum up while lengthening the back of the neck, by pulling the chin toward the back of the neck. Neck, throat and face muscles remain relaxed.
When: All chanting meditation, most pranayama. Breath held in or out.
Why: Concentrates the secretions of the glandular system, thereby increasing their interconnection. Regulates blood pressure. Minimizes external distractions. Seals energy in the brain stem and moon center (chin). Directs pranic energy into central channel, calming the heart.


What: Root Lock is like a hydraulic lock at the base of the spine. It coordinates, stimulates, and balances the energies involved with the rectum, sex organs, and navel point (i.e. the lower three chakras).
How: Three actions are applied together in a smooth, rapid, flowing motion. First, contract and hold the muscles around the anus. Then contract and hold the muscles around the sex organ (like stopping the flow of urine). Finally, contract the muscles of the lower abdomen and the navel point toward the spine.
When: Frequently applied at the end of an exercise. Sometimes applied – continuously or rhythmically – throughout a meditation or exercise. Breath held in or out. Women on their moon cycle should not do Root Lock.
Why: Crystallizes the effect of an exercise. Blends prana and apana at the navel center which, when mixed, open the entrance to the sushmuna for energy to flow up the spine. Stimulates the proper flow of spinal fluid.


What: Diaphragm Lock vertically integrates emotions, pranic energy, and functions that occur above and below the diaphragm muscle. Tightness in this muscle – and the emotions it stores – can make this lock more difficult to achieve.
How: Inhale, then exhale completely. Pull the entire abdominal region up and back towards the spine. The navel point is not contracted although it will move upwards. Lift the chest while gently pressing the lower spine forward. When held properly, the “notch” at the base of the front of the throat becomes accentuated. Hold for 10 to 60 seconds without straining.  Then relax the abdomen, gradually inhaling without releasing the Neck Lock or raising the chin. 
For many people it is easier to practice this lock in a standing position.  With the feet shoulder width apart, bend forward slightly, hands on knees and back straight.  Lifting the chest slightly, apply the lock.
When: On an empty stomach. Held after breath fully exhaled.
Why: Massages intestines and heart muscle. Stimulates cleansing, promotes youthfulness. Strengthens the fire element, Third Chakra, and opens the Heart Chakra, resulting in increasing kindness, compassion, and patience.


What: The Great Lock is part of the central infrastructure of Kundalini Yoga.
How: With the breath held out, apply all three locks (Neck, Diaphragm, and Root) simultaneously.
When: On an empty stomach. Held after breath fully exhaled. Done in various postures and with different mudras.
Why: Rejuvenates glands, nerves, and chakras. It is said to cure many ailments such as improper blood pressure, menstrual cramps, intestinal irregularity, and more.
Specific information on body locks given on this page is summarized from Yogi Bhajan, Ph.D. The Aquarian Teacher: KRI International Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Textbook Level One Instructor. Third Edition. Kundalini Research Institute, 2005.

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