There are three major bandhas referenced in the practice of yoga. Jalandhara Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Mulabandha are situated in the throat, abdomen and perineum, respectively. We will not discuss Jihva Bandha or Maha Bandha, but those are others you may hear about in some yoga classes or yogic text.
The bandhas involve the contraction or squeezing of muscles. Contraction of these muscled affects the nervous, circulatory, respiratory, endocrine and energy systems. When a muscle is contracted a nerve impulse is relayed to the brain triggering other neuronal circuits and nerve centers. The bandhas help control breath, and breath controls consciousness. It would be difficult to explain how to contract the muscles used for the bandhas, so we recommend you discuss this activity with an experienced professional. We will only introduce the effects of the three major bandhas, we will not touch on the actual practice of contracting the muscles or attempt to explain how to incorporate them into your yoga practice. This should be done under the supervision of an experienced professional. Hopefully, understanding the effects will lead you into deepening your practice.
Mulabandha stimulates both the sensory motor and the autonomic nervous systems in the pelvic region. When Mulabandha is performed, pelvic stimulation activates parasympathetic fibers emerging from the pelvic spinal cord. The parasympathetic nervous system supports the day to day functioning of internal organs on an individual basis.
Uddiyana Bandha compresses the digestive organs, adrenal glands, kidneys, and most important the solar plexus. It tones the sympathetic nervous system, which controls our “flight or fight” function, encouraging it to work more efficiently. Having control of the sympathetic nervous system has direct effects on stress and anxiety.
Jalandhara Bandha stimulates the parasympathetic spinal area in the Medulla Oblongata regulating heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure. Activating this bandha also allows one to achieve a sense of rest, relaxation and general wellbeing.
As the bandhas are intimately related to the chakras, it is natural for the contraction of the muscles related to the respective bandhas to affect the chakras. The performance of bandhas in conjunction with pranayama deepens the effects of both. Once again, we recommend these exercises and practices be done under the supervision of an experienced professional.