Bandha means to lock, close-off, to stop. In the practice of a Bandha, the energy flow to a particular area of the body is blocked. When the Bandha is released, this causes the energy to flood more strongly through the body with an increased pressure.
The four bandhas are described as follows:
- 1. Mula bandha: Mula is a Sanskrit word meaning "root." The "root lock," as it may also be called, involves contracting the perineum muscles inward, then lifting them upward to hold energy. Performing mula bandha promotes energy flow to the rectum, stimulating the pelvic muscles and urogenital organs. It also awakens the individual's kundalini power.
- 2. Uddiyana bandha: Uddiyana is a Sanskrit word meaning "to rise up." In this second bandha, energy moves upward more forcefully than it does in mula bandha. Uddiyana bandha stimulates the abdominal muscles as they are pulled in, while the chest lifts upward. Though it is highly recommended for those struggling with constipation, Uddiyana bandha can also boost the practitioner's metabolism and promote healthy function of the adrenal gland, thereby relieving stress and tension. It also energizes the heart chakra (anahata), promoting kindness and compassion.
- 3. Jalandhara bandha: Jalandhara is a Sanskrit word derived from the roots jal, meaning "throat," and dhara, meaning "flow." It is performed by bringing the chin down towards the chest; therefore, it is also called the "chin lock." Practicing this bandha improves the function of the thyroid and parathyroid glands, as well as supports the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
- 4. Maha bandha: Maha is a Sanskrit word meaning "great." As such, this final bandha may also be called the "supreme bandha" or "triple lock." Maha bandha is named as such because it provides the health benefits of all three previous bandhas. Maha bandha is practiced by performing the first three bandhas simultaneously, beginning with Jalandhara bandha and ending with mula bandha. These bandhas are released in the reverse order, with mula bandha first and Jalandhara bandha last
Generally, the breath is held during practice of the Bandhas. Mula Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha can be performed after the inhalation as well as after the exhalation. Uddiyana Bandha and Maha Bandha are only performed after the exhalation.