Breaking Down the 5 Bandhas

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Photo credit:

Pada bandha

To create a strong and stable foundation from the ground up by pressing all four corners of the feet into the mat, energetically lifting up the arches of the feet using the inner and outer lower leg muscles and lifting the kneecaps. The beginning of Mula bandha should be felt if properly activating pada bandha. I find Utkata Konasana (goddess) a great pose for feeling the changes that occur with pada bandha off (unstable) and on (strong).

Mula bandha

With this bandha I would begin by explaining that we are aiming for more of a subtle lift rather than clenching. Even though Sukhasana (easy pose) is not physically exerting, it is a great pose to show the effect of Mula bandha on the spine. As Mula bandha is activated it creates length and because of this it becomes hard to round the spine, therefore the student can see and feel the effect immediately (and hopefully the reasoning). Mula bandha can be broken down into 3 steps:

  1. Ashwini mudra - contracting the anus like you are stopping a bowel movement

  2. Vajroli mudra - contracting the urethra like you are cutting off fluid mid stream

  3. A gentle lift or upward tug of the perineum (between the anus and genitals). ‘Imagine a sensation in that space as if a tissue is being drawn up through the cellophane of a tissue box.’(1)

Mula bandha permits energy to rise through the Muladhara (survival and trust), Svadhisthana (sexuality and creativity) and Manipura (self worth and will) chakras.

Uddiyana bandha

Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) is a great pose to practice Uddiyana bandha, especially in Surya Namaskar A from Urdhva Uttanasana (half lift) to Plank and through Chaturanga Dandasana and ending in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog). To draw all North, South, East and West points of the navel towards the spine and up toward the rib cage allows the ease of floating from one pose to the next, hence the name ‘upward flying lock’. Uddiyana bandha tones the abdominal organs and removes stale air from the base of the lungs. It also encourages energy to move upward through the Anahata (love and compassion) and Vishuddha (communication and truth) chakras.

Jalandhara bandha

Activates the thyroid gland (growth and maturation) by engaging the sternocleidomastoids at the front/side of the neck to draw the chin toward the sternum, but still maintaining the length and natural curve of the cervical spine. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) is a good example to show the importance and activation of Jalandhara bandha as we can see the compression of the front of the neck whilst preserving the curve of the cervical spine.

Hasta bandha

Spreading the fingers wide, with the middle finger facing forwards and all fingers pressing into the ground to protect the tiny wrist bones from taking too much weight. ‘Root down through the pads and mounds of the thumb and fingers, and energetically draw/suction upwards through the center of the palms, creating a lift upwards through the hands, wrists and lower arms.’(2) In any arm balancing postures or plank it is essential to create roots to the Earth before going any further.


By Alyssa McLeod


(1) & (2)


Ekhart Yoga. 2016. The Bandhas - preventing yoga injuries. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 02 November 2016].