Tag Archives: bandhas

Bandha Practice with Rod Stryker

Rod Stryker at the Yoga Journal NYC Conference 2011
Teaching "the supreme energetic and physiological lock"

Learned a lot at the Yoga Journal Conference today. (You can still drop in on classes tomorrow!) The hardest thing was choosing a schedule — there were 12 amazing teachers for each block! I went for mostly West Coast people that are here less often, and other teachers who were new to me.

Here are my notes on the first session with Rod Stryker, which left me feeling AMAZING — buzzing yet settled down, like I’d just had a massage. (I’ll post more session notes over the next few days.) Apologies for any misquotes!

Rod Stryker: Bandha: The Theory, Application, and Practice. (5/14/11, 8-10am)

Great way to start the morning: an hour reviewing a key technique, and then an hour actually feeling it in poses. Rod’s lesson:

There are two paths to yoga (union):

  1. chitta — still the mind (Patanjali’s eight-limbed path, as explained in the sutras)
  2. prana — use the energy (Tantra, has no single source book)

Most yoga classes, you feel better b/c you’ve done the latter, moved energy.

Tantra

“You’re probably doing more Tantra than you think.”

Our experience of the world depends on our filter. In yoga, the filter is the mind. In tantra, the filter is the energy. Change your energy, change your experience.

Start thinking of yourself as a vessel of energy. Understand three principles:

  1. your vessel is leaking (eyes, ears, hands, genitals are all places we lose energy)
  2. energy is misplaced
  3. the energy in your vessel is dirty

Bandhas

Two meanings: bondage, holding back, restraint AND bond, connection. Like hydroelectric power: they are walls which contain a flow.

Jalandhara Bandha — chin lock (jala = net, to catch)
— gets the least press (who cares about the neck?), let’s cover it first.
— related to the inhale
— lengthening of the cervical spine, lifting of the collarbones, dropping of the chin (optional)
— (those w/a flattened cervical spine should not be doing it)
— stops energy from rising above the collarbones, from going to the head and the intellect
— raises the blood pressure; the subsequent drop is good for meditation
— don’t jam the neck, lift the occiput

Uddiyana Bandha — navel lock (ud = lift, fly)
— supreme lock, in the teachings, physiologically and energetically
— drawing of navel in and up, compresses and lifts the abdominal organs to the spine
— only done on the pause after exhalation
— can’t be done when inhaling or after inhale
— people often misappropriate the term, they really mean “lift your lower abs”

Mula Bandha — root lock (mula = root)
— gets the most press (like kids, we like to talk about the farting / pooping / sex area :)
— pelvic diaphragm moves gently up (often follows navel diaphragm)
— not gripping or muscling, not contracting or hardening… just lifting
— specifically the anterior side
— pretty much the same as Kegels
— but the mental focus and intention is what leads to pranic control
— three muscle groups involved: frontal muscles, anus, and perineal floor
— to feel those three groups think about holding in #1, #2, and … (there is no #3 :)
— move towards it on exhale
— effects change if done on exhale or inhale
— if done on inhale, it disengages you from basic biological functions (might have trouble eliminating, menstruating, grounding, putting down roots in the world)
— ok if you’re a saddhu trying to disassociate from the world, but not great for city people
— “if I lived in NYC, I would not be doing a lot of mula bandha on the inhale”

The bandhas open the door to the next stage of practice — more energetic, less somatic.

Practice

Mental energy will give you mastery of prana. Physical techniques are secondary.

Good poses to start/teach the practice of bandhas in asana:

Jalandhara — bridge
Uddiyana — standing w/hands on knees (traditional), forward folds, bridge
Mula — chair, down dog, some gentle forward bends

Just do maybe 4 or 5 rounds of bandha in asana. Can deepen practice if preparing for pranayama, meditation, etc.

Sequences (that I remember)

We did some gentle salutations to warm up the body. Stepping back to lunge, and then forward to forward bend (no vinyasas). Keeping the neck long, the head slightly back was a challenge, but it helped me stop feeling faint in that transition! A couple sequences that really helped me feel the locks:

  1. Three part bridge — Lying on back, knees bent, inhale and raise hips. Hold there and exhale fully. Roll down holding the breath and suction the belly in and up. (Can add raising and lowering of arms, or flexion and extension of arms with interlaced fingers, to increase the effects.)
  2. Table to Down Dog — Kneeling on all fours, keep cervical spine long. Exhale and tuck the tail and roll the belly up and in. Hold the breath and slowly straighten the legs into Down Dog. (To the count of six or so.) More intense practice.
  3. Sitting — Breath of Fire, then Maha Bandha (all three locks)

Rod has a book coming out in July called The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom. He also has a 23 (yes, twenty-three) CD boxed set that I’m sorely tempted to buy. (It’s called Tantra: The Radiant Soul of Yoga.) Five two-hour asana/pranayama/meditation practices, five one-hour “deepening practices”, 47 talks on the theory and science of practice, 14 different meditations, and 12 pranayama practices. Dang. He seems to like this stuff.

You can keep up with Rod on twitter at @parayogatweets or on Facebook at ParaYogaFB.

Check back tomorrow for another session of Yoga Journal Conference notes!