I've just been searching through my blog for anything related to Bandhas. I had it in my head that I've been perhaps a little ...... disparaging ..... to them in the past. The last few days I've been thinking that perhaps it was time to eat my words. As it happens I haven't been dismissive of the bandhas at all, in fact I can't find a bad word said about them. Under my labels section you'll now find they now have their own place, five bandha specific posts. Turns out that the worst I've said about them, and in relation to the Jump back/through, is that... 'they (the bandhas) wont get you off the ground (you need technique for that) but that once your up they may give you more control.'
So if I haven't been dismissive of the bandhas, why is it that I thought I have. I think it's more a case of being dismissive of how people talk about the bandhas. It annoyed me, and was one of the main reasons I started this blog, that when anyone asked how to Jump back the answer seemed to be 'work on your bandhas'. It was as if there was this mystical aspect to the practice that would take years to develop. Nobody seemed clear as to what the bandhas are or even the best way to develop/engage/use/employ/exercise them. It felt like something exclusive, excluding. Now I may be being unfair, perhaps it's not like that in the Shala's. Perhaps the teachers and assistants are more forthcoming about the nature of the bandhas and it's just a mistaken impression I've received from searching for info on the web, visiting forums and reading blog comments.
But I did say that they wouldn't get you off the ground. Well, I might start by eating that statement. I now think, that they will indeed get you off the ground, for the jump back say, when employed with other techniques. (see under labels, my seven elements for Jumping back http://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/search/label/jump%20back%20seven%20elements ). I've said in those posts that it's important to employ all these elements. I've just checked and Uddiyana is in fact one of my seven, although I've called it 'Belly up' (Kino does this too in her Primary DVD).
But it's not just in relation to the Jump back that the bandhas can help your practice. While practicing Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama sequences over the last few months I've been engaging my bandhas at the end of every exhale and I can't deny the impact it's had on my practice. They seem to anchor you more in backbends, particularly Kapo and Dropback. It's as if you have an anchor tied to a rope, the other end tied to your mula bandha and you throw out the rope and anchor your pelvis making you feel more confident as you drop back. In the Marichi's too it's as if your gripping the floor with your mula (this image makes me smile). Much more control landing your Bakasana of course but the asana I've noticed the difference most is Karandavasana.
If you look back at my Karandavasana videos you'll find me lowering down with control at first but then losing it and coming down too fast. I still managed to land it with practice but it wasn't pretty. Now watch this mornings video. Once I'm in lotus I engage mula bandha and then Uddiyana as I lower. I think you can even see I'm engaging uddiyana in the screen shots.
Engaging Uddiyana Bandha
Going back up is the same, I engage the bandhas strongly and then roll my lotus back up. Where last month I was pretty hit and miss going back up, now I'm making that duck fly pretty much every time (though still using my chin thus far, sigh).
Press to handstand has improved and I seem to be getting somewhere with the Navasana to handstand party trick.
So how do you work on your bandhas. Here's what Ramaswami has to say in Yoga beneath the surface.
'.... after a complete exhalation contract the glutei (rectum), and pull up the pelvic floor, you will be doing mula bandha. Then in a continuous motion, you draw the abdomen inward and backward , you have the two bandhas, mula and uddiyana.' p148
There is more that can be said about the technique of engaging the bandhas in my other bandha posts (see labels) but lets keep it simple and uncomplicated for now. The only thing I will say is that I tend to contract the muscle just in frount of my glutei and when I draw my abdomen in and up I also kind of squeeze the sides in, kind of nauliish. But stick with Ramaswami's direction for now perhaps if your new to this.
You engage this at the end of every exhale, Ramaswami also writes about holding your breath at the end of the exhale and that's a nice exercise to develop the bandhas, especially since when you begin to inhale again you tend to lose mula bandha (why, where does it go?). The holding the breath is a Pranayama technique that you can also use in your practice. Seated asana are best for working on mula bandha but you can work on Uddiyana throughout your practice.
And this is something you can work on at any time by the way. I'm a Woodwind repairer and I work on this while sitting at my bench repairing.
I don' think this is something that you have to work at for years before you see results, it's just a muscle for heavens sake. Give it two weeks to a month on engaging on every exhale (when you remember) throughout your practice and see if you notice a difference. Of course with practice you'll develop more control at this and it'll become more refined perhaps but I think you'll notice the difference in a couple of weeks. Let me know if you do.