Stick figure from HERE
The first part of the article includes more basic instruction ( follow THIS link for the full article) but we pick it up here with the more detailed instructing focusing on employing the bandhas.
What particularly sparked my interest was Simon's definition of what he refers to as Ha- and Tha-bandha in relation to the blood.
"Ha-bandhas are compressive, create heat and increase local pressure. They push energy and blood away from their region and reduce local blood flow
Tha-bandhas are expansive, decrease temperature and local pressure. They pull energy and blood away from their region and increase local blood flow"
Recently Simon, Mick Lawton and myself have been in discussion concerning the topic of Kumbhaka. Mick you may remember suffers from an hereditary illness that causes his body to 'flare up', whereupon, several times a year, he is rushed to hospital and operated on, the wounds at his joints needing to be left open. During these periods of healing ( when he is constantly receiving tests at the hospital) Mick's Ashtanga practice is on hold . Coming upon this blog he began practicing Vinyasa Krama and following my posts in the last couple of years on Krishnamacharya's employment of breath retention he's been including kumbhaka ( see this post). Mick's own experience, and the results of the tests from the hospital seem to bare this out, is that when he employs Kumbhaka he heals more quickly than when he doesn't employ kumbhaka.
I discussed this with Simon recently given his molecular biology, an Anatomy and physiology background, trying to understand why this approach to breathing in asana might be having such a positive effect on Mick's healing (See my Interview with Simon on the post). Simon draws attention to the Bohr effect where the increased level of CO2 resulting from the employment of Kumbhaka may allow oxygen to enter the cells more readily.
My own speculative theory resulting from this and mentioned briefly in the interview, was that somehow perhaps the nature of an asana (a bind perhaps) restricted the blood flow to a particular region of the body while kumbhaka was introduced, then on the relaxing of the asana ( unbinding) and while moving to the next asana, the blood, with the increased CO2, could then perhaps move more freely to the required region and thus account somewhat for the healing effect in the area of injury. It might then be possible to choose our asana to have the greatest beneficial impact on the area most in need.
Speculative at best. However, reading Simon's article on Wild Yogi this morning and the section below in particular I wonder if it's not perhaps the employment of ha- and tha- bandhas that push blood to and from a region following the kumbhaka.
Simon also mentions, in the interview I linked to above, approaches to breathing other than Kumbhaka that may have a similar effect.
I sent this to Simon to see if this made sense to him and he said that it was very much in line with what he was teaching and practicing himself currently. he also suggested I add this note.
"kumbhaka with bandha (especially compressive bandhas) will also increase the partial pressure of oxygen inside the body and thus create an autogenous hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in the form of sitting in hyperbaric oxygen chambers, has been shown to be very effective in helping healing. The self induced version of this through kumbhaka with bandha may explain in part what is happening to Mick in his healing response".
Over on the right blog I've added a link to Simon's excellent online courses based on, and extending, the material from his book 'Applied Anatomy & Physiology of Yoga', that link will stay there but here it is again.
(notes adapted from Simon's online course see below)
These notes are adapted from our book comprehensive textbook ‘Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga’ (AP). This work is also elaborated and enhanced in our two award winning fully online courses ‘Essentials of Teacher Training: Yoga Fundamentals Online Course’, and ‘Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga Online Course’.
Definitions and Introduction (APCh 1, 2,4, 7 Appendix C)
Bandha is defined as co-activation (simultaneous tensing) of antagonistic (opposing) muscle groups around a joint complex; Bandhas require multi-joint muscles and multi-joint complexes; Bandhas strengthen and stabilise joint-complexes; Bandhas help to move prana (energy) citta and (consciousness) through the nadis (subtle channels including nerves, blood vessels, lymph vessels and acupuncture meridians)
Ha-bandhas are compressive, create heat and increase local pressure. They push energy and blood away from their region and reduce local blood flow
Tha-bandhas are expansive, decrease temperature and local pressure. They pull energy and blood away from their region and increase local blood flow
There are many ways to generate bandhas at each of the nine main joint complexes. The main ways in Trikonasana are listed below with simple instructions to guide you in this posture as a follows:
Below are listed some of the instructions you can give to others as a teacher or things you can do in your own practice in the posture Utthita Trikonasana (with right leg forward)
Kulpha (ankle) bandha (APpp 178-186, 395-396)
Use ha-kulpha bandha on both feet (This bandha pushes the blood away from the feet and should mainly be used when the foot is on the floor)
Grip (flex) the toes (like trying to make a closed fist)
Lift the arches of the feet – (once kati (hip) bandhas are applied then emphasise the lift of the arch of the outer right foot and the arch of the inner left foot), i.e
turn the right thigh out and lift the arch of the outer right foot, and
turn the left thigh inwards and lift the inner arch of the left foot
Bring the weight of the body to the front of your feet
Janu (knee) bandha (APpp 158-163, 396-397)
Use tha-janu bandha on both knees (This bandha enhances blood flow through the knee and should mainly be used with the knee extended in a weight-bearing posture)
Pull up the knee caps (in order to activate muscles in front of the thighs or knee extensors)
Try to bend the knee with knee caps still pulled up and/or press into the front of the foot (in order to activate muscles in the rear of the thighs or knee flexors)
Kati (hip) bandha (APpp 134-142, 398-399)
RIGHT LEG (flexed hip)
Use ha-kati bandha (This bandha restricts blood flow through the hip and should mainly be used with the hip flexed, i.e. in poses with the thigh moving towards the front of the body, in standing or in the air)
Try to turn the right thigh outwards
Start with the right foot slightly turned inwards (outer foot parallel to the long side of your mat, and your inner foot slightly turning inwards (although the exact position can differ from person to person) then:
press your right heel inwards and
press your right front foot outwards
(this is like trying to turn the thigh outwards, but effectively co-activates hip abductors and adductors to create a compressive hip bandha)
LEFT LEG (extended hip)
Use tha-kati bandha (This bandha enhances blood flow through the hip and should mainly be used with hip extended, i.e. in poses with the thigh moving towards the back of the body, in standing or in the air)
Try to turn the thigh inwards
Start with the LEFT foot turned 45-60 degrees outwards, then:
press your left heel outwards and
press your front foot inwards
(this is like trying to turn the thigh inwards, but effectively co-activates hip abductors and adductors to create an expansive hip bandha)
Mula (lower trunk) bandha (APpp 207-209, 400-401)
For most people it is generally best to only use tha-mula bandha in this posture. This bandhaenhances blood flow through the lower trunk while stabilising and firming the lower trunk. It is best maintained with natural diaphragmatic breathing where should feel like you are keeping your abdomen relaxed and feel comfortablly able to breathe into the abdomen (using your diaphragm) but if you were to touch your abdomen it would feel firm to touch because of the way you are doing the posture and using your postural muscles.
Lengthen the spine (especially by pushing the tail bone and sitting bones in the opposite direction from the first thoracic vertebrae and the collar bone)
Narrow and compress the waist (using the postural abdominal muscles and not the muscles of abdominal exhalation)
Initiate your inhale using the diaphragm (pull the diaphragm down) while not letting the abdomen puff out and this will increase intra-abdominal pressure and add to the stability of the lumbar spine
Keep the abdomen very firm but calm with three spinal movements:
Bend your spine and trunk forward (spinal flexion) to un-crease the back of your body, by moving your navel and your navel spine (L4-L5) forwards and downwards (activating spinal flexors, especially rectus abdominis)
Rotate your spine and trunk upwards (to the left side), by rotating your navel and your navel spine (L4-L5) to the left side
Lengthen the front of your body (spinal extension) by moving your navel and your navel spine (L4-L5) forwards and upwards
· AND/OR Try to push the sitting bones down and forward and while trying to pull the middle back in and up, without actually shortening the spine
· AND/OR Stretch the mat with the feet (specifically try to stretch the mat apart from the ball of the RIGHT foot to the heel of the LEFT foot)
· AND/OR Perform nauli (activate the rectus abdominis by pushing the pubis and your navel spine (L4-L5) forwards and downwards while generating tha-uddiyana bandha (see below) on exhalation retention)
Only use ha-mula bandha (the compressional form of mula bandha which restricts blood flow through the lower trunk and is best used and learnt during forced abdominal exhalation) when both this posture (asana) and basic breath-control (pranayama) have been mastered separately and can now be applied at the same time. Note that most practitioners with less than 10 years or rigourous yoga are not ready for this stage and will over-tax both their physiology and anatomy by inappropriately applying this type of positive pressure core stabilisation or ha-mula bandhaprematurely trying to apply it in postures.
Narrow and compress the waist and especially the lower abdomen (using the abdominal muscles of exhalation), but generally only hold for a few moments
most people can only use a combination of the external and internal abdominal oblique muscles to to do a forced abdominal exhale, but this will restrict the ability to rotate the spine and prevent a diaphragmatic inhalation. Ideally the exhalation and tha-mula bandha should be done only with the transversus abdominis muscles, and they should be able to isolated so that the lower abdominals can be constricted separately fromt the upper abdominals (most people cant do this
Activate the perineum (not the anus) by learning how to draw in the lower abdomen and not the upper abdomen using the lower transverse abdminis fibres and not the external oblique muscles
This will cause a co-activation of the lumbar multifidus muscles and the perineum not the anus and yet still allow diaphragmatic breathing, but this is not possible for 90% of people without special training using devices such as ‘Real Time Ultrasound’
AND/OR contract the diaphragm with or without an inhalation
Uddiyana (chest and upper back) bandha (APpp 208, 211, 402-403)
In Utthita Trikonasana the chest can have a bandha that is intermediate between ha-uddiyana bandha and tha-uddiyana bandha (see below), or it can fully oscillate between the two opposingbandhas with or without using complete breathing (i.e. using diaphragm then chest muscles)
Ha-uddiyana bandha (This bandha restricts blood flow through the upper trunk and is good to use when the spine is being compressed or under a potentially damaging load, or when strength is required such as when lifting into a handstand, Lolasana or any arm strengthening activity)
Contract the front lower rib cage and the rear lower rib cage (near the kidney region) inwards towards each
Activate the muscles that you would use to exhale fully from the chest (ha-uddiyana bandha is easiest to feel on a safely performed forced chest exhalation)
Equally round out the upper back then lift the collar bones so the front and the back of the chest are equally stretched
Tha-uddiyana bandha (This bandha enhances blood flow through the upper trunk and is safest to use in postures such as Utthita Trikonasana where the spine is not compressed or under a load
Expand the lower rib cage
Inhale to the chest or expand the chest as if you are inhaling (this can be done at any time of the breath cycle)
Equally round out the upper back then lift the collar bones so the front and the back of the chest are equally expanded
Jalandhara (neck & head) bandha (APpp 209-211, 404)
Ha-jalandhara bandha (This bandha restricts blood flow through the neck)
Move the head down and move the neck back
If and when you rotate the head to the left (i.e. upwards) then move your left ear away from your left shoulder
Note that when you turn your head upwards you should turn your whole spine from the region of the naval and the ‘navel spine’ (L4-L5)
Amsa (shoulder) bandha (APpp 87-92, 405-406)
Generally to create amsa (shoulder) bandha, move or push the armpits in the direction they are facing and move the elbows in the opposite direction
In Trikonasana the shoulders can have a bandha that is intermediate between ha-amsa bandha and tha-amsa bandha (see below)
Ha-amsa bandha (This bandha restricts blood flow through the shoulder and is best used when the shoulders are extended by the side of the body or abducted out to the side)
Push your shoulders towards your hips and push your elbows away from your hips
Tha-amsa bandha (This bandha enhances blood flow through the shoulder and is best used when the shoulders are flexed, i.e. arms above the head)
Push the shoulders forward towards the chest and push the elbows backwards away from the chest
Kurpara (elbow) bandha (APpp 112-113, 407)
Tha-kurpara bandha (This bandha enhances blood flow through the elbow and is best used when the elbow is extended)
Gently and simultaneously tighten (bulge) the biceps brachii and triceps brachii
Here the arm is pulling upwards against the ankle (or the big toe or the floor), as if trying to fly up into the air
Try to bend (flex) your elbow, activates the elbow flexors and elbow supinators (e.g. biceps brachii), and try to rotate your forearm inwards (elbow pronation), which activates the elbow pronators, and thus creates co-activation of opposing muscles groups (bandha) around the elbow
Gently and simultaneously tighten (bulge) the biceps and triceps brachii
Here the arm is pushing to try and straighten (extend) the elbow so try to rotate the forearm outwards (elbow supination)
Mani (wrist) bandha (APpp 113-120, 408-409)
Ha-mani bandha (This pushes the blood away from the hand and should mainly be used when the hand is weight-bearing or grabbing something)
Grip (flex) with your fingers and
Pull the back of the hand towards the wrist (extend the wrist), as if trying to make a closed fist with the hand
OR in an open handed position in case the hand is on the floor then try to ‘grab the floor’ with your fingers, or if your hand is resting by the side of the ankle in the air then make a tight closed fist with your hand
Tha-mani bandha (This pulls the blood towards the hands and should mainly be used when the hand is in the air and is not weight-bearing or grabbing something)
Spread (extend) your fingers and
Pull back (flex) your wrist slightly