In our first blog on bandhas, bandhas were defined as the ‘co-contraction of opposing muscles around a joint’. Bandhas can be used to stabilize joints while moving through our yoga asana practice; making sure the body is safe and supported while we explore. Moving deeper into the body, bandhas can also be understood as energetic locks that control the flow of prana (life force, life energy, consciousness) through the body. Bandhas work in this way by creating high and low pressure systems within the body, wherein information and consciousness will flow away from a high pressure system, into a low pressure system.
How do bandhas work?
Bandhas come in two forms: contractive, high pressure bandhas; and expansive, low pressure bandhas. The muscles that we use for each are the same, but the way we use the muscles is different. A contractive bandha creates a high pressure system at the site of the joint, forcing information and prana away from the joint and towards the center of the body. An expansive bandha creates a low pressure system at the site of the joint, allowing information and prana to flow through it (away from the center of the body). When we know how to activate the muscles around a joint to create either a high or low pressure system we can consciously influence the flow of information and prana.
How do nadis work?
Prana is transported throughout the body by our subtle energetic channels, called nadis. The gross physical manifestation of nadis are blood vessels and nerves. That said, blood vessels and nerves are not nadis themselves (as nadis are more subtle), but rather, blood vessels and nerves can be thought of as the lines along which nadis can run.
If we understand that the flow of prana throughout the body is impacted by the health and functioning of our nerves, we are able to work directly with nerves in order to plug into this subtle energetic flow. Nerves impact the functioning of the body when they are tensioned in a healthy manner (increasing our feelings of wellbeing), but negatively impact the functioning of they body when they are impinged (causing us to feel agitated, nervous or experience pain).
Nerve reflexes also important on the gross physical level because they influence the activation or inhibition of muscle groups throughout the body. This is what allows us to activate bandhas in the first place.
Nerve tensioning exercises, practiced safely, can therefore be an excellent way to improve the flow of prana, increase feelings of wellbeing and improve the efficiency with which we can activate or inhibit muscle groups when moving through yoga asana.