Jalandhara Bandha – Chin Lock the Prana in Throat
Hatha Yoga Pradipika defines bandhas as,
blocks created in the path of the flow
The pranic energy flows through the
nerve channels, as well as the blood vessels,
the two taken together are known as nadis.
The Chinese traditional medicine describes separate pathways for the flow of prana in the body which it calls as Chinese meridians which have several acupressure points located on them along their length. “Bandha” is a Sanskrit term which means to tighten, hold, lock, or fetter the flow of something, here it means blocking the flow of prana within its channels, in a particular direction, by tightening them down into a lock. Hatha yoga pradipika treats bandhas, and the mudras as the same, though the locking aspect of the bandhas qualifies them as a separate category of yoga practices since mudras are separately known for their effect on channelising the pranic energy through the nadis.
There are three main bandhas in hatha yoga: Mula bandha, Jalandhara bandha, and the Uddiyana bandha. These bandhas can be used in different combinations with the mudras or with various pranayamas in order to enhance their benefits. Rather some yogis call it the Jalandhara bandha pranayama. The aim of these bandhas is to block the flow of energy in a particular direction, subject to the location of the bandha in the body, and redirect it towards the sushumna nadi for spiritual awakening. Every yoga pose is designed to create blocks to the flow of prana at the point where the muscles contract and direct it to the direction of the body part where the muscles are in a relaxed state for a particular pose.
One interpretation of the word ” jalandhara” comes from the Sanskrit word ” jalan” which means a “net or web”, and ” dhara” which stands for “flow” like a stream. Thus jalandhara bandha is the lock which regulates the flow of prana in the network of nadis within the neck. Alternatively Jalandhara bandha is known as a throat lock which prevents the nectar, emanating from the Sahasrara Chakra passing through the Ajna chakra, from falling into the digestive fire by holding it at the throat chakra or the vishuddhi chakra. This meaning comes from the third interpretation of the term ” Jalandhara” where in jal means throat, jalan stands for water (nectar), and dhara refers to tube for flow of nectar in the body.
Still another meaning comes from separating the term ” adhara”, which means base , from the word Jalandhara. Adharas are no different from chakras, in total 16 adharas, chakras – all minor and major ones taken together – are present within the body. Thus Jalandhara bandha can also be explained as the throat lock which redirects the prana from the Vishuddhi chakra – adhara- to the sushumna nadi situated within the spine.
Steps for Executing Jalandhara bandha, Throat lock
- Sit in any comfortable yoga pose like Padmasana, Siddha yoni, Vajrasana or even Sukhasana wherein one can naturally hold the head and the spine vertically straight, knees touching the mat or the floor, the throat lock can be done in a standing position in case sitting crossed leg with both knees touching the floor is not comfortably possible
- The palms must be placed on the knees, lengthen the spine from both ends by actively pressing the hips onto the mat and extending the head up till one loses the feel of one’s weight, now relax the shoulders and push the chest out to lift the sternum, slowly close the eyes and mentally relax each part of the body
- Take a deep inhalation, avoid filling the lungs to full capacity, keep a third of the lungs empty, and hold the breath inside ( Kumbhaka), lift the chest and place the chin into the notch between the sternum and the base of the neck ( jugular notch), the lifted chest will pull the base of the neck from behind in the opposite direction to the lowering of the head, chin into the jugular notch, this will extend the neck along its axis from behind keeping it long and straight
- Push the knees into the floor with the palms while straightening the arms to their full length, the straightened arms will slightly lift the shoulders and hunch them forward, this will lock the elbows and intensify the pressure on the chin lock, now contract the deep neck flexors of the throat along with the hyoid bone, one can notice that as the body get into this alignment Mula bandha is automatically activate on its own
- Hold the chin lock with internal retention of the breath till one feels comfortable enough, the moment strain sets in release the throat lock by lifting the head to the starting position, exhale, relax the arms and the shoulders by slightly bending the elbows and breathe normal before beginning the next round
Repetitions and Duration of Chin Lock
Beginners can start with three rounds slowly increasing it to 5 rounds in a single session. Jalandhara bandha, throat lock must be held in position only till the practitioner is comfortable in retaining the breath, avoid straining in an attempt to hold it for longer. For someone new to chin lock may initially hold it only for a few seconds gradually increasing the duration to 1 minute. Experienced practitioners can hold the breath in chin lock up till 3 – 5 minutes.
Jalandhara Bandha Precautions
- The technique of throat lock must be learnt only under the guidance of a qualified teacher
- Avoid inhaling or exhaling up till the head is straight up with the arms & shoulders relaxed
- In case one experiences the feeling of suffocation, immediately release the chin lock and rest by breathing normal
- Do not only concentrate on lowering the chin, lifting the sternum is equally important, the chin must meet the raised sternum mid-way to the point of location of the jugular notch when the sternum is at its normal, unelevated position
- The head must be lifted up as the chin thrust extend the sternum upward
- In order to avoid over straining beginners can first exhale and then raise the head up instead of first raising the head upright and then releasing the Kumbhaka, or the retention of breath after inhalation
- Do not actively press the chin into the clavicular notch, the locking action of the arms and the subsequent raising of the shoulders must press the chin adequately into the notch between the clavicle bones
Throat Lock practice note & Modifications
- Slightly engaging the epiglottis as in the swallowing action while performing the throat lock increases one’s sensitivity to the movement of prana in the throat region
- Engage the throat muscles into jalandhara bandha after the inhalation is complete – Puraka – and up till just before the exhalation – Rechaka- is begun
- Practice of Uddiyana bandha becomes easy after jalandhara bandha has been mastered
- Learning the right technique of the chin lock is crucial to properly executing a number of yoga asanas like Shoulder Stand with support, Vipareeta karani mudra, and the basic Plow pose
- Sequentially, when practiced on its own, Jalandhara bandha must be placed after asanas, and pranayamas, but before meditation
- It is known to enhance the benefits of pranayama in case practiced in combination with it, chin lock is also practiced with mudras for the same reason
- Throughout the duration of holding Jalandhara bandha the awareness is maintained on the Vishuddhi chakra
- A simpler form of the throat lock is employed while combining it with any of the yoga poses; the neck is simply bend in front till the chin presses on the lower neck, all the other alignment details can be overlooked here thought the awareness must be fixed on the throat chakra only
- As a beginner one must practice it alone, without combining it with other yoga techniques, eventually start practicing it in conjunction with other bandhas, asana, pranayama, and lastly with mudras
Contraindications for Jalandhara Bandha
- Cervical Spondylosis
- Presence of intracranial pressure
- High blood pressure
- Cardiac issues as it does reduce the blood pressure initially, retention of the breath for long can strain the heart
- Any injury to the neck region
Benefits of Jalandhara bandha
Jalandhara bandha benefits are many, Regular practice of Jalandhara bandha yoga imparts the practitioner with a number of benefits which are detailed here.
- As it closes the airways by contracting the neck flexor muscles it helps tone these muscles, it compresses the carotid sinuses located in the main arteries of the neck, the carotid arteries which increases the circulation of the blood to the region along with improving the health of the throat section of the respiratory apparatus
- Jalandhara bandha benefits the thyroid which is responsible for a healthy metabolism, and is also known to heal all the ailments of the throat
- Since it acts on the Vishuddhi chakra the quality of expression and the voice improves which in turn lifts the confidence and the self esteem of the practitioner, its a favorite pose for the practitioners of yoga for enhancing confidence
- Throat lock instantaneously relieves the feeling of anger, anxiety, and any type of stress inducing overall relaxation, it is a good companion to the yoga techniques for relieving stress
- Chin lock helps by introverting the mind for getting into the state of Samadhi by harmonising, and directing the flow of prana into the Sushumna nadi, the central channel of the flow of pranic energy
- It improves the concentration power of the mind and is used as part of yoga for improving focus
- As per Gheranda Samhita, regular practice of jalandhara bandha can arrest the ageing process imparting a kind of immortality – prolonged life span- to the practitioner
- Under normal conditions the internal retention of breath trigger the carotid sinuses to increase the heart rate, and induce heavier breathing as the level of oxygen in the lungs decreases, and the amount of carbon dioxide gets increased; Jalandhara bandha applies artificial pressure onto the carotid sinuses which prevents them from activating these conditions, rather it helps decrease the heart rate so that the breath can be retained internally for longer
- It relieves the Kumbhaka induced pressure on the brain, internal ears, and the eyes
- Its a good workout for the spine
- The Chin lock restricts the upwards movement of the prana energy, when practiced with Mula bandha it locks the prana ( cosmic energy that moves upward) and the apana that moves downwards within the navel region, The combined impact of the both can help awaken the Navel or the Manipura chakra
- t is the preliminary practice, along with the other two bandhas ( Mula bandha and uddiyana bandha) for achieving Maha bandha, the triple lock