Friday, January 16, 2009

What's so special with Ashtanga yoga? The bandhas (part 5)

The bandhas: In one of my first Ashanga yoga lessons I was taught to use the bandhas. Bandhas? What's that? "Imagine", I heard "you have to pee and there is no restroom, then you use your bandhas in order not to wet your pants. For women it is the floor of the pelvis which is called bandhas. In India the bandhas were called "penis-control". Is it tradition to call the bandhas so, because in former times only men did yoga?
To use your bandhas all the time during your practice is "science fiction", I learned, too.
"Ah", I thought.
Let's approach the bandhas from another side: What is the intention of it? In the book by Carlisi "The only way out is in" I found an answer. The bandhas remind you to be in the here and now. Use them and almost automatically you are in the here and now. He mentioned that it is not necessary to use them all the time.
Nevertheless this answer didn't satisfy me and I went on with my research: In India I found the answer. I asked someone I had a lot of confidence in: He was a doctor, practiced yoga and pranayama for 30 years (he showed me once how he jumped through), he studied the original texts. I asked him about the bandhas: I was told: Use them when you exhale, don't use them when you inhale. This was a precise answer. Now I knew what to do. Point.
This makes so much sense. There must be a precise description I thought all the time. Regarding the bandhas I only heard to use them all the time. There is inhaling and exhaling, forward bending, back bending and so forth. There is to give and to take. Everything is described precisely even where to look at (drishtis). But the information on the bandhas are rudimentary. Not for me now anymore.
Usually when I exhale when I go into an asana, I need stability, protection. Using the bandhas supports this. When I inhale my body is open, I want to stretch, I want to lengthen my body, no bandhas are needed. They might even work against this lengthening movement.
Why is this not taught I asked my Indian teacher: It's lost, this info got lost in teaching.
I think, it's easy to correct a wrong posture, it can be seen. The gaze is seen, the breath can be heard, but the bandhas are inside the body. How to control if a student uses them at all? It's easy to neglect the bandhas.
I use the bandhas when I exhale. My bandhas are loose when I inhale.
Before you protest, please test it only once during your practice. Only once and then reflect about it again.


Monica said...

Thank you so much for this important iformation. Ich danke Ihnen vielmals!

"Use your bandahs", teachers always repeat. I'm not sure if I have bandhas, I sometimes think. And than how to use them... I did't have a clue. Now I will try your method!

Ursula said...

Dear Monica,
I am so glad that you realized that this is important information.

In my opinion the knowledge how to use the bandhas is lost. It is a lot of confusion in the Ashtanga community.

It is so important not to only tighten your muscles, but also to loose it. That way one can develop body feeling. After using the bandhas for 90 min, my whole body is cramped. The function to bring someone in the here and now is not guaranteed when I use them all the time.

It's important to know when to use it and when not to use it.
You also shall see that you will develop a feeling for your bandhas very quickly.

Have a nice evening.

Monxo said...

I am so thankful for this information. It makes a lot of sense...I'll explore it in my next practice. Thanks thanks thanks. It is true...the instructions about the bandhas is just rudimentary and extremely general. I am very grateful for this...

Ursula said...

You are very wellcome Monxo.

In fact I think that this information is important.

A good pose to see the results is paschimottanasana. Be in the pose and use the bandhas when exhaling and don't use it when inhaling. You will see the difference.

Jumping through: Using the bandhas makes my body heavy. I need lightness when I fly forward, so inhaling, no bandhas. You can observe it throught the whole practice.