The Bandha Approach

Bandhas often get overlooked in yoga. We truly need to get up close and personal ( understand) our bandhas in every practice– pranayama and asana

The Bandhas Benefits

Bandha is also known as lock or bind. Bandha is an ancient practice that is deeply rooted in the yoga tradition. Bandha is a term of Sanskrit language which means to tighten, to lock, to block. The purpose of bandhas is to lock the energy and gain control of your life force- prana. Bandhas are not only utilized to gain control of your subtle energetic system but at the same time directs this energy to various parts of the body wherever you desire the energy to go. Bandhas are sometimes first learned and engaged during practices of pranayama and kriya, however, once efficiently practiced, they can be engaged throughout the asana practices too. It is important to note that engaging bandhas to the most refined degree takes a lot of practice and often times at least ten years to fully understand their nuances.

Towards the end of the 200 hour YTTC at Bend it like Buddha studio we learn breath retention- kumbaka with Moola Bandha which has a powerful effect of prana-life force leading more of an upward motion which activates powerful kundalini shakti.

At our classes at our yoga studio Bend it Like Buddha, along with the other 200 hour teaching courses also offer Bandha related topics. The four main Bandhas in the body includes Moola Bandha, Jalandhara Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Maha Bandha. Moola Bandha is a yoga technique in which the subtle energy in the pelvic floor is activated. In Uddiyana bandha, energy is then drawn upward within the core of the body and along the spine (Makhwana and Arora, 2016). One of the famous books, in this regard, known as Moola Bandha: The Master Key has been written by Swami Buddhananda for yoga practitioners focusing on the theory and practice of Moola Bandha. Jalandhara Bandha: the throat lock, on the other hand, engages the neck muscles in order to activate and energise the 5th chakra centre-Vishuddi. According to Kumar, Uddiyana Bandha also known as flying upward, abdominal bandha involves pulling the abdomen under the rib cage thus taking a false air to inhale and holding the breath followed by releasing the abdomen after a pause (Kumar, 2016). Maha Bandha, also recognised as the great lock, is a combination of all the three bandhas, Moola Bandha, Jalandhara Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. Maha Bandha is associated with the activation of Maha Shakti that further results in the awakening of the Kundalani Shakti at the spine base (Makhwana and Arora, 2016).

Several scientific studies have been conducted determining the benefits of engaging bandhas. Bandhas are extremely essential for brain centres, for activating the neural pathways, the nadis, the kanda-or root of the thousands of energetic pathways and the channels through which prana streams. Bandhas are directly associated with purification, removal of blockages and toxins thus, resulting in a balanced body and mind. (Kumar, 2016). Bandhas temporarily halt the blood flow. For this reason, when released there is an increased flow of fresh blood. This does not only result in flushing away the older dead cells, at the same time, result in activating, renewing, strengthening and rejuvenating the organs. The Master Key, by Swami Buddhananda states that activating Moola Bandha taps into the great reservoirs of the body assisting in total harmony within the organism, energizing it with vitality and longevity.

Furthermore, it releases pent-up emotions, anxieties, depression and repressions. Through activating bandhas the trauma memories passed in and out of consciousness, like bubbles floating harmlessly to the surface and bursting. Besides this, engaging the bandhas also result in the development of a calm and clear mind, controlled breath while further strengthening single point concentration. Bandhas, in this way, aids in the regulation of internal systems of the body from metabolic and digestive to hormonal systems (Shankar, 2016). Furthermore, as a result of the released blockages, the energy channels are purified and the exchange of energy is improved. Most importantly, Bandhas alleviate stress as well as any other mental restlessness thus bringing about the inner balance and harmony. These practices help free the shoulders thus aligning the upper spine properly. Different studies over the years have repeatedly backed the benefits of Bandhas (Sweta et al., 2018).

Arm balances and peak postures go hand in hand with apana pranayama and bandhas. This particular class above I attended had over 10 peak postures, including 5 challenging arm balances! Yes, I totally had to engage my bandhas for all of these:)

At our yoga studio, we teach students how to isolate specific muscles of the Bandhas. Assessing each type of Bandha requires focus. Our introductory courses will be a great starting point while sooner or later you will definitely experience such a moment when you will feel the effect that activating bandhas have in your body, especially with the advanced pranayama courses. As Moola Bandha, Jalandhara Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha have their own benefits, Maha Bandha offers the combined benefits of all the three bandhas thus regulating the entire endocrine system. Communally, the yoga bandha benefits stimulate perceptions and helps in stopping the meaningless wandering of mind.

Practicing specifically Moola Banda, the master key lock has the potential to release us from depression, anxiety and unpleasant emotions which dampen our joy in life and prevent us from living our most authentic path. Practicing daily bandhas especially the master key is a technique to open the door to freedom, joy and liberation.As sensitivity and awareness both expand, our emotional issues can be solved as well as we clearly see the root of the problem. Therefore, Moola Bandha for example is a means to cut the mental problems at the roots and so establish mental health and a greater sense of well being.

utilizing the bandhas and apana prana in an arm balance asana


References

Kumar, P., 2016. Effect of yoga on mental health of adolescents. International Journal of Science and Consciousness2(1), pp.6-12.

Makhwana, B.J. and Arora, N.N., 2015. Tooth extraction without anesthesia using ancient Indian technique called jalandhara bandha yoga. Journal of Advanced Medical and Dental Sciences Research3(1), p.201.

Shankar, G., 2016. Yoga Psychotherapy around the world. Health Psychology1, p.219.

Sweta, K.M., Godbole, A., Awasthi, H.H. and Pandey, U., 2018. Effect of mula bandha yoga in mild grade pelvic organ prolapse: A randomized controlled trial. International journal of yoga11(2), p.116.

Science and Benefits of Pranayama

“Breath is central to Yoga because it is central to life.”
T. Krishnamacharya

The word Pranayama is originated from Sanskrit language and is composed of the two Sanskrit words ‘Prana’ and ‘ayama’. Prana indicates vital energy or life force ‘the breath’ while ayama means to draw out. In this way, Pranayama means “the extension of life force”. Pranayama is one of the most important of the yoga disciplines whose origin lies in the ancient Bharat, the present day India or Hinduism. Pranayama is linked with controlling the breath and involves several physical techniques that result in the clearing of granthis or nadi blockages in the body, both physical and emotional. Regular sustained practice of Pranayama allows the body freedom to breathe through the flow of prana – the life energy through the body.

Pranayama is essential to our daily practice and thus, must be taught all across the world both in the west and east. In a similar manner, our yoga studio “Bend it like Buddha” offers a variety of approaches to Pranayama in our 200 hour teacher training courses and other yoga courses. Soon we will be sharing these techniques in the yoga teacher training online. Pranayama lies at the heart of yoga and so is given the extreme importance in our yoga studio. The vital force called prana that is circulating through us can be channeled by means of breathing exercises and working with bandhas. Pranayama, for this reason, can be considered as a bridge between the practices of yoga – the outward and the surrendering practices leading towards the deep states of meditation. For different pranic activities in the body, there altogether are the five types of prana. They include Apana, Udana, Prana, Samana and Vyan among which Apana, the downward flowing, and Prana, the upward flowing, are considered as of great importance.

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Practicing Pranayama is linked with balancing the pranas that further results in a healthy mind and body. The different types of Pranayama have a wide range of benefits associated with them. The benefits include improving circulation of blood, concentration, relieving depression, stress, anxiety and hypertension (Hegde et al., 2012). Besides neurological problems, Pranayama further helps in curing headache, asthma, migraine and gastric problems. Our school Bend it like Buddha in praia da rocha beach, Portimao in Portugal offers several Pranayama and yoga related courses based on the fact that longevity depends on breathing rate. Lowering of breathing rate is likely to increase life expectancy. Pranayama, on the whole, is associated with better functioning of the autonomic system. By practicing Pranayama toxins are removed from the body and organs get more oxygen. Various diseases, in this way, are prevented that further results in strengthening the immune system (Vialatte et al., 2009).

The science of relaxation is a valuable gift and researches have also revealed the scientific benefit of Pranayama. Much of what Pranayama does to the human mind and body is due to its effect on the autonomic nervous system that controls the physical processes in the body including immune function, respiration and digestion etc. (Sengupta, 2012). A study involving five minute breathing practice has revealed that Pranayama lowers the heart rate, diastolic and systolic pressure (Pramanik et al., 2009). Another breathing practice, known as Brahmari or humming bee breath that sometimes involves placement of the fingers close to the eyes and the mouth and production of buzzing sound through the nose, has been observed increasing the activity of the brain. In another research, it has been highlighted that even a short period of Pranayama yoga practice results in curing hypertension (Vialatte et al., 2009). Diaphragmatic breathing is observed associated with lowering the oxidative stress and improving the antioxidant level significantly benefiting those with diabetes. Besides this, relaxed abdominal breathing has also been observed benefiting patients with non-erosive GERD, decreasing their stomach acidity and thus, improving the quality of life (Eherer et al., 2012).

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The above-discussed research studies proved to be the scientific evidence of considering Pranayama yoga as a valid therapy to improve one’s health and well-being. Pranayama at our yoga studio will help you balance the energy flow in all areas of the body evenly while improving the cognitive functions. Ask us about Bend it like Buddha online or in-person Pranayama and Breath work courses. We will be happy to share with you some effective and calming breathing techniques to improve your life and lower your stress levels significantly with daily practice.

References

  • Eherer, A.J., Netolitzky, F., Högenauer, C., Puschnig, G., Hinterleitner, T.A., Scheidl, S., Kraxner, W., Krejs, G.J. and Hoffmann, K.M., 2012. The positive effect of abdominal breathing exercise on gastroesophageal reflux disease: a randomized, controlled study. The American journal of gastroenterology, 107(3), p.372.
  • Hegde, S.V., Adhikari, P., Subbalakshmi, N.K., Nandini, M., Rao, G.M. and D’Souza, V., 2012. Diaphragmatic breathing exercise as a therapeutic intervention for control of oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 18(3), pp.151-153.
  • Pramanik, T., Sharma, H.O., Mishra, S., Mishra, A., Prajapati, R. and Singh, S., 2009. Immediate effect of slow pace bhastrika pranayama on blood pressure and heart rate. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(3), pp.293-295.
  • Sengupta, P., 2012. Health impacts of yoga and pranayama: A state-of-the-art review. International journal of preventive medicine, 3(7), p.444.
  • Vialatte, F.B., Bakardjian, H., Prasad, R. and Cichocki, A., 2009. EEG paroxysmal gamma waves during Bhramari Pranayama: a yoga breathing technique. Consciousness and cognition, 18(4), pp.977-988.

Kundalini Yoga Nidra

Have you ever seen the world with an expansive vision? The enlightenment of understanding can come from feeling whole and complete and at the same time sensing how others are interpreting the world around them. This expansive vision can come through from a Kundalini awakening.

Kundalini awakening is a process of experiencing specific energy that is associated with the resolution of all of the issues, conditioning patterns, emotional trauma, pain ect… Over the last few years, there are more transcendental experiences which yoga students have been experiencing.

Here is a Yoga Nidra meditation I recorded which you can practice at night before you fall asleep or during the day to help you feel energized. It is up to you and your intention of what you would like to receive from this meditative practice.

Kundalini Yoga Nidra

Most important be totally aware in the present moment, let go and follow the guided instructions. Enjoy!

Thank you to my brother Loose Lion ( Aka Jerome Truman) for the awesome binaural beats and sound medicine 🙂 xx

Meditation recorded by ~
L. Farrah Furtado

How to Develop your Intuitive Abilities

Have you lost touch with your true nature, like most people today?

How to Develop your Intuitive Abilities

Everyone’s reason for practicing yoga is unique, the real challenge is mustering up the courage, carving out time to practice and if you cross the hurdles to reap the rewards of yoga, you will find it as amazing and beneficial as it is.  You have made the decision, joined yoga for beginners or online yoga classes, it is difficult to imagine what will happen until you actually practice mindfully and regularly. There are many benefits to practicing yoga but did you know yoga develops intuitive abilities? 

Intuition is the ability to have insight and wisdom received by an individual outside of their own intelligence, without the use of reason, logic or scientific evidence. Do you know who Patanjali was? He was considered the Einstein of Psychology and human behaviour in India because he was able to channel such ground-breaking guidelines in the 8-fold path of Ashtanga yoga. He was able to do this successfully without science. Now modern science states what Patanjali channelled intuitively thousands of years ago. That is, yoga along with meditation and pranayama (breathing techniques) has a multitude of benefits for the health and harmony of the mind, body and soul (Paniccia et al., 2018). Patanjali utilized his intuition and founded the great knowledge which we have today on this incredible practice of yoga. In yoga, intuition is considered to be developed over time through spiritual disciplines and meditation or pranayama. Your intuition are unexplained feelings you have that something is true even when you have no evidence or proof for it. Have you ever had an intuition that something was wrong and later proved to be correct? That was your gut knowing or intuition speaking to you. This special occurrence of knowledge may arrive instantly and not through the process of analysis and perceptions of the facts. Often times it happens to us when we are doing something routine such as walking to work or taking a shower. Also practicing yoga, meditation and pranayama over time results in a gradual development of intuition. This is a practice which encourages individuality and helps bring answers to important life questions. It also provides a road map leading a person to explore their inner self- their true nature and unique life path off and on the yoga mat (Sadhu, 2018). 

 

There are many other tools that help in developing intuition. Yet meditation, pranayama and yoga are some of the best ways which helps in letting go of attachments and to discover the inner self.  But how does one even begin to find this inner voice? Usually the intuitive voice is subtle, gentle and not obvious. Finding stillness within is essential in being able to listen to your intuition (Bagya et al., 2018). The key understanding of our true nature or inner self comes with learning how to widen the gap between thought to thought or still the senseless mind chatter or what Buddhists at Fo Guan Shan monastery, Taiwan call the “monkey mind”. Remember this proverb, “silence isn’t empty. It is full of answers”. One needs to develop the ability to distinguish between the noises and the voices, the voice of fear and the subtle voice of inner wisdom. 

Whenever you want to understand something or to make a decision, ask for guidance from inner higher self and then experiment. The resistance, tension, built-up emotions, trauma or stress… the physical practice of yoga will burn out the stress-energy from the body accumulated through years of samskaras, which means the mental impressions, recollections or psychological imprints in Sanskrit. Different yoga vinyasas or poses on the mat for example, despite the skill level, will help in your cultivation of intuitive skills (Schiffmann, 2013).

 

A yoga practice re-develops the intuition ability to consider what is healthy in each moment. In today’s busy, technological world we have completely lost touch with this intuitive ability. As a person learns to turn inwards both mentally and emotionally, they start the process of cultivating the intuition, instinct and intelligence. Following one’s own path requires courage, saying no to the things that don’t serve you and confronting your own demons. Yoga helps to practice opening the chest and heart, core engagement, self-grounding, calm and slow breathing and thus, emulating a courageous yet conscious warrior on the battlefield of life.

The voice of intuition is basically our inner hidden voice, calm, collected and sure. Intuition provides confidence and courage to make such decisions which serves us, regardless of the inside and outside voices. Yoga is designed in such a way so as to prepare the body for meditation and meditation in movement is yoga. Yoga represents union and as a person progresses through yoga, one may start experiencing prolonged periods of union within and thus stronger intuition (Paniccia et al., 2018). Yoga helps a person to tune into his emotions and to develop perception. Intuition is not a result of using the logical mind or over thinking rather it is a feeling of knowing that which we don’t know. During the yoga practice, we become intuitive when our body becomes physically aligned, naturally, with our breath movements. We feel different sensations, shaky and sweaty. We begin to think if these feelings are triggered by our thoughts. In the end, we come to know that these feelings are from our inner heart space (Sadhu, 2018).

The popular Netflix movie “Innsaei” has highlighted the global journey of soul searching. This movie has shown the power of intuition by uncovering the art of connecting within today’s world of distraction, stress and disconnection. The expert in indigenous consciousness and neuroscience in the movie shows a belief that human beings use only a small fraction of their capacity that is resulting in devastating consequences. Humans must need to learn something new, discover their inner self that which will birth miracles. The intuition binds us together and without this we, as human beings lose our sense of purpose. 

 

But how to regain intuition? Invite silence into your day, start with a short meditation or through yoga or watching the sunrise. Allow the voices in your mind to float away, do not engage with them and invite your inner voice to guide you. Connect yourself with the breath of divinity. Check within yourself, what are you thinking?  How are you feeling? Feel your presence and it will make you dilute the stress and offer you the best solutions and inner wisdom of always knowing what to do next.

Intuition, meditation, yoga and other spiritual practices not only help in overcoming fear, but they also encourage self-love and love for others. At first, learning to listen to your intuition may seem strange or challenging. Listening to your intuition, however, will allow you to see and believe how our life journey and nature is being carried out in surprising ways. How truly miraculous and incredible it is to be alive! Essentially, we are spiritual beings living a human experience through this dense, material container of the physical body…we are light warriors and destined to do great things on this beautiful planet and being in touch with our intuitive abilities will assist us and carry us through life’s challenges.  

References

 

  • Bagya, D.A., Ganesan, T., Maheshkumar, K., Venkateswaran, S.T. and Padmavathi, R., 2018. Perception of stress among yoga trained individuals. National Journal of Physiology, Pharmacy and Pharmacology8(1), pp.47-50.

  • Paniccia, M., Knafo, R., Thomas, S., Taha, T., Ladha, A., Thompson, L. and Reed, N., 2018. Mindfulness-Based Yoga for Youth With Persistent Concussion: A Pilot Study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy73(1), pp.73012050040p1-73012050040p11.

  • Sadhu, M., 2018. In Days of Great Peace: The Highest Yoga as Lived. Routledge.

  • Schiffmann, E., 2013. Yoga The Spirit And Practice Of Moving Into Stillness. Simon and Schuster.

 

The Benefits of seated Meditation

You certainly have heard that meditation is good for you but perhaps you have questioned the validity? There are hundreds of scientific studies that show meditation has a plethora of benefits some of the recent studies are quite incredible such that it can alter deep-seated traits in our brain patterns and character.

Neuroscientists have tested if these effects of meditation are just momentary and they have brought something very surprising for us! There are some scientific studies that have proved that mindfulness practices such as yoga decreased the level of depression, high blood pressure and anxiety. A scientific study has been conducted in Belgium involving around 400 students. Through the study, it was concluded that the students that have participated in the mindfulness program reported a reduction in the level of stress, depression and anxiety (Filip et al.,2013). Another incredible study conducted in the University of California has further indicated that the meditation is not only effective in treating patients with emotion regulation and social anxiety disorder but at the same time, it further decreases dysfunctional beliefs and ruminative thinking (Ramel et al., 2004).

Gamma brainwaves play an important role in day to day functioning of the brain and thus meditation.

We were very excited to explore this and very soon we will share this discovery regarding Gamma waves in our upcoming documentary which L. Farrah Furtado produced and Scott Weatherall directed in Mysore, India.

Gamma rays not only assist with improving and maintaining memory, they further function in such a manner that they help a person stop feeling stressed and depressed. Our brain is made up of millions of cells and the brain waves with the highest frequency are called the gamma waves and hence are critical to understanding the functioning of the human brain during different emotional states. Moreover, it has been observed associated with a feeling of greater well-being and improved cognition. The researchers have indicated the meditative students-group displayed high-levels of gamma brain wave activity concluding that meditation has some astonishing effects on altering an individual’s mood, cognition and functioning of the brain. It has been demonstrated that yogis have also elevated gamma oscillations for meditation practice. A rare gamma pattern in yogis has been observed as the standard feature of their everyday brain wave activity. In yogis the gamma oscillations are far more prominent of their brain activity make up. Ordinarily gamma waves from, say, a creative insight, last no longer than a fifth of a second—not the full minute seen in the yogis. Yogis are people who practice regular yoga, meditation, breathwork and pranayama.

Our Bend it like Buddha yoga studio in Portugal holds sessions for daily meditation during our retreats and programs and plays a significant part in helping people feel relieved after their everyday tensed activities and situations. In our 200-hour teacher training, we meditate at least 2x a day for two weeks during the Vinyasa and Ashtanga teacher training program and students of our yoga school often feel these wonderful benefits after the first meditation class. People do not need to be experts to apply. We warmly welcome beginners and seniors to come learn how to stretch themind and body with us! Soon we will be offering online meditation training  for beginners-stay tuned

Those who have studied the benefits of Gamma waves claim that meditation practices enable better processing of information and have further supported the healthy functioning of memory.

 

In our upcoming documentary to be released spring 2019; several experts and scientists discuss Gamma and the incredible benefits of meditation. Gamma waves are considered as providing a significant role in unlocking the information about brain health including individuals suffering from head traumas.

Richie and Antoine while studying the gamma brain state have discussed that, considering the electrifying data in EEG frequency, deficiency in gamma waves could host a number of issues (Goleman et al., 2018). A decrease in the number of gamma waves is an indication that the individual is increasingly prone to depression, impulse, stress or lack of focus.

Fascinatingly meditation practices help to regulate mood and anxiety disorders and considered to be effective enough to treat anxiety and depression much like antidepressant drug therapy. A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has indicated the practice of open monitoring meditation explaining that the meditators are more likely to attend a moment to moment – stream of stimuli and meditation, in this way, has helped in reducing their stress level and anxiety. Seated meditation increased grey concentration in the brain, especially in those areas that involve learning and memory, regulations of emotions, sense of self and having a perspective.

In a nutshell, meditation provides at least a short-term performance improvement. Long-term meditation, on the other hand, enhances the ability to generate gamma waves in the brain, improves focus, attention and ability to work in stressful conditions.

At the Bend it like Buddha Yoga school we recommend beginners to start with seated meditation 5 minutes daily and working up to longer lengths (60minutes).

You can sit on a bolster or have your back against the wall, set your device-timer. Close your eyes, hands interlaced below your belly and focus your attention on each inhale and exhale. Some students find it useful to bring focus to a mantra, color or symbol if they find concentrating on only the breath is too challenging. Avoid the temptation in engaging with daydreams or random thoughts.

Meditation is a wonderful mini holiday that you can do whenever you feel tired, for a “pick me up” or about to do an anxious activity or meditate anywhere and anytime.

You can also try guided meditations on YouTube.

Here is a meditation for forgiveness I created and just posted on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd4Lv4llMi0&t=32s

Enjoy!

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References

Filip, R., James, G., Gucht, K., J. Williams, G.,(2013). School-Based Prevention and Reduction of Depression in Adolescents: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial of a Mindfulness Group Program. Mindfulness.

Goleman, D., Davidson, R., Goleman, A., Davidson, A. and Staff, L. (2018). How Meditation Changes Your Brain — and Your Life. [online] Lion’s Roar. Available at: https://www.lionsroar.com/how-meditation-changes-your-brain-and-your-life/ [Accessed 14 Dec. 2018].

Ramel, W., Goldin, P.R., Carmona, P.E. and McQuaid, J.R., 2004. The effects of mindfulness meditation on cognitive processes and affect in patients with past depression. Cognitive therapy and research28(4), pp.433-455.