How and Why to Use Jalandhara Bandha

Guide to Yoga's Throat Lock

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Jalandhara bandha is one of the three interior "locks" used in asana and pranayama practice to control and harness the flow of energy through the body. Working from the bottom up, mula bandha, the root lock, originates in the pelvis. Uddiyana bandha is the abdominal lock. Jalandhara bandha, the throat lock, can be practiced alone or in conjunction with the other two. When practiced together, the three locks are known as maha bandha, the great lock.

Interestingly, although we tend to think of jalandhara bandha as the third and final lock, B.K.S. Iyengar describes it as "the first one the yogi should master," in Light on Yoga. This is likely because Iyengar is coming at the subject from a pranayama perspective. As the focus of contemporary yoga has shifted toward the postural practice, jalandhara bandha is taught less frequently. Indeed, even Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga method, which is known for its emphasis on bandhas, is primarily concerned with using mula and uddiyana during asana practice. 

How to Engage Jalandhara Bandha

Begin by sitting in a comfortable cross-legged position. Place your hands on your knees with the palms facing upwards. Inhale so your lungs are about two-thirds full, and then retain your breath. Drop your chin down and draw it back closer to your chest making a double chin. At the same time, lift your sternum towards your chin.

Relax your shoulders away from your ears.

Hold as long as is comfortable and then lift your chin up and finish your inhalation before releasing the breath. To practice in conjunction with the other two bandhas, first draw the pelvic floor upwards, engaging mula bandha. This leads to the abdomen drawing in and up under the ribcage in uddiyana bandha.

Finally, the chin drops to the chest and draws back to complete the maha bandha. 

When to Do Jalandhara Bandha

Unlike the other two bandhas, the throat lock doesn't often come into use within an asana practice. The exception is in poses like shoulderstand and bridge, where bringing the chest toward the chin to create the throat lock is inherent to the posture itself. It's more commonly done as part of seated breath work. It's a powerful stretch for the neck, an area that often holds tension and gets knotted up from looking at screens all day. Energetically, jalandhara is connected to the vishuddha (throat) chakra. Clearing this chakra helps allow for better communication and self-expression. Physiologically, practicing the throat lock is thought to be beneficial for promoting thyroid health.

Source:

Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on Yoga. Schochen Books: New York, NY; 1979.

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