Annie on bandhas:

The bandhas are a series of energetic lifts within the body. In English we often refer to them as “locks”, but we say lift at yogaRIOT because it is a less constrictive word and yoga should not make you feel constricted. Lock means “to close” and that isn’t what the bandhas are for. Rather lifting the bandhas OPENS the energy channels allowing the Kundalini energy to flow freely upward, and creating power and strength in the poses and balance in the mind. Supported by breath and drishti, the bandhas are the third of five pillars on which to base your power yoga practice.

When the spine is aligned properly in the pose, BKS Iyengar taught us that the bandhas naturally lift. The action of squeezing the belly and contracting big hard muscles around the gut is, like the word “lock”, constrictive. It causes us to attach to ego and to feel combative and defensive in our daily lives. Instead, work on elongating the spine and lifting the heart toward the chin. In this way with regular practice (3X a week or more for life-changing results!) the Bandhas are naturally engaged in a way that releases and opens the energy channels, creating well-being of mind and body, and gratitude in your heart.


Sanskrit is an Indo-European language that dates back thousands of years. Sanskrit, no longer used colloquially, is an intricately designed language system that has remained intact over time. The same Sanskrit that we learn today can unlock wisdom from antiquity.

This week we are exploring bandhas. The word bandhas translates as bond, fetter, or catching hold of. A bandha can be seen as a sort of internal mudra.

There are three major bandhas plus two additional bandhas we frequently talk about in yoga:

mūla bandha: mūla means root, base, beginning, foundation. The root being referred to is the perineum, the center of the pelvic floor.

uḍḍīyana bandha:  Uḍḍīyana means to fly upward. This refers to the upward lift of pulling the belly into spine after mūla bandha is engaged.

 jālandhara bandha:  Jālandhara comes from Jāla which means “web or net” and the word dhara which means “holding.” This refers to drawing the chin toward the neck to create a throat lift.

Our two additional bandhas:

hasta bandha: hasta means hand. This refer to the lift, almost suction cup like, quality of the hand when fully engaged into the floor.

 pāda bandha:  pāda means foot. This refers to the lifting of the arches of the feet.

The 3 Major bandhas

 The 3 major bandhas are root, or mūla bandha, central or uḍḍīyana  bandha and Chin, or  Jālandhara bandha. These are activated by extending the tailbone away from the crown, extending the front of body, and lifting the crown while pulling the chin to the chest. Don’t worry if this feels complicated. You don’t have to learn it all this week. Just listen for your alignment cues.

engaged in downward dog

Hand bandha

 In the next series you see the hand at rest and activated, notice the big “lift” or dip in the palm of the hand. This is your hand bandha and it protects the wrists, arms and shoulders in your practice.

This is why our mantra is light up the feet, light up the hands, energy into your fingers and toes!

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Foot bandha

We will also be working the bandhas in hands and feet. We refer to this in practice when we tell you to spread out your fingers and toes, or make “yoga hands”. In this case the bandha is visible from outside the body.

In this image you see the fully relaxed foot on the right, no lift or grounding in the toes. Next to it a grounded but active foot, the lift in the “palm” or sole of the foot is much higher in the middle image, and on the left a big strong arch in the foot as all the toes lift and spread. The foot bandha protects the ankles, knees and hips in the practice.

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