Bandha and The Practice Of Self-Actualization

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Sorrow carves the container for joy.

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet got me through some of the most difficult times in my life. It also gave me a deeper understanding of the practice of bandha.

How is the emotional body connected to bandha practice? I discovered an intimate connection between my ability to access bandha, and where I was in my journey of self-actualization, understanding myself, my motivations; deep internal work.

Bandha in Sanskrit means lock, tighten, close-off, etc. For yoga practitioners and spiritual seekers, bandha work is an essential piece of the practice. During my years as an Ashtanga Practitioner it was fundamental to engage bandha during asana. This allowed me to explore my maximum potential in every posture but it also helped to stay safe during transitions.

When I first started learning asana (bikram) I was very flexible, not strong. My awareness of my torso, where all of the major organs reside, was absent in every way. Physically, mentally, and subtly I was authentically a stranger to myself.

Let’s take a closer look at the 3 major bandhas

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Jalandhara Bandha ~ The throat, where the thyroid gland is buoyant and floating (the only organ that floats) is the location of Jalandhara bandha. It’s also intimately tied with how we use our voice, and how we express ourselves. Do we express ourselves at all? This was a challenge for me, not because I didn’t have a voice but how I was practically using it?

Uddiyana Bandha ~ The area below the navel houses parts of the stomach, small and large intestine as well as the pancreas. I suffered from constipation and digestive issue for many years. Digestive issues are sometimes a small intestinal issues of absorption/assimilation. Large intestinal challenges can consist of constipation, lack of peristalsis, etc.

I was also addicted to sugar. Excess sugar causes the pancreas to secrete excess insulin., The cell receptors then struggle with how much to utilize. When not used then the sugar circulates in the blood and potentially damages the blood vessels and other tissues in the body. It’s no joke and sugar addiction is quite common among athletes (yes including yoga practitioners). All of these digestive issues made it difficult for me to access and work with Uddiyana.


Mula Bandha ~ The area around the perineum, genitals, anus, walls of the vagina is Mula Bandha. This was the most difficult for me to understand. Multiple rapes, growing up with shame around my body, and my sexuality, created a cage of defection, trauma, and pain. This made the deep internal work arduous and baffling.

I find the ability to access Mula Bandha more challenging for women because it involves working with the walls of the vagina, the cervix and areas in which many of us are muddled and disconnected. Additionally, if there are foreign objects inserted in the vagina like an IUD, It may make it more difficult to connect with the subtlety required for Mula Bandha engagement

I didn’t have access to bandha from a place of brute strength. Bandha became available to me once I stepped into my ancestral past. I needed courage to step into my heart; to identify generational trauma and abuse loops before I could live in my own body. When I dug and explored what was truly there, the fear, the shame, the pride, the ambition, the pain, the abandonment, the neglect. This is the moment bandhas revealed themselves to me. I wasn’t seeking them simply because I didn’t know how to.

I had no idea how to arrive at the destination and no one could explain it, at least not well enough. The mostly male teachers I encountered, though well intentioned, didn’t know how to teach women these subtleties. They spoke in interesting and seductive metaphors. It was abstruse language that masked arrogance. I found it and them spiritually pretentious, still do.

Perhaps that vanity was their odyssey and exploration but it wasn’t for me. I needed to find my own way. Bandhas do contain your energy and harness your power. They bring you to a place of one-pointed meditation. They make the supernatural possible. Well, not only possible but available, explainable, and understandable.

My practice now is approximately 15 minutes of gentle asana. It varies day to day and depends on the season, time of day, what doshas are most affected, my schedule, and more. It is a mindful and strategic approach. This is Ayurvedic yoga and of course bandhas are present

“The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet


I am a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist practicing in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Who am I? How can we work together? What is Ayurveda?

2 responses to “Bandha and The Practice Of Self-Actualization”

  1. Great article Magnolia…yes many men do not understand the complexity of working with women and bandha…and it’s not accessible for many women because they’ve been (wrongfully) told to “squeeze everything” in the perineal area…which is a common stress response and this first layer usually doesn’t need strengthening…it needs releasing to lift. If it’s indiscriminately squeezed, it’s very difficult to access/discern the 2nd and 3rd layers…which are the real powerhouses anyways.

    • Hi Stacey, I love your description of layers. That’s how I experience them/teach them as well. For me at times there are more layers but not necessary to access every single time. Thanks for your comment and hope all is well

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