Another useful yogic tool for Yoga Meditation is an understanding of internal energetic seals or locks known as bandhas. The Sanskrit word bandha means "to lock" or "to hold".
When a bandha is practised by applying a physical contraction to a specific body part, the energy flow is temporarily blocked, and controlled. When the bandha is released, the energy flows more strongly in that area, with increased pressure. This redirection of the flow of prana has a calming effect on the mind, strengthens our inner focus, and also directs our awareness toward higher consciousness. As such, using the Bandhas can be linkened to the temporary damming of a river for it to be redirected more usefully. The three major Bandhas to be used in conjunction with certain yoga asana and pranayama are as follows.
Mula Bandha - Root Lock
The Sanskrit words Mula and bandha mean "root" and "lock" so Mula Bandha refers to the energetic "lock" near mula dharma chakra, at the base of the spine. Also called the "perineum lock", this involves gently contracting the muscles of the pelvic floor, which lifts and tones the organs of the pelvis. Think of the squeezing action that you would take to stop urinating mid-stream and you have a good idea of the feeling you are trying to achieve. There is no external sign when you are applying this bandha so no photograph can illustrate it.
Uddiyana Bandha - Abdominal Lock
The Sanskrit term Uddiyana means "fly upward" - an appropriate notion for this lock which, when applied by contracting the upper ubdominal muscles, causes the diaphragm to "fly upward", or rise, toward the chest. It helps to direct prana into the sushumna nadi( the central energy pathway in the spine) so that it flows upward to sahasrara chakra, thus helping you on your journey towards self-realisation. To apply this lock, think of gently sucking your stomach in and up as much as possible.
CAUTION: Practise only on an empty stomach. Pregnant women and those suffering from high blood pressure, heart problems and stomach ulcers should avoid it.
Jalandhara Bandha - Throat Lock
This lock is achieved by lowering and pressing the chin to the sternum, while the chest is raised with the inhaling breath toward the chin to the sternum, while the chest is raised with the inhaling breath toward the chin. The Sanskrit terms jalan and dhara mean "net" and "stream" so this lock seals off the network of nadis in the neck, preventing the "stream" of prana between the chakras, and instead directing it into the sushumna nadi. This promotes an increased sense of calm.
CAUTION: Those with high blood pressure, heart problems, mental stress and migraine should only practise this under the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher.