One of the biggest difference between yogasana and other form of exercises is holding up a certain part of your muscle when executing a pose. This method, called 'bandha' (lock) in yoga terminology, is practised to seal the prana (life energy) from escaping the body.

Locking the bandha also helps the practitioner to balance the body up to avoid any injuries, and also strengthen the muscle.

If you have seen someone performing a headstand without using the wall for support, it is due to the person's ability to lock his or her core muscle, aside from having exceptional abdominal muscle strength.

According to Indian spiritual leader Jaggi Vasudev, who's also known as Sadhguru, bandhas are "slowly getting control and locking your energy the way you want. Bandhas are employed to gain control of your energy system."

In yoga, there are three common types of bandhas - jalandara bandha, uddiyana bandha, and moola bandha. By locking all three bandhas together, one will achieve "mahabandha", which is the fourth bandha.

The bandhas are also practised during pranayama (breathing exercises). Continuous bandha practice when performing asanas is also said to awaken the Kundalini, or Sakthi energy.

Below are the bandhas and their benefits:

1) Jalandhara Bandha : Throat or Chin Lock

This is performed by contracting the throat, and holding the chin firmly against the chest. It is most commonly used in pranayama and meditation, as well as during asanas. This bandha keeps the energy within the spine and throat region, and enhances blood circulation, and improves the health of your spinal cord.

2) Uddiyana Bandha: Abdominal Lock

This bandha is performed by sucking your abdominal wall in and up at the end of an exhalation, while restraining the breath. The abdominal organs are all swept up to a higher than normal position in the trunk by a partial vacuum in the chest cavity. This bandha can tone up one's belly and strengthen the abdominal muscle.

3) Moola Bandha: Root Lock

This third lock contracts the pelvic floor muscle, or to be accurate, the perineum muscle (the region between the anus and the genitals). This lock is believed to redirect the prana (energy force) up the spine and towards the sahasra (crown) chakra.
This bandha helps tone up the reproductive system and regulate menstrual cycle for women.

4) Maha Bandha: The Great Lock

This is the combination of all three abovementioned bandhas - performed at the same time. This lock gives the ultimate effect to the practitioner and can only be practised in a limited number of yoga poses. Maha bandha is very popular in meditation and pranayama practises.

Bandhas are commonly used to remove blockages of chakra and to neutralize them. Once a bandha is released, fresh blood flows through the system and flushes old, dead cells, while strengthening, reneweing and rejuvenating new ones.

Nizha Periaswamy is a yoga instructor and freelance writer.

Photo source: Yoginizha Yatra FB