The past two posts have addressed Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha respectively. To finish off this trio of discussions on the main yogic locks, we’ll take a look at Jalandhara Bandha or the throat lock.
Two of the most common interpretations of jalandhara focus on the Sanskrit meaning of “jal” or “jalan”. Jal means water and thus the throat lock retains the water or nectar from bindu flowing to vishuddhi chakra and prevents it from descending into the digestive fire. Jalan means net and dhara is interpreted as stream or flow. This lock is said to control the nadis or subtle energy channels in the neck whose physical manifestation are the blood vessels and nerves in the neck.
Jalandhara Bandha (JB) can be performed either seated or standing with the breath retained or exhaled. It is often combined with the root and abdominal locks to create the powerful maha (great) bandha that retains and distributes prana throughout the major chakras (nerve centers), organs, and glands. JB can also be practiced by itself, and indeed should be practiced alone so the student can master this lock before combining it with the other two bandhas.
Begin seated. Brace the palms of the hands against the lower inside thighs above the knees and push the arms straight. Take a deep but easy three part breath, hold the breath momentarily and exhale completely by using the abdominal muscles to help empty the lungs. Lower the chin and press it firmly onto the top of the sternum (breast bone). Maintain the pressure as long as you comfortably can. Focus your attention on the throat with the intention that JB will provide perfect balance of the glands and structures of the throat and opening of vishuddhi chakra. Do not strain. Release throat lock and inhale deeply.
There is also a subtler form of JB practice in some traditions where the chin descends about an inch as the back of neck extends. This method of JB can be combined with various pranayama techniques.
As the student applies the full JB the cervical spine is lengthened and pressure on the disks is momentarily released. With the chin pushed firmly onto the top of the sternum the right and left carotid arteries, the thyroid, parathyroid and other vessels and their respective sinuses or channels are strongly compressed. According to Swami Saraswati this decreases the heart rate and allows for longer breath retention.
Compressing the thyroid and parathyroid glands provides an effective way to massage these glands to optimize their function. The thyroid gland produces thyroxin which helps the body absorb and use oxygen more efficiently. The parathyroid gland assists in regulating calcium and phosphate levels in a very narrow range to help the nervous system operate properly. This has tremendous implications for our over all well being.
Practice of JB may provide a powerful technique to combat hypo or hyper thyroidism.
Along with the separate practice of JB a yoga practitioner may also perform halasana (plow pose), sarvangasana (shoulder stand), setu bandhasasna (bridge pose) and sasangasaga (rabbit pose) to achieve throat lock. Each of these variations will alter JB in their own unique ways. When JB is achieved in these poses the power of the full yogic three-part breath is harnessed to further enhance the massaging effect and benefit of the combined pose, breath, gravity and bandha. The power of these combinations to balance the thyroid and parathyroid should not be discounted. Each variation of JB supplies another aspect of its beneficial effect.
While practicing JB along with the poses listed above one may also use sound to penetrate the cells of this region with active vibration. The practitioner simply produces a long, slow hum during the exhalation. This vibration will be powerfully felt throughout the throat and brain. As I mentioned in my post about Sonic Massage, vibration helps to optimize the operation and organization of all matter. Hum with healing intention as you focus on the throat region.
As with the other bandhas there are some conditions of the neck and spine where JB is contraindicated. Practitioners with cervical spondylosis, high intracranial pressure, vertigo, high blood pressure or heart disease should avoid Jalandhara Bandha until these conditions have been successfully alleviated. As always, if you have any doubts consult a medical professional.
In my next post we will put the three bandhas together for the practice of maha bandha and perhaps consider the crown jewel of Hatha Yoga, nauli kriya.