Ready to elevate your yoga practice to a new, deeper level? Using the bandhas is one way to do it.
Bandhas are energetic locks used for directing and controlling the energy within the body. Today we’re going to explore Jalandhara Bandha or the Throat Lock.
This bandha is named after the Sanskrit words jal which means “throat”, dharan which means “stream” and bandha which means “lock”. Some also translate this bandha to “upwards pulling net” which refers to its use for containing the prana in the body.
We’ll go over:
- What is Jalandhara Bandha?
- Jalandhara Bandha in classical texts
- How to do it
- When to do it
- Common mistakes
What is Jalandhara bandha?
The simplest way to describe this bandha is that the heart is lifted, the chin dropped to the chest and the tongue touches the roof of the mouth.
But the beauty of yoga is in detail – and it’s easy to perform this practice wrong if you’re not understanding the full process. And that’s why we made this guide.
Jalandhara bandha is great for strengthening the neck muscles and, energetically, it can be used to control the flow of prana or energy through the neck.
Specifically, it is used not only to direct the prana but often more to contain and collect it within the torso. This is one of the main purposes of all bandhas.
Jalandhara bandha can be performed in any asana, although it is generally used in seated meditation postures like Siddhasana and Padmasana. After you’ve mastered the bandha in this way, you can begin to combine it with other yogic methods, like pranayama and mudras.
B.K.S. Iyengar says the Jalandhara Bandha is the first technique a yogi should master.This tells us about the grave importance of energetic locks we often overlook in modern yoga. But in the past, their importance was well known, as we’ll explore in the next section.
Jalandhara Bandha In Classic Yoga Texts
Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes Jalandhar Bandha as the technique in which the chin is pressed on the chest and the throat is contracted.
It then states that the contracted veins in the neck allow the “liquid from the skies” to be received. The text is ended with the bold statement that this bandha eliminates old age and death.
He gives another translation of the world jalandhara which is jala – liquid, and dhara – to hold.
He says that the word liquid implies that it can spread and that it references sensations and sensory inputs which start in the head and spread through the body.
He continues by saying that jalandhara can be used as a synonym for the head, as it holds all sensation (the brain holds all the senses). He ends saying “Thus, this bandha helps to bind the essence of all the sensations”.
The meaning of this statement is likely linked to pratyahara, or the yogic principle of withdrawing the senses.
Jalandhara Bandha helps us regulate our breathing and in this way, it steers our focus away from the senses back inward.
Gheranda Samhita also talks about Jalandhara Bandha, stating that it increases one’s vitality and longevity.
Furthermore, it is talked about in Shiva Samhita text written between 1300 and 1500 CE. The text explains the process of entering the bandha, then states that “even gods reckon it as inestimable”.
It continues to explain the bandha in quite an imaginative way
“The fire in the navel (gastric juice) drinks the nectar which exudes out of the thousand-petalled lotus. In order to prevent the nectar from being consumed), a yogi should practice this bandha”.
Fun fact: Jalandhara Bandha can also be found in Ayurvedic texts as a part of their method for painless tooth extraction. It was used to block the pain during the process.
1. Support pranayama practices
This bandha is one of the first steps one should master if they want to use breath retention practices of pranayama.
The bandha slows the blood supply to the carotid artery. This tells the brain it should not increase blood pressure in the body, which often happens when one retains breath.
2. Stimulates parasympathetic nervous system
It stimulates the vagus nerve, through which it stimulates the entire parasympathetic nervous system. This relaxes the muscles, slows the heart rate, and makes the mind calmer.
This benefit makes Jalandhara bandha a fantastic practice to do before meditation.
3. Benefits metabolism
Balances the thyroid and parathyroid glands, through which it balances metabolism.
4. Controls prana
Allows you to control the flow of prana. Specifically, it stimulates the Ida and Pingala energy channels and encourages the energy to move through the Sushumna channel which goes through the spinal cord.
5. Reduces dizziness
Prevents air from entering the Eustachian tubes, which sometimes happens during breath retention. In this way, it minimizes the pressure on the eardrums, which consequently reduces dizziness.
This allows the person to hold their breath for longer, without vertigo.
6. Regulates systems
Stimulates the sinuses, which regulate the circulatory and respiratory systems.
7. Activates throat chakra
Activates the throat chakra. In this way, it helps both physically, by improving the health of the vocal cords and combating throat issues, and mentally, helping one with communication and self-expression.
How To Do It
- Start in a seated posture for meditation, which allows you to keep your spine upright. Place the hands on the knees, palms facing up.
- Take a deep inhale, filling your lungs to about two-thirds of their capacity. Then hold your breath.
- Drop the chin and draw it back to the chest, as if you’re trying to make a double chin. Simultaneously, lift the chest towards the chin.
- Lock the hands, pushing them into the knees and round the shoulders forward. This will intensify the action in the throat.
- Further drop the chin into the sternum and swallow. The swallowing action activates the throat lock.
- When you’re ready to release, lift your chin, complete your inhale, and then exhale.
- Repeat 3 to 5 times, then increase the number of reps as you progress in your practice. Also, slowly increase your retention, start with 4 seconds then move up.
When To Do It
Our instructions above explain how to perform Jalandhara Bandha on its own. However, the yogic throat lock is usually combined with pranayama.
After each round of the pranayama exercise, practice retaining the breath.
Alternatively, you can also practice the Jalandhara bandha separately after completing your Pranayama session.
Next time you do them, perform it with the bandha and see how it impacts your practice. Are you able to turn inward more? Are you more aware of the pose and the energy?
You can also learn the other two bandhas – Mula and Uddiyana. First, you will draw the pelvic floor up for Mula Bandha, then draw the abdomen in and up for Uddiyana Bandha, and finally drop the chin for Jalandhara Bandha.
This creates the big yogic lock or Maha Bandha.
- Bending your arms will help keep your spine erect, and keeping them straight and pressing the palms into the knees will round the shoulders. In this particular case, the second option is better, as it intensifies the throat lock.
- Practice contraction of the throat with the ujjayi breathing technique. In this way, you’ll prepare for the full lock, otherwise, it might be too difficult.
- Nothing can replace a teacher in learning any yoga technique. If you have the chance, try learning this technique from a qualified person.
- Many beginners will lower the chin as far down as they can, which can strain the neck. Instead of lowering the chin all the way down – lift the sternum to meet it halfway.
- If you are doing Jalandhara Bandha correctly, the pelvic floor, navel, chest, and chin will be in the same line, and you won’t be able to speak.
- Don’t force the breath retention – only hold it for as long as you can. Breath retention is a skill that is built up with continuous practice and discipline.
- Start with retaining the breath for 4 counts and three rounds. Increase it for one count and one round every week. This is a gradual progression that will lead you a long way.
- Khecari mudra can intensify this bandha – to perform it, curl the tip of the tongue up to the roof of the mouth.
Only the chin moves
To enter this bandha you need to both raise the chest up and lower the chin down – they should meet halfway.
Holding the breath too long
Only hold the breath for as long as you can.
Forcing won’t do anything good for you, it can only lead to issues. Focus on continuous practice rather than instant results. You should be able to lift the head up before you inhale.
Bandhas have strong effects on the physical and energetic body and should be avoided during pregnancy and menstruation. Also avoid or consult a physician if you have an injury in the neck.
In case of heart issues, high blood pressure, or breathing issues, refrain from the bandha. If you are dizzy, release the bandha and return to natural breathing. Next time you practice, do it more gently and consciously.
More on bandhas
Read more on bandhas with our beginners article below