Mudras and bandhas

Nowadays, many perceive mudras and bandhas only as physical techniques that bring certain health benefits. However, few people understand their inner essence. This is why, in most cases, the use of bandhas and mudras doesn’t bring a full effect and is often simply meaningless. Without going into technical descriptions of practice, let`s have a look at them from the other side.

Bandha means closure or binding. In the context of yogic practice, this means the closure of the entire energy system in such a way that there is no deformation, and hence no loss of energy. According to many yogic texts, the task of bandhas is to channel prana into the central channel sushumna, which helps to awaken Kundalini.

However, prana cannot be directed into sushumna only with the help of muscles; when muscles contract, our mind automatically concentrates on certain areas of the body. Accordingly, with a scattered state of mind (vikshepa) and insufficient free movement of energy through the channels of the body, the concentration of prana and mind on granthas and sushumna areas occurs very fragmentarily.

In addition, bandhas are used for their intended purpose only when there is a certain energy potential that can be used to activate sushumna. And such a necessary potential is formed when in addition to the physical body (sthula-sharira) a person also has a sufficiently developed subtle body (sukshma-sharira), as well as a causal body (karana-sharira). Then bandhas will instantly direct prana to the center. The state of bandha is associated with the stopping of prana when all pranas are aligned and balanced. This is the state of awakened sushumna. Thus, bandha should lead to the integration of all pranas in sushumna.

There are 3 main bandhas:

Mula-bandha concentrates energy in the area of ​​kanda, transforms it for ascent through sushumna. Directs apana upwards.

Jalandhara-bandha controls the network of nadis and 16 adharas. It directs prana downward.

Uddiyana-bandha helps to raise energy up the sushumna to the higher centers.

The word mudra in one of the contexts means "seal", "imprint", or "stamp". In yoga this term is used, implying the process of reflection of the Higher consciousness or light (Prakasha) in any manifested form. That is, mudra is a union of light and form, Shiva and Shakti, a kind of connection point leading to the full integration of prana. Integration leads to the state of happiness and joy, therefore it is also called mudra ("mud" – joy, "ra" – giving, finding joy). In accordance to this, mudras can be not only the position of the hands or body, but also various techniques of dharana and dhyana, work with consciousness. In fact, mudras are a consequence of nivritti process (fusion of individual consciousness with superconsciousness).

Thus, all mudras and bandhas lead to one process — the process of transformation of prana and consciousness.

For example,

maha-mudra is integration of all pranas and the whole body, which becomes a form of emptiness — “shunya-rupa”;

khechari-mudra — a way to make the consciousness open by contemplating the processes of phenomenal changes in the emptiness of one's consciousness;

shambhavi-mudra is the point where darkness and light unite, sadhaka realizes himself as Shiva through three types of vision (three eyes of Shiva — sun, moon, and fire; jnana, iccha, and kriya);

in viparita-karani mudra there is a "change of places of the sun and the moon", which is the dissolution of the mind in the superconsciousness "parasamvit", and dissolution of prana in mahaprana.

Maha-mudra and other mudras and bandhas essentially activate the same process as khechari, namely the awakening of Kundalini-shakti. Physical techniques such as placing the tongue behind the palate (khechari-mudra), pulling in the abdomen (uddiyana-bandha), contraction of the neck muscles (jalandhara-bandha), pressing on the perineum with heel (mula-bandha), etc. are only auxiliary external means associated with adharas (pillars for consciousness; 16 points located mainly along sushumna).

Due to the fact that nathas don’t make rigid boundaries between material and spiritual, mudras and bandhas can be considered the very part of sadhana that unites hatha-yoga and raja-yoga.

In this video Guru Yogi Matsyendranath explains maha-mudra, maha-bandha and maha-vedha

English subtitles are available.