Yoga Mudra-s and Bandha-s: Working with Fire
by Rowan Lommel on August 7th, 2015

​Mudrā-s & Bandha-s: Working with Fire

Mudrā-s and bandha-s are ancient yogic tools that are emblematic of the power that the tools of yoga can wield.  The system of yoga works not only with ourselves as physical beings but as energetic beings.  Mudrā-s and bandha-s are some of the most potent tools that can work on this energetic level and create positive shifts in our body-mind.

Mudrā-s are defined as (1) something that facilitates the movement of prāṇa, or life force.  This is because the movement of prāṇa is very important, and is directly related to our health.  According to the yogic system, we are healthy when prāṇa is inside the body, unhealthy when the prāṇa is outside the body.  Mudrā-s are also defined as (2) a set of practices that burn the kleśa-s, or psycho-spiritual obstacles.  Finally, a mudrā is defined as (3) a tool that makes the jatharāgni (metabolic fire) healthier; the jatharagni is related to our immune system.
Bandha-s are a subset of mudrā-s.  Bandha-s are defined as (1) binding in such a way that the prāṇa is unbound and (2) that which frees all the vāsanā-s (past impressions) that have bound us.  
​The role of mudrā-s and bandha-s in a hatha yoga is quite powerful. As tools, they are specifically meant to nourish our inner fire (agni) and our life energy (prāṇa).  However, the role of a competent teacher is emphasized so that the student stays safe, and the practices remain beneficial.  These practices are like a knife, it can have a positive effect if you know what to do with it, if you don’t it can be dangerous.

Some asana such as jatharaparivrtti (lying twist with straight legs) become a mudra when done with certain pranayama ratios and bandha-s.  The same holds true for viparita karani, a modified shoulderstand with a bend at the hips, legs slightly lowered.  Ultimately, the practice of mudrā-s and bandha-s is a mental practice as well as a physical practice because the mind must be steady to practice them.  

For example, jihva-bandha is a bandha in which the tongue is folded back when the mouth is closed.  Its purposes are to improve the metabolism (and therefore the immune system), vitalize the senses, prepare the system for subtler experiences, make the mind more silent (mind becomes calmer so perception becomes better), and reduces the temptation of the tongue.  The temptation of the tongue is for food and talking .  The practice of jihva-bandha brings control to the tongue so it’s not wagging too much (easy on the gossip), and we only eat what is appropriate.

But again, although I can describe the benefits of jihva-bandha, special emphasis is placed on experiencing the effects through the guidance of a well-learned teacher.  This cannot be emphasized enough as these tools are quite potent and we want to benefit from them, not hurt ourselves with them.

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