Jalandhara Bandha, the throat lock, is probably one of the most overlooked techniques in modern yoga. Nevertheless, famous yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar described it as “the first one the yogi should master.” Find out why the mastery of the throat lock is so important in our Beginner’s Guide to Jalandhara Bandha:
What is a Bandha?
The Sanskrit word bandha translates to “lock” or “bond.” In yoga, bandhas are performed in order to restrain, collect and direct the flow of life force energy. This energy, called prana, runs through thousands of energy channels in the body.
The aim of the Hatha Yoga practice is to direct prana into the central channel, Sushumna Nadi, which runs from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Then, this energy is forced upward through a process of sublimation – from the lower to the higher energy centers (called chakras). Because our state of mind is linked to the flow of energy within, this expansion of prana leads to elevated states of consciousness and, eventually, the realization of the True Self.
There are three major Bandhas in the Hatha Yoga tradition. When practiced together, they form Maha Bandha, the great lock.
- Mula Bandha (Root lock)
- Uddiyana Bandha (Adominal lock)
- Jalandhara Bandha (Throat lock)
In the modern yoga practice, two minor bandhas are also utilized: Hasta Bandha, the hand lock, and Pada Bandha, the foot lock. They have purely physical benefits – stabilizing the body in the asana practice and preventing injuries – and are therefore not considered classic energy locks.
What is Jalandhara Bandha?
Jalandhara Bandha is the energy lock applied in the area of the throat. The name comes from Sanskrit: jala which describes a “net” for catching birds or fish and dhara which means “holding.” This translation perfectly encompasses the purpose of Jalandhara Bandha: It’s a restraint system. It seals off the upper end of the central energy channel, thus containing the prana within the body.
Without this restraint system, you can’t fully harness and utilize the energy that is generated at the bandhas below. Especially Uddiyana Bandha, the abdominal lock, is a powerful generator of life force. In combination with Mula Bandha, the root lock, it moves the energy upwards. When you apply Jalandhara Bandha at the same time, it creates a restraint so that you can channel the potential energy it is holding back. In this sense, the throat lock acts like the damming of a river which allows us to harness hydroelectric power. This is why you should master Jalandhara Bandha before moving on to the other two bandhas. Without it, you will experience only limited benefits.
Step By Step Guide To Jalandhara Bandha
Jalandhara Bandha is applied by bending the head forward and pressing the chin against the throat in the gap between the collar bones.
- Sit comfortably with an erect spine.
- Lift your chest and sternum forward.
- Gently reach the crown of the head up to lengthen the back of your neck, then draw your chin down.
- At the same time lift your sternum up towards your chin.
If are new to the throat lock, don’t hold it continuously throughout your practice. Start the inhalation with your head upright. Apply Jalandhara Bandha at the end of the inhale, hold during the retention and the exhale, then lift your head to a neutral position for the next inhalation.
Because Jalandhara Bandha requires very subtle movements, you might need a while to get it right. Try to avoid these common errors to get the most out of the practice:
Mistake #1: You are only lowering your chin.
When you first start practicing Jalandhara Bandha, you might get the idea that it is all about dropping the chin to the chest. But simply flexing the neck isn’t quite enough. You also have to lift your sternum toward the chin – this action is just as important!
Mistake #2: You are holding your breath too long.
Make sure to inhale while your head is still upright. Hold the throt lock (and your breath) only for as long as you feel comfortable. Don’t strain your breath! Before you inhale, lift your head back to its neutral position.
Benefits of Jalandhara Bandha
Jalandhara Bandha seals the energy that is generated in the upper areas of the brain stem. It activates the higher energy centers, especially the throat center (Vishuddha Chakra). It also improves the ability to retain the breath for a long period of time and increases the ability to concentrate.
On the physical level, Jalandhara Bandha tones the thyroid and parathyroid glands and regulates the metabolism. It prevents undue changes in blood pressure that can sometimes be induced by exercise and breathing, reducing dizziness.
The action of lengthening the neck and dropping the chin to the chest stimulates the vagus nerve, one of the longest and most important nerves in the body, which alleviates stress and induces a state of relaxation.
Use Jalandhara Bandha in Yoga Poses
Yogis usually practice Jalandhara Bandha in combination with pranayama.
Occasionally, you have the possibility to use the throat lock in the asana practice. Postures like Bridge, Shoulderstand, and Plough naturally lift the chest toward the chin, locking the area of the throat. These poses are a great opportunity to draw your awareness inward and focus on the subtler aspects of yoga: breath control and concentration. As your awareness is refined, you might even observe differences in the internal energy flow.
Jalandhara Bandha can also be applied in seated poses like Lotus (Padmasana), Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana), and Staff Pose (Dandasana).
Contraindications of Jalandhara Bandha
First and foremost, bandhas should not be done during menstruation or pregnancy because of their strong physical and energetic effects. If you have a neck injury, approach Jalandhara Bandha with caution. Do not practice the throat lock if you have high blood pressure, a heart condition, or breathing problems as it involves breath retention. If you feel dizzy, pause and return to your natural breath. When you resume the practice, do so with less force and more awareness.
We hope this Beginner’s Guide to Jalandhara Bandha helped you understand how and why we practice the throat lock. To put theory into practice, join our Online Studio where you can access hundreds of high-quality yoga classes. Start your 30-day free trial today!