For the last few months I’ve been experimenting with methods for teaching bhandas. I’ve experimented with asana (standing, hands on thighs, sitting in virasana, downdog, uttanasana), whether to focus on the abdominal motion or the chest wall in uddiyana, whether or not to mention mula bhanda concurrently (because it is involved, but conceptually seems to overload folks while learning), what terms to use for the pelvic floor when teaching mula bhanda, how to describe the “false inbreath” of non-ventillatory chest wall expansion.
Simple is best, of course, but since the point is to direct another person’s attention to the sensations produced for them with muscular actions not commonly felt, much less intentionally induced, points of reference are both crucial and tricky. For my own part, I feel the effects of uddiyana bhanda most acutely between my shoulder blades, in front of my thoracic vertebrae. But for others, this isn’t even on their sensation map; they might feel it between particular ribs. The point is not to feel anything particularly, but to develop refined awareness of what is there for you to feel.
I used to think the best way to approach bhandas was bottom up: mula, uddiyana, then jalandara. Truthfully, I’ve had precious little connection to jalandara. Conceptually, I understand why a “top” on the cooking pot is important. My experience has been lackluster, however.
Until I read a description that added the chest wall expansion of “false inbreath” to the external action of flexion of the upper cervical vertebrae. This one little addition lit up the sensation of the lock so that it made sense to me. The idea of jalandara bhanda is to touch your chin to the notch just above your sternum, not by hunching the shoulders & whilst keeping the front of the chest broad. This is done by rotating the skull & jaw around the top of the cervical vertebrae while keeping the neck long.
What lit up this experience was after engaging jalandara, exhale, close the glottis (like the beginning of a swallow, it prevents air from moving into the chest), and then expand the chest as if to inhale. Indeed, I felt lit from within.
Because this passively activates the lower bhandas, I’ve decided to use this as an initial forray into bhandas, moving to uddi & finally to mula. Of course, like the yamas & niyamas, we learn about these layers concurrently, it’s only in theory that there’s any seperation.
What are your experiences with learning the bhandas? Or with teaching? I’d love to hear your bhanda stories!