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Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal)
Practicing Anjali Mudra is an excellent way to induce a meditative state of awareness. anjali = a gesture of reverence, benediction, salutation (from anj, "to honor, celebrate") mudra = seal (The gesture "seals" energy in the body and "seals" your relationship with the Divine.)
This gesture is also known as Hrdayanjali Mudra (pronounced hri-DIE-ahn-jah-lee, hrd = heart), the Reverence to the Heart Seal, or Atmanjali Mudra (OT-mon-JAH-lee, atman = self, derived variously from an, "to breathe," at, "to move," or va, "to blow"), Reverence to the Self Seal
Step by Step
» Sit comfortably in Siddhasana (as shown) or stand in Tadasana. Inhale and bring your palms together. Rest the thumbs lightly on your sternum.
» Press the hands firmly but evenly against each other. Make sure that one hand (usually your right hand if you are right-handed, your left if left-handed) doesn't dominate the other. If you find such imbalance, release the dominant hand slightly but don't increase the pressure of the non-dominant hand.
» Bow your head slightly, drawing the crease of the neck toward the center of your head. Lift your sternum into your thumbs and lengthen down along the back of the armpits, making the back elbows heavy.
» Practicing Anjali Mudra is an excellent way to induce a meditative state of awareness. Start your practice sitting in meditation in Anjali Mudra for 5 minutes. You can also use this hand position in Tadasana prior to beginning the Sun Salutation sequence, contemplating the "sun" or light of awareness the yogis say is resident in your heart.
Mula Bandha (Root Bond)
One of three important "bonds" for pranayama breath retention.
mula = root (of any tree, but also figuratively the lowest part of anything)
bandha = bond
Step by Step
» Students are typically instructed to contract, to a greater or lesser degree, the (perineal) muscles at the base of the pelvis. THIS SHOULD NOT BE ATTEMPTED WITHOUT THE GUIDANCE OF AN EXPERIENCED TEACHER.
Here we'll simply approximate Mula Bandha.
» Learn Mula Bandha in Virasana (Hero Pose). Contact the "tripod" at the base of your pelvis which consists of three bones: the tail bone (coccyx) and the two heads of the thigh (femur) bones. Your coccyx should imaginatively lengthen down and through the floor. Your femur heads should similarly sink down and through the floor (if you can't imagine this lay a sand bag across each top thigh). Finally with your hands, press your hip points together, narrowing them toward each other.
» The combined actions of the bones will firm without hardening your lower belly, and spontaneously dome your perineum up into your torso without any conscious effort on your part. This latter action will in turn charge your spine, which will lift and lengthen your entire torso up through your crown.
» Apply Mula Bandha as you end your inhale, then hold it during Kumbhaka. Slowly release it as you exhale, and soften it during the pause following the exhale.
Jalandhara Bandha (Net-Bearer Bond)
Jalandhara Bandha is one of three important "bonds" for pranayama breath retention, the other two being Mula and Uddiyana
jala = net (for catching birds or fish)
dhara = bearing, supporting
bandha = bond
Step by Step
Sit in a comfortable pose.
Firm your shoulder blades against your back torso to lift your sternum. Be careful not to push your front ribs forward.
Full Jalandhara requires the chin to rest comfortably on the sternum (neck flexion). Many beginners make the mistake of only lowering the chin; in fact your chin should be met half-way by the elevated sternum.
The focus of these complementary movements is the "crook" of the throat, where the underside of the chin meets the front of the neck. Draw this crook diagonally up and into your skull (toward the top of your spine). Your head should pivot and your chin should descend over this action, which simultaneously draws the top of the sternum upward.
Work on lengthening the back of your neck, releasing your shoulders, and opening your chest in poses like Sarvangasana and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. Never force your chin to your sternum.
If you're a beginner, don't hold this bandha continuously throughout your practice. Begin your inhalation with your head upright. Apply Jalandhara as you near the end of the inhale, hold during the retention and the exhale, then raise your head to a neutral position for the next inhale.
Uddiyana Bandha (Upward Abdominal Lock)
"Even an old person can become young when [Uddiyana Bandha] is done regularly"
uddiyana = upward (cf. ud = "up, upwards")
bandha = binding, tying a bond, fetter; putting together, uniting, contracting, combining;
mundane bondage, attachment to this world (as opposed to emancipation, mukti or moksha).
There are a few important points to remember when beginning the practice of Uddiyana Bandha: perform it only on an empty stomach, and only after an exhalation, never before an inhalation. During the time you hold the bandha, also perform Jalandhara Bandha. Most teachers recommend that you learn this bandha in a standing position, and only move to sitting after you've gained some experience. Similarly, wait until you've been sitting for a while before using this bandha during pranayama.
Step by Step
» Stand with your feet slightly apart, eyes open. Different teachers have different ideas about the proper way to perform this bandha. Here are four possibilities:
a) Practice with your torso rounded forward, knees bent, hands resting on your knees.
b) Learn the bandha first with your torso rounded forward and then, after getting some experience, practice the bandha standing upright, hands on hips.
c) Practice throughout with your torso upright.
d) Start the practice with your torso rounded forward, perform Uddiyana Bandha, and then stand upright, with your hands on your hips
» Inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale quickly and forcibly, also through your nose (or pursed lips). Contract your abdominal muscles fully to push as much air as possible out of your lungs. Then relax your abdominals.
» Perform what's called a "mock inhalation"; that is, expand your rib cage (thorax) as if you were inhaling, but don't actually inhale. The expansion of the rib cage (without the inhalation) sucks the abdominal muscles and viscera up into the thorax and hollows the belly (some teachers say to actively but slowly lift abdominals, or navel, toward the spine). Because you should always perform Jalandhara Bandha along with Uddiyana Bandha, come into Jalandhara Bandha at this point.
» Hold the bandhas for five to 15 seconds. Then slowly release the abdominal grip and inhale normally. Perform three to 10 rounds, depending on your capacity, with one or more normal breaths between each round.
• Strengthens the abdominal muscles and diaphragm
• Massages abdominal viscera, the solar plexus, and the heart and lungs
• Increases gastric fire; improves digestion, assimilation, and elimination; and purifies the digestive tract of toxins
• Stimulates blood circulation in the abdomen and blood flow to the brain
• Stimulates and lifts the energy of the lower belly (apana vayu), to unite it with the energies localized in the navel (samana vayu) and heart (prana vayu)
Contraindications and Cautions
• Stomach or intestinal ulcers
• High blood pressure
• Heart disease
Instead of simply resting your hands on your knees in the standing position (as described above in Step 1a), firmly press the bases of your palms against the very tops of the thighs (right hand on the right thigh, left hand on the left). This downward pressure on the femur bones will create a slight natural hollowing of your lower belly.
The hollow belly of Uddiyana Bandha can be approximated in a reclining position. Technically this position is called Tadagi Mudra, the Tank Seal (tadagi = tank), because the hollow belly is reminiscent of a water tank. Lie on your back and stretch your arms overhead, laying the backs of the hands on the floor. Extend through your heels in the opposite direction. The opposing stretch of the arms and legs sucks the belly into the torso, shaping it like a water tank or pool. Don't, however, hold the breath; breathe normally, allowing the upper belly to expand fully on the inhalation, while keeping the lower belly hollow. Gheranda says that this seal "destroys decay and death."
Approach the regular practitioner of all bandhas
Do Not practice Bandha’s Especially without the direct guidance of an experienced teacher