Maha Bandha – The Great Lock
Maha Bandha or the Great Lock combines all the three main Bandhas or locks practised by yogis – Moola Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha. Maha in Sanskrit means ‘great’ or ‘supreme’ and Bandha means a lock. Maha Bandha means the great lock and is mentioned in the yogic texts Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, Gheranda Samhita and the Siva Samhita. Maha Bandha is said to activate the prana shakti thereby aiding the awakening of Kundalini Shakti at the base of the spine. Maha Bandha is also called the tri-bandha or the triple lock as it involves all the three major locks.
Maha Bandha is categorized as a Mudra or yogic gesture in both the classical texts Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and the Gheranda Samhita. As a Mudra it helps to channelize pranic energy in a certain way. But the terminology Bandha refers more to the energy lock that it creates. Please note that the practice of Maha Bandha is described differently in Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and the Gheranda Samhita. The description in this article is based on how it is practiced in the modern day using the three basic locks.
The practice of Maha Bandha must be taken up only after one masters the three locks – Moola Bandha (Root Lock), Uddiyana Bandha (The Abdominal Lock) and Jalandhara Bandha (The Chin Lock) separately. First practice all the three bandhas separately, then integrate all of them together to do Maha Bandha.
Maha Bandha should not be practiced by those suffering from blood pressure problems, heart diseases, ulcer of stomach or intestine, stroke, paralysis and hernia. Also pregnant women should avoid this practice. Maha Bandha should be practiced under the guidance of an experienced yoga instructor after you have mastered the three basic locks.
How to do Maha Bandha (The Great Lock)?
- Sit in a comfortable meditative posture preferably Padmasana or Siddhasana. If you have difficulty sitting in these asanas, then sit in any easy cross-legged pose like half Lotus Pose (Ardha Padmasana), Sukhasana or Swastikasana. Keep the spine erect. Breathe normally and relax the whole body.
- Keep the palms on the knees and close your eyes.
- Take a deep breath and then exhale fully. Simultaneously perform Jalandhara bandha (The chin lock), then Uddiyana Bandha (The abdominal lock) and then the Moola Bandha (The root lock) in that order. Retain the breath outside.
- Retaining the breath outside is called Bahir Kumbhaka. Retain the breath outside for as long as you are comfortable. During retention, awareness can be maintained on any of the three chakras – Mooladhara chakra, Manipuraka chakra and the Vishuddhi chakra. You may also rotate the consciousness between these three chakras.
- To release the Maha Bandha, first release Moola Bandha (root lock), then the Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal lock) and then finally the Jalandhara Bandha (chin lock) in that order.
- This is one round of Maha Bandha. Repeat the process for as many times as you feel comfortable. Take ample rest after each round by doing relaxed breathing till you are ready for the next round.
Benefits of Maha Bandha (The Great Lock)
- Maha Bandha gives the combined benefits of all the three basic bandhas – Moola bandha, Uddiyana bandha and Jalandhara bandha.
- It also activates the three chakras – Mooladhara Chakra, Manipuraka Chakra and Vishuddhi Chakra.
- It activates the pineal glands and therefore regulates the entire endocrinal glands.
- It rejuvenates the cells in the entire body and hence helps as an anti-aging mechanism.
- During initial stages there is discomfort to retain the breath. But with practice, breath can be retained for long durations. When the lock is released, there is a general sense of well-being and bliss. The mind calms down and there is experience of a peaceful state. It removes the afflictions of the mind like anger and lust.
- Maha Bandha is practiced by yogis to attain a peaceful and introverted state of mind before starting the practice of meditation.
- The practice of Maha bandha, pulls the pranic energy upwards. The apana vayu is pulled up and merges with the prana vayu in the abdominal region, which is the seat of samana vayu. This awakens the Prana Shakti which brings about heightened levels of awareness. With practice it will help in the awakening of the Kundalini Shakti resting at the base of the spine as well.
- Both the Gheranda Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradeepika describes Maha Bandha as the conqueror of old age and death. Also, all the desires of the yogi is fulfilled by practicing this Bandha.
Maha Bandha is an advanced practice and should be learnt under the guidance of an expert. There should not be any strain while holding the breath outside. If there is any discomfort, release the lock and breathe normally.
Advance practitioners can hold the breath outside for a prolonged period of time. Initially start with few seconds only. Increase it gradually till you reach one minute of external retention. To increase the period of retention, awareness can be practiced on any of the three chakras – Mooladhara, Manipuraka or Vishuddhi. Maintain awareness on any one the chakra. Chant ‘Om’ mentally while maintaining the awareness. You can count the number of ‘Om’s chanted. By gradually increasing the count you can increase the duration of retention. Another method is rotation of consciousness on the three chakras. First, take you awareness to Mooladhara Chakra and chant ‘Om’ mentally. Then move on to Manipuraka Chakra and chant ‘Om’ mentally. Finally take you awareness to Vishuddhi Chakra and chant ‘Om’ mentally. This is one rotation of consciousness. Repeat this process for as many number of times, as long as you can retain the breath outside comfortably. Using this technique, one can gradually increase the breath retention. Advanced yogi can retain the breath outside for even two to three minutes. During this process, one needs the guidance of an experienced Guru to prevent any harm due to improper practice.
Maha Bandha is a good practice to prepare you for higher practices of meditation and Samadhi.