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WHAT IS YOGA? Part 6

Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Yoga Sutras - Mudras and Bandhas

Complete Yoga Breath
with Sound!

What is Yoga
series

“Yoga begins with
Discipline
Introspection
Control of Prana
Meditation...”
Yoga Sutras
by Patanjali

Hatha Yoga
Path to Health

“Practice alone is the
means to success.
The ida and pingala nadis
before entering into
the base of the nostrils
cross each other
and are known as
gangliated cords.”
The Hatha Yoga
Pradipika

by Yogi Maharishi
Svatmarama

Bhakti Yoga
Path of Love

“Subduing their
senses,
viewing all
conditions of life
with the same eye,
and working
for the welfare
of all beings,
assuredly
they come to Me.”
The Bhagavad Gita
translated by
Shri Purohit Swami

Sri Krishna
in The Gita
:
“Let him
who would climb
In meditation
To heights
of the highest
Union with Brahman
Take for his path
The Yoga of Action.”
—Quote from The Gita
in Vedanta for
Modern Man

Edited by Christopher Isherwood

“In the beginning of
one's spiritual search,
it is wise to compare
various spiritual paths
and teachers. A
spiritually thirsty
person should not
go on indefinitely
drinking from a
new well; rather he
should go to the
best well and drink
daily of its
living waters.”
—Yogananda

As the chief of the snakes is the support of the earth with all the mountains and forests on it, so all the Tantras (= Yoga practices) rest on the Kundalini (the vertebral column).

Yoga practice is based on the Kundalini (the vertebral column and nervous system). When the sleeping Kundalini awakens, all the Chakras (centers) and knots are pierced through. The susumna (extensive details about the Kundalini are provided in the Chakra series, link in navigation menu, left column), becomes a main path for the passage of Prana (= life force, energy). Result: the mind and body are transformed. Peace is experienced.

Susumna, Sunya, Padavi, Brahama Randhra, Maha Patha, Smasana, Sambhavi, Madhya Marga—are names of one and the same thing: Susumna.

One method to open these centers is to practice mudras and bandhas. There are so many, but I will take the easiest ones for you to start to do. To read more details, just Google Yoga Sutras (as of April 18th, there were 1, 140,000 Web sites listed!). These are also written about in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (also with many links online).

There are 10 Mudras that annihilate old age and death, according to the Yoga Sutras and Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Nauli-Kriya—Uddiyana Bandha Uddiyana Bandha (far left) and Vajroli Mudra (left) are found in the Postures series.

Here are some others you can attempt to do. (These have been edited to be easier to understand.) According to Patanjali, Uddiyana Bandha is the best of all bandhas. This is why I concentrated on it on this site, and also because my teacher performed it with the most remarkable ease. The images of her doing this is something to behold, which you can do on this site at the link provided above for Uddiyana Bandha (which is the preliminary for Nauli-Kriya, also included in this series).

Maha Mudra

(maha = powerful;  mudra = sealing)

  • Press the heel of your left foot into the Yoni (= perineum (the soft spot between the anus and genitals). Stretch your right leg forward and grasp the toes of your right foot with the thumb and first finger of your hands. This is the sealing posture (= mudra).
  • Lower your head to bring your chin into a locked position in the notch where your larynx is in your throat (this is called Jalandhara bandha). Inhale and allow the breath to move through your body to the perineum. This straightens the sushumna within you and allows it (the middle passage) to be filled with the energy of the universe. This is how the Kundalini begins to move (leaving both the Ida and Pingala). Please read the Chakra series on this site if you don't know what these words mean (link in menu of every page, above left column).
  • Exhale slowly (very important) with your chin remaining in the notch of where your larynx is. This will help to remove pain in the body.
  • Now that you have the general idea, begin by inhaling into the left nostril first. Then the right nostril. After you have inhaled into both nostrils separately, it should be practiced with the right nostril first. When you have done this with both sides equally, stop and relax. (To learn how to inhale through one nostril at a time, go to Sukh-Purvak in the Breath series. All the details are provided in there.)

Benefits—Relief from colic and indigestion. This mudra has been described as the giver of great success (= siddhi).

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Maha Bandha

(maha = powerful;
bandha = controlled, contracted organs)

  • Press your left heel against the perineum, just as you did in the first step of the above Maha Mudra. Place your right foot on your left thigh (if you can). This is a half-lotus position. If it is uncomfortable to get your right foot up on your thigh (even for a moment), stop immediately and just sit with your legs crossed for now. (The Postures series on this site provides preliminary exercises to be able to sit in the Lotus Posture, comfortably. Suggestion: Learn how to do this for increased stability for many other yoga postures and for meditation purposes.)
  • Note: I have noted elsewhere on this site: If it hurts to place one foot on a thigh, it will hurt a whole lot more if you keep it there! There are preliminary stretches to finally attempt to do the half- or full-lotus posture. It's not worth trying to go there when your knees are not ready for it. Just sit with your legs crossed, but still try to keep the one heel against the perineum, if possible.

  • Inhale, keep the chin firmly in the notch of your larynx. Focus on the spot between your eyebrows, or in the susumna (the “hollow bone” of the spinal column).
  • Hold your breath and this position as long as you can without straining. The minute you feel that you need to exhale, do so slowly. Do the same as above. Practice this with the left nostril first, and then the right nostril (again, learn how to do this in the Breath series with Sukh-Purvak). It is extremely important to not strain with any breath techniques. The results could be just the opposite of what you would want. There is a comprehensive Breath series on this site that gives details about this. I highly suggest going there before you practice any postures, mudra, bandhas, or meditations provided on this site.
  • If you want to try something new, press your tongue against the roots of the upper teeth to create a powerful bandha. This stops the upward motion of all the nadis (= tubular organ of subtle body through which energy flows).
  • Maha Bandha unites the Ida, Pingala and Susumna, and carries the mind to the space between the eyebrows, which is the seat of Siva (= a god of the Hindu Trinity).
  • Note: Maha Mudra and Maha Bandha are useless without the Maha Vedha (see below).

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Maha Vedha

  • Sit in the Maha Bandha position as detailed above. Breathe deeply and slowly and calm your mind first.
  • Rest the palms of your hands flat on the floor beside your body and lift yourself only slightly off the floor and strike your buttocks against the ground gently. This will cause the air (energy) to leave both the passages (Ida and Pingala) and start in the middle one (Susumna).
  • When you have inhaled and held your breath for a moment, exhale gently.

These Mudras should be practiced every day several times., but little by little. Start slow and build up to these.

Benefits: The practice of Maha Vedha brings vitality and youthfulness, gets rid of gray hair, and stops any shaking of the body. It is practiced by all Masters.

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