Chin Lock – Jālandhara Bandha 10 key points
Bandhas are used in āsana and prāṇāyama to contain and direct the prāṇā (life energy) generated from these two practices. According to some Yoga sources the first bandha the practitioner would undertake in their practice is jālandhara bandha. Jāla means web, or net. Bandha means lock, or bond.
Older yogic texts describe the action of Jālandhara Bandha in very plain terms, for example in the Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā, Swami Svatmarama simply instructs students to “contract the throat and press the chin against the breast.” However as we will soon find out, it is a little more complex than this and clear guidance is needed to perform this correctly. At Bahia Yoga we believe it’s always important to respect the body and stop if something doesn’t feel right.
There are various techniques on how to incorporate this into your practice, before attempting any bandhas, ensures as a Yoga practitioner you are proficient in āsana.
How to undertake Jālandhara Bandha – 10 key points
- Sit in a comfortable seated position. Ensure the seated position is comfortable and supportive (Siddhāsana, Vīrāsana, or Baddha Koṇāsana)
- Keep the spine upright, lift the sternum and keep the front ribs lifted, without pushing them forward.
- Without any tension, stretch the sides the sides of the neck and move the shoulder blades into the body. Keeping the top part of the spine (thoracic and cervical spine) curving inwards.
- Slowly bend the head slightly forward and downwards from the back of the neck, towards the front of the chest.
- No force is required; keep the neck and throat muscles soft, and sides of the neck long.
- Bring the head down so that the ‘point and both sides’ of jawbone rest evenly in the notch between the collar-bones on the front wall of the chest
- Note that the full jālandhara bandha requires the chin to rest comfortably on the sternum (neck flexion).
- Avoid forcing the chin to the chest, but aim to lift the chest to meet the descending chin. Often beginners make the mistake of only lowering the chin, however the focus is for the raised sternum to meet the chin halfway.
- Keep the centre of the head and chin in alignment with the middle of the sternum, the belly and perineum. Avoid tilting of the head.
- Relax the temples (side of the head, just behind the eyes), and keep the eyes and ears passive – This is Jālandhara Bandha
Essentially, you are flexing the neck, so the chin is tucked into the suprasternal notch (the dip at the top of the sternum between the clavicles), the little concavity above the sternum at the pit of the throat.
According to B.K.S. Iyengar in his book Light on Prāṇāyama (page 105, published 2013), this bandha helps to clear the nasal passages and regulates the flow of blood and prāṇā (energy) to the heart and the endocrine glands in the neck (thyroid and para-thyroid). It protects the brain, eyes, and inner ears from the internal pressure of the retained breath.
If you have a stiff neck, experiment with rolling a piece of cloth, and place it on top of the collarbones. Hold it in by lifting the chest, rather than pressing the down with the chin. This can help to release tension in the throat and breathing becomes comfortable.
According to Swami Satyananda Saraswatī in his book Āsana, Prāṇāyama, Mūdra, Bandha (APB, page 474, published 2008), this practice is performed during internal retention. Though it can also be done with external breath retention.
When is it practiced?
This bandha is ideally, performed in conjunction with prāṇāyama and mūdra. If done on its own it would be after āsana, and prāṇāyama and before meditation. The duration of the bandha can be kept for as long as comfortable for the practitioner.
Remember to maintain a count and gradually you can increase the count. This practice maybe repeated up to 5 times.
Cervical spondylosis (wear and tear of the neck) should avoid this technique. General neck issues, vertigo, high blood pressure, although it can reduce blood pressure, long retention of the breath according to APB may strain the heart.
According to APB it produces mental relaxation, which may aid in reducing stress or anxiety. It can help to aid develop one-pointed awareness.
According to APB, it is best not to exhale or inhale until the chin lock and has been released and the head is upright. If at anytime this does not feel comfortable, please do not practice and stop. Always practice these techniques under the guidance of an experienced Yoga teacher.