The concept of Bandhas is very important in yoga practice and is closely linked to the modern fitness definition of core. I think it is necessary to understand where these two concepts connect and their implications to our health.
What’s the core? You can say that the core is represented by all the muscles that connect the hips to the legs, to the back and to the rib cage. Basically, the core is a group of muscles that hold your organs inside the torso.
What are the bandhas? The bandhas is the action of engaging a group of muscles in a lock. There are three Bandhas. Mula Bandha is the locking of the pelvic floor muscles, the muscles surrounding your genitals and the anus area. Uddiyana Bandha refers to the lock of the abdominal muscles, contracting them towards the spine. And Jalandhara Bandha is the lock of the frontal muscles of the throat.
Why is the core so important? People tend to think that the importance of the core is related to aesthetics. But the core is not just the six-pack. Actually, more important are other abdominal muscles that bring more stability to the back and internal organs like the oblique muscles. The lack of this stability results in lower back problems, poor digestion, underperformance of the liver and pancreas and pour sexual performance. That is digestion, secretion and reproduction. Your basic needs depend on this group of muscles.
Why are Bandhas so important? When these muscles are contracted or locked, energy is generated. When this energy is well controlled, it spreads through the entire body creating a deep sensation of aliveness. Moreover, the engagement of these muscles brings the stability needed it to hold most poses comfortably. Also, the Bandhas are a requirement for proper meditation. Not only do they allow the yogi to hold a seated position for a long time, but the flow of the energy helps the mind to focus. This idea is very important in the Kundalini practice.
Bandhas meet core: Joseph Pilates popularized the core concept. The idea is recognized now among physiotherapists and rehab programs. A lack of a healthy core has been linked to many psychomotor and respiratory problems. But one thing that many don’t know is that Pilates studied yoga and meditation. He understood the effects of the bandhas outside the yoga practice. The constant exercise of the bandhas has a significant impact in core muscles. When humans were hunter gatherers, we used to have a healthy core. Our range of motion, strength and flexibility was better than todays and it lasted until advanced age. Nowdays we seat all day long. Our core is weak because of it and the most common consequence of it is that we hunch as we age. When you hunch everything compresses in the front of the torso and we breath less. Our energy drains away. Yoga help us keep the energy and generate even more. The bandhas are a constant reminder in the practice of the importance of life energy (prana) and what it means to feel alive.