A Heady Introduction To The Chin Lock

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Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at the practice of mūla bandha, which no one can physically see you do. Uddiyana bandha on the other hand made you look like a superpowered yogi rockstar! We’re now moving on to jalandhara bandha which does little for your looks, but looks can be deceiving and this is no exception as jalandhara bandha could save you a lot of trouble when it comes to controlling prāna.

So far in our bandha journey we have been cultivating and raising energy up from the pelvis and through the abdomen. We may have also experienced prāna as it moved and circulated through us during practice. We may be aware that when prāna is fired up we can feel its effects in the head. We may feel lightheaded, or too ‘open’ at the crown after our practice. This is because prāna is stimulated slightly beyond our usual boundaries.

Ancient yogis knew only too well that overstimulation of prāna was not a good thing. A variety of methods and techniques were created to ensure that progress was made within the physical comforts of our energy levels; jalandhara bandha is one of those.

Jalandhara bandha is  also sometimes known as the ‘chin lock’ and involves dropping the head and placing the chin on or close to the lifted upper chest. By creating a slight restriction in the neck, prāna won’t be tempted to shoot up into the head but will be controlled by this bandha.

The Value Of Thinking “Valve”

If you’ve been following our exploration of the bandhas, you’ll remember that I started off by saying that I felt the term “valve” rather than “lock” seemed more appropriate for bandhas and this one in particular is a perfect example of a bandha behaving like a valve.

So far in our bandha exploration we have cultivated and moved prāna from the pelvis up towards the head. Imagine stoking a fire more and more. That energy has got to go somewhere so you’re going to feel a bit of a head rush after a while, and not in a pleasant way. Prāna needs tempering, a bit like chocolate.

A chocolatier will temper chocolate by carefully monitoring its temperature. If the temperature isn’t controlled properly the chocolate will not be smooth and glossy. With prāna, if we don’t take steps to temper that energy and keep it smooth and ‘glossy’, we invite imbalance — or in the case of the chocolatier, an unpleasant, crumbly mess! This pose has visibly similar features to maha bandha, which we will be exploring soon, so jalandhara bandha is a great primer for it.

Accessing The Jalandhara Bandha

We start in a comfortable seated position with your back straight and your shoulders down. Breathe in and retain the breath without straining. Slowly, without hunching or rolling your upper back forward, drop your chin down towards your upper chest/collarbone area by rotating your head down. The chin moves towards or makes contact with the V-shaped notch at the base of your neck.

You may not be able to place your chin directly on your chest, or it may feel uncomfortable, and that is okay. Tuck your chin in and be sure to stay upright and not slump forward, as the dropped head is inclined to draw the shoulders towards the floor and the chest is inclined to sink, so watch your posture with this one. To come out of the bandha, lift the head and exhale normally.

Jalandhara bandha works exactly like a valve at the throat or vishudda chakra, making sure that prāna doesn’t rise up too fast. It is a self-regulating valve so you don’t need to worry how much or how little pressure needs to be applied by the chin on the chest.  If you are super-sensitive to pranic energy and often get ‘heady’ during yoga practice and prānayama, then this bandha could be a blessing for you.

Starting Slowly: Neck Awareness

If you’re a bit neck sensitive, working with āsanas like Plough Pose and Shoulderstand can help to release tightness and strengthen the neck muscles making jalandhara bandha easier and more comfortable to do.

Be gentle on yourself — causing a slight restriction on the neck can be a disconcerting feeling for some. It is, after all, going against common sense to restrict the windpipe! Try working on Bridge Pose where the back of the neck is stretched but the front is not fully restricted as in Shoulderstand. In time, you may feel comfortable to move on.

Jalandhara Bandha On The Mat

This is the only one of the three bandhas we have looked at that occur as part of an āsana. You automatically perform the physical movement of jalandhara bandha when you perform a shoulderstand but without the breath retention. If you’re looking to expand your experience of jalandhara bandha try performing the full bandha when executing a standing one legged forward bend. With a straight back, grab hold of the extended foot or use a belt, and perform the bandha as described above. You can also try to combine this with uddiyana bandha — anything to take the mind off those tight hamstrings!

A Word Of Caution

Please read these precautions and contraindications before practicing bandhas. Although they are a great tool, they are not appropriate for every practitioner. This does not restrict or limit your practice in any way, as there are many other ways to strengthen and deepen your yoga practice.

Bandhas are not suitable during pregnancy, for those with blood pressure problems, heart conditions, risk of stroke or thrombosis, glaucoma, an internal ulcer or any condition that may be aggravated by breath retention and increased internal pressure. It is always best to seek advice from an experienced yoga teacher and your doctor before embarking on bandha practice if you have any known medical conditions.

The Three “P’s”: Prāna, Patience And Practice

Practicing jalandhara bandha will move energy, or prāna, around the body and can be very stimulating so be sure not to overdo your practice. As we have said before in the other bandha practices, build up gently and be sure to rest in Śavāsana to allow your energies to return to normal afterward.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the bandhas, keep an eye out for my next article which will talk about putting the mula bandha, the uddiyana bandha and the jalandhara bandha together to create the maha bandha!  If you’re new to bandha practice, why not let us know how you’re getting on in the comments below!

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