As I prepare to run my first ‘Introduction to the Bandhas’ course online, I thought I’d share a little memorable moment from my own journey with the bandhas. Bandha means ‘energy lock’ in sanskrit, and developing bandha awareness is a sure way to come into intimate relationship with our innermost being.
My own journey with the bandhas has been ongoing for around twenty years now. I followed the ashtanga form of yoga for many years, which cites bandhas as one of the core tenets of the practice, along with drishti (gaze point) and ujayi breathing (a powerful, detoxifying breath technique, translating to ‘victorious breath’). These three aspects of the asana practice really are the holy trinity of ashtanga yoga. So, when I spent time in Mysore, south India, the home of ashtanga yoga, it was natural that, as part of my time there, I decided to delve deep into my own explorations of the bandhas.
At the time, I was practising at the Ashtanga Institute with Sharath Jois, the current lineage-bearer for ashtanga. Every morning I would go to the Institute at 5am for my morning practice, with additional chanting classes twice a week and a Sunday ‘conference’ of questions and answers. Apart from those commitments, I had nothing else on, so I had plenty of time to explore the more subtle aspects of the practice in my own time and, as such, spent many hours sitting in meditation and practising pranayama (breathing techniques).
I found myself one day in a bookshop, happily browsing the shelves. A small book caught my eye: ‘Mula bandha: The Master Key’. I had a quick flick through and was intrigued, so I purchased the book and took it home with me. Every day I read a little and followed the practices that it offered, which aimed to help you to first find, activate and then develop a relationship with mula bandha, the root lock. I found myself feeling deeply relaxed after each session, and very grounded and calm indeed. If I started a session with the mula bandha practices I found I could easily sit in meditation for a long time, something which had hitherto been very difficult for me.
I am sure it wasn’t just the mula bandha practices that were taking me into this calm space; I think it was the culmination of all the yoga I had been doing in Mysore for nearly five months. It had been a very turbulent time for me, one where I had really met my ego and questioned everything about yoga and why I did it. I had been injured, emotionally unstable and ready to throw in the yoga towel. However, in these last few weeks on my own, it was as though all the frenetic, discordant cogs in my being began to entrain and align and so much clarity, insight and calm spread through me. Many things began to make sense and the need to make sense of things began to drop away simultaneously. Such peace, which had been so elusive to me before…
Then, on my last day in India, before I was due to fly home, for the first time in my meditation practice my third eye opened. Until then I had never really seen or experienced anything during meditation, except these increasing feelings of peace and calm. But, on that day, I remember it so well, I started to see spiralling wheels of light, in different colours, but mostly purple and blue. It was so unbelievably beautiful, and then it became like a lava lamp of different colours, rising and falling in graceful shapes like smoke. I was moved to tears by the beauty of it, and by the fact it was happening unsummoned by my mind, just through spontaneous arising.
I know we shouldn’t get hung up on these ‘breakthroughs’ in our yoga journey (and, I have to admit, I massively did in this case – desperately trying to recreate the experience to no avail in the following months!) but, still, I feel these moments are worthy of celebration, gifts to be enjoyed, although ideally without attachment (yep, easier said than done!). In this endless unfolding of ego dissolution and consciousness expansion, every step is as important and beautiful as the next, but you can’t deny that some steps are more psychedelic, enjoyable and memorable than others… 😉
I invite you to begin or further develop your own relationship with the bandhas and see what they bring to you…
If you’d like to join me on my online four week ‘Introduction to the Bandhas’ course this November/December 2020 then get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.